Werk Out Music & Arts Festival

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Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original cross-country trip made by the Further bus and its "Merry Pranksters," Zane Kesey, son of original trip leader and author Ken Kesey, has the bus on tour again this summer. Kesey and a new band of "Pranksters" will make an appearance at this weekend's The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival.

To say that the cross-country journey made in 1964 by author Ken Kesey and his band of "Merry Pranksters" in a painted school bus christened Further was a "trip" is a double-meaning of the highest order.

Kesey (best-known for his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and a few friends, including Beatnik hero Neal Cassady, whom Kesey convinced to drive, boarded Further in California and headed east for the World's Fair in New York City in June 1964, better equipped with the not-yet-illegal drug LSD and pre-rolled joints than their transport was to make the trip.

They documented their travels on film and began holding events called Acid Tests, featuring Kesey holding forth on his mind-altered experiences and sets by a band called The Warlocks -- later to be renamed The Grateful Dead.

The Further trip essentially signaled the start of the psychedelic era, gaining popularity through Kesey's Acid Tests and the original Further's temporary demise at Woodstock in 1969.

Kesey's son, Zane, has the second incarnation of his father's bus in good enough health to make a 50th anniversary trip, providing younger generations with a tangible connection to a significant cultural touchpoint, while not attempting to recreate the original.

"We have a GPS and a functioning fuel gauge," joked Zane Kesey friend and next-gen "Prankster" Derek Stevens.

The anniversary trip would not likely have happened without Stevens' continued urging.

"The first time I pitched it to Zane, he said 'No way in hell,' " Stevens said.

"I would bring it up to him every so often, until one time he said, 'if you can make it happen...' After that, I jumped in with both feet."

Using the Internet (via a Kickstarter campaign to fund the trip, including payment levels allowing donors to become "Pranksters") and social media (the bus' route was not totally pre-planned), Stevens and Kesey found a way.

"Lots of people have romanticized about the bus and the trip. It's evolved into something where we can give a sense of the freedom that existed, to provide a connection to what people recognize and understand that came after -- the Dead, hippies, the rainbow, Woodstock. Things that had their start in this trip."

Amid a slate of musical and arts festivals at which Further and the new Pranksters will appear (including this weekend's The Werk Out Festival in Thornville), the trip will include a visit to the Smithsonian, the Woodstock site and "a bunch of tourist things, silly things," Stevens is open to bringing the bus to the public.

"We've got a lot of interesting suggestions," Stevens said with a laugh.

Follow the fun at facebook. com/furthurbus50th.

Moonalice (see feature story, this page) band manager Big Steve Parish was a longtime associate of the Grateful Dead and great friend to Jerry Garcia. To read his recollection of his first meeting with Ken Kesey, check out the BeatBlog at ThisWeekNEWS.com/thebeat.

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