Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{The Source Family opens Friday, May 3 at 9 PM at the SIFF Cinema at the Film Center in Seattle Center, 305 Harrison Street, and runs through May 9, 2013. Source Family members Makushla, Omne, and Rain Aquarian will be at the premier in person.}

For underground music fans of the god-jam variety (namely, psyche heads) the names Father Yod and Ya Ho Wa 13 can evoke mystical states of I want I want I want. Most fans of even just some of the hundreds of releases these often free-form musicians put out since the late 60s are aware there is a wild cultural backstory to their creation; and some of those LPs feature pivotal artists such as Sky Saxon of The Seeds, who converted to the unabashed cult which formed the bands which made their sounds. 

That's right, FY and YHW 13 are actual cult artists, the former once known as Jim Baker, a Judo master and Marine and miracle-magus who underwent a Yogic conversion in the 60s and charismatically collected together something called The Source Family at the height of the West Coast New Age wampum.

His tribe, a few hundred strong, were a bit-scruffy but glowingly-beautiful clan of white-robed followers immersed in health food promotion (including a popular restaurant for hippies and celebrities and celebrity hippies), total communal living, prayerful alternatives to that whole sexual monogamy drag, and … oh yeah a little early morning sacramental use of the reefer. Good times!

Ya Ho Wa 13 were kinda the house band for TSF, a core of some adept musicians and inspired floaters who made all kinds of records, some ferocious dark night of the soul stormers, some sappy tambourine jangle, sometimes all together. (A Japanese label put out a huge box set of the releases a few years ago, but even more bootlegs remain.) Father Yod played a mighty big gong and was relentless on a big drum through some of their sides; his deep voice occasionally gracing the celestial sound-scapes. A couple of years ago, Process Books put out a warts-and-all but loving biography of the cult with a free CD featuring samples of tunes from throughout The Source Family's experiments with rock and pop and folk; it's a sweet, trippy sample of a fascinating scene and a must-have in your music book library.

That book, subtitled The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13, And The Source Family, written by Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquariun, was the basis for the movie The Source Family. I highly recommend both for being excellent documents of extraordinary times in Western religion and civilization. As a guy who confesses absolute spiritual retardation and frantically flees from any glazed-over gazes of the converted spouting propaganda, I can attest they hold up well as straightforward, trustable narratives with a minimum of the heebeegeebees. Both are truly unique, in that they are richly experienced words from deeply inside a radical religious collective that challenged the authorities and offered an unusual way out of the hard drugs, capitalist overkill, political despair, and general bumming vibe of Vietnam-era America.

As you will see in the superbly structured film, which has tons of photos and footage from beginning to dissipation of the The Source Family, the cult had a lot going for it; this movie shows just how attractive the communal movement was, but doesn't flinch from expressing some members' disappointment in Yod's craving for lotsa wives. He brought a ton of peace to many regardless; a peace he sort of missed out on himself, or never fully absorbed or something. His restlessness seems utterly Eclessastical by the end of the film (you know, eat drink and be merry because how long you wanna live anyways?). There's a lot of tension as you witness the triumphs of spirit and challenges to experimental lifestyles; yeah, I was waiting for the poison-laced treats to be busted out at some point.

But The Source Family avoided the whole death trip; it simply wasn't in their character to give anything back but more life and creativity. That makes this movie, as open as it is about such a fiery period of society-spiting spiritual growth, an ontologically-rewarding experience. And when Father Yod stands on a high school stage in his white fedora, with his big old beard, looking like a mad daddy of magic about to take you on to the other side, and says, "I'm looking for about 4000" to come along with him, it's a rock and roll moment that seems like Moses as Elvis. Pretty damned cool.