CULTURE
Age Is Just a Number: 1960s Rockers Ace of Cups Are Jamming Harder Than Ever
We caught up with guitarist Denise Kaufman of all-female rock outfit Ace of Cups to talk LSD in the '60s, today's political climate, and what it means to be rocking out with her band at age 70.
Published on July 22, 2019

Acid. Hippies. Sex. Rock and roll. Haight Street. The ‘60s laid the foundation of the counterculture. It shaped art, music, politics, and created space for people to unify over issues preventing societal peace, love, consciousness, and community. Many of those issues — women’s rights, civil rights, free speech, and government corruption — are just as relevant today. And Denise Kaufman, guitarist of ‘60s band Ace of Cups, is spreading many of the same messages in 2019 as she was when her band first formed during the heyday of psychedelia.

If you’re not familiar, Ace of Cups opened for Jimi Hendrix at Goldengate Park in June of 1967, just seven days after he sacrificed his Stratocaster to the rock gods at the Monterey Pop Festival. They opened for The Band in 1968 at the Winterland Ballroom. They hung out with the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Grace Slick and her band Jefferson Airplane. Kaufman rode with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters on the Furthur, and reveled in the hallucinogenic glory of the Acid Test-era. 

If you look at Ace of Cups’s body of work, you’ll find a series of live recordings from the ‘60s, but nothing polished and recorded for release — until now. The all-female four-piece finally put out their first official record, titled Ace of Cups, last fall through High Moon Records, and are currently on the road charming crowds with a host of groovy female-power bangers. 

1563775306820_IMG_1172.jpeg

Venice Beach Music Festival (Photo: Spencer Strayer)

The band played at the Venice Beach Music Festival last Saturday to a crowd of 200 colorful hippies. Ace of Cups were vibrant and cast a psychedelic hue of peace and love over those in attendance. Former Pranksters showed up in support of their long-time friends. Barefoot, dreadlocked lovers sparked up as they intertwined over a mandala tapestry. 

Billows of smoke rose over the crowd, as Mary Ellen (the band’s singer and other guitarist) and Kaufman told stories about what it was like on the Haight and being in a rock band just as the hippie movement erupted. At the time, people had "never seen an all-women rock band," but Ace of Cups made their mark by breaking stereotypes, performing punk-esque break-up music, and singing songs about smoking weed. 

In no way did it seem like the women on stage were in their 70s. They jammed with the power of wild women in their youth. It was evident that we were witnessing legends of counterculture making audible magic on stage.

We caught up with Denise Kaufman prior to the show and talked to her about what it’s like performing with Ace of Cups now, taking LSD with the Merry Pranksters, and why consumerism and today’s political climate are a sick joke.

MUSIC
INTERVIEW
HISTORY
PSYCHEDELICS
MORE...
Mary Carreon
FOLLOW
Mary Carreon is an award-winning journalist from Southern California and the Associate Editor at MERRY JANE. She’s drawn to stories about cannabis and the environment, social equity, veterans, the history of weed in California, and the rise of psychedelics and plant medicine in the 21st century. You can find her bylines in Forbes, Kitchen Toke Magazine, OC Weekly, (the OG) LA Weekly, High Times Magazine, Sensi Magazine, and more. Mary loves green juice, coffee, and red wine equally — but not at the same time. When she’s not working, you can find her doing yoga to Ravi Shankar, or migrating towards the nearest venue playing the best music. Follow Mary on social media @maryyystardust or visit her at marycarreon.com
Share this article with your friends!
MORE FROM MERRY JANE