How Jerry Got Hip (Again)
As Jerry Week continues, we revisit this excerpt from our August 2008 Relix cover story.
The Lorimer Street subway station in Brooklyn is 2,912 miles from the front stoop of 710 Ashbury, and is the hub between the trendy neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Park Slope. There, at nearly any hour, one can experience the latest in hipster fashion: the fabbest band t-shirts, sideways haircuts, half-ironic haberdashery, facial hair, novels du jour, vintage glasses, or any other indicator one might seek.
It is there, last year, at the end of the platform that a seemingly unlikely piece of graffiti appears. “Now It’s Your Turn To Get Ahead!” the ad for the vocational school reads in encouraging yellow letters, and that’s exactly what the artist does, tagging the Grateful Dead’s Steal Your Face skull over a smiling Asian woman in surgical scrubs.
“Uptown toodle-loo!” she now sang from one speech bubble, like a victim of the Joker. “Half a cup of rock and rye…” from another.
“WTF?” I text my friend with a picture when I get above ground. “hipster deadheads in wburg?”
Two months later, the graffiti since covered, a 20-something ambles by at the same station late one evening, singing drunk and proud. Taking my headphones off, I realize it’s “Box of Rain.” Because it’s the Grateful Dead, I sing along.
We talk until the train comes, and then a few stops. He’s just discovered the Dead, as it were, via Judd Apatow’s short-lived TV series Freaks & Geeks, in which—during the finale—protagonist Lindsay Weir has a revelatory moment listening to American Beauty’s opening cut and (SPOILER ALERT!) hops in a Microbus and heads off on Dead tour.
“It’s just so right,” the sloshed hipster kid keeps saying.
For those counting on a global paradigmatic shift when the Mayan calendar tails down in December 2012, one positive sign of the forthcoming singularity—or quite possibly, the apocalypse—is the warm and lovely redeification of Jerry Garcia in the mind of the young hipster. If the number of indie rock acts now crediting the Dead as a reference point is any indication, the Dead are in. Again.
With their deep ties to the American avant-garde via bassist Phil Lesh (who studied with electronic composer Luciano Berio), their radical and/or stoned approach to intellectual property (via free tape trading), their fiercely independent business operations, their direct connections to both the Beats (in Merry Prankster Neal Cassady) and contemporary techno-utopians (through lyricist and Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow), the Dead have always been cool. But they haven’t always been fashionable.
“I wouldn’t wear a tie-dyed t-shirt unless it was dyed with the urine of Phil Collins and the blood of Jerry Garcia,” undisputed heavyweight signifier Kurt Cobain sneered in 1992 and wore a homemade “Kill the Grateful Dead” tee to a Rolling Stone photo shoot. “August 8th is a beautiful day, what’s goin’ on… is something bummin’ your scene?” punk-pop staples NOFX sang on “August 8th” in 1996, getting the date of Garcia’s death one day early.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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