How Jerry Got Hip (Again)
Just as punk was an underground within the mainstream, a sub-secret Deadhead network existed in the ‘80s indie-punk world, which counted among its members artists on the influential SST label, including founder Greg Ginn of Black Flag, Curt and Cris Kirkwood of The Meat Puppets (who recorded “Franklin’s Tower” for their first album), and Ranaldo.
“They’re always kind underneath the radar in a lot of ways,” offers Dylan Carlson of veteran Seattle sludge-psychers Earth and lifelong Dead fan. (His band’s latest, The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, is a sly metaloid reference to “Samson and Delilah.”) “Maybe the perception is that they represent this whole thing—it’s so hippie we gotta hate it—especially in the underground rock world.”
In fact, a whole subgenre exists of anti-Dead songs. “I’d wanna kill Pigpen if he were alive,” sing A.D. Nation and Buz Rico on “Kill Jerry Garcia.” A small sampling of other titles include Eleventh Dream Day’s “Bomb the Mars Hotel,” Archie Brown and the Bucks’ “Bring Me the Head of Jerry Garcia,” and Anti-Heroes’ “Jerry Was a Piece of Shit.”
One who noticed similarities between the Dead world and punk was Ginn, who saw the Dead and various Garcia projects an estimated 200 times, and helped pioneer the hardcore scene with Black Flag with singer Henry Rollins. They were “different undergrounds that beneath the stereotypes had so much in common,” he says. “Of course, as undergrounds age, they become more rigid and the participants acquire more rules in an attempt to maintain the status quo.”
“Psychedelic rock was considered an anachronism by the end of the ‘70s and the Grateful Dead was about the only practitioner still standing,” Ginn continues. “That insistence on continuing to go against the grain was a big influence on me. There are always those with pre-conceived notions that are not correct.”
“I know all of the hippies at my high school worshipped them,” says Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes. “It took me a long time to even give them a listen, ‘cause they had such a stigma in my mind. I was definitely not expecting to sound like they do.”
“I think the Dead are weird because a lot of people who say they don’t like them haven’t actually heard them,” concurs Carlson, who—in addition to being the leader of Earth—was also Kurt Cobain’s best friend. Cobain’s loathing for the Dead, as it turns out, had less to do with the music than the Deadheads. “Unfortunately, Kurt was not one I was ever able to turn,” he sighs, though notes he was able to expose The Screaming Trees to “Mountains of the Moon.” “A lot of it had to do with his relationship to Chad [Channing], their drummer. They weren’t getting along, and Chad”—frequently described by Nirvana biographers as “elfin”—“is the embodiment of all things hippie.”
Just as the Dead were an immense force in American music, the Deadheads were an equally immense force in American subcultures. By the end of their career, the Dead themselves were an island in a protective ocean of Deadheads, who often literally—and quite symbolically—drowned the band’s music by singing along. “As time went on I just got over the fact that you can’t blame a band for their fans,” admitted Modest Mouse leader Isaac Brock in the Garcia Fader issue. Without the Deadheads migrating seasonally about the interstate system like North American mammals, defining the band’s story, it might be easier to appreciate the Grateful Dead’s music for what it was, and is.
The music they made in the 1960s is as removed from a 20-something today as the mysterious Depression-era folk and blues musicians were removed from Jerry Garcia. “I owe a lot of who I am and what I’ve been and what I’ve done to the beatniks from the Fifties and to the poetry and art and music I’ve come in contact with,” Garcia told Rolling Stone in 1991. “I feel like I’m part of a continuous line of a certain thing in American culture, of a root,” he mused. To new listeners who didn’t have an older brother or cousin to initiate them, the Dead are old and weird and pure.
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
- Sexmob: Cinema, Circus & Spaghetti (Sexmob Plays Fellini: The Music of Nino Rota)
- Summer Stars: Shovels & Rope
- Visions of Bonnaroo Friday (Paul McCartney, Passion Pit, Conspirator…)
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Free Download "Dear Lord (Give Me The Strength)"
- God Street Wine with Warren Haynes "Sweet Little Angel" (Live 1996)
- The Howlin’ Brothers "Big Time"
- Primus in Toronto
- Twice "The Joker" on Saturday at Bonnaroo (Gov’t Mule and Jack Johnson)
- Interlocken Confirms Daily Lineups, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Punch Brothers, Keller & The Keels and More Added
- Mumford and Sons Cancel Bonnaroo Show, Summer Tour
- Ed Helms: Bonnaroo, Banjos and a Bit of Phish
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Warren Haynes to Play Jerry Garcia’s Wolf on Symphony Tour
- Tedeschi Trucks Band Share New Song
- Jack Is Back: Jack Johnson Talks Bonnaroo, ALO and New Album
- Patty Griffin in Boston
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll