So everyone remembers getting into bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and all those classic rock primers back in high school and thinking they’re hot shit. “Oh, you haven’t heard Stairway to Heaven? Then I guess you just aren’t really into music.” Yeah, I was that kid. Me and a lot of the kids I knew. Good Charlotte was so 6th grade. Now we were teenagers, and we were fucking cool. We all had the Floyd Dark Side of the Moon shirts, the Zep shirt with the statute and the lantern and the last verse of Stairway, you name it, we had it. Grew our hair long (what we thought was long, anyway) and rocked out to this newly-discovered music that had been our favorite music that we had supposedly always been into.
As I entered high school and discovered new music and people, I discovered new music as well. My freshman year I was still hanging out with that pseudo-skate punk crowd, who knew everything about music despite being 14. By sophomore year, I was introduced to a new band, the Grateful fucking Dead. This band didn’t come alone, however, it came with the old hippie bands of the 60s and the new jam bands that clog the airways and Spotify playlists of the current generation. Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the works. There was Keller Williams, moe., Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic (a special fuck you to Widespread, goddamn), Phish, on and on. But the band that started it all was the Grateful Dead.
I thought I liked the Grateful Dead. I really did. I had a lot of their albums (not all their live deep cuts, fuck all that) downloaded from copies I got at the library, I acquired some of their records, I even had the stupid fucking tie-dye t-shirts with the fucking skeletons gardening and growing sunflowers and shit and that god-awful “Steal Your Face” logo. I bought in, and I bought in hard. I even went to San Francisco with my family when I was 15 and went to Haight Ashbury, and you know what? Haight fucking sucks. It’s a dump. Bums and washed out, heroin-riddled former hippies everywhere. But I was a stupid kid I ate that shit right up. I saw where Grateful Dead started. Musical history and all that, but still, whatever.
So, here I sit a decade later. Ten years older, objectively wiser and I still don’t know as much as I want but I know I fucking despise the Grateful Dead. Give me all the time in every stupid Jerry Garcia guitar solo put together and I still couldn’t tell you how I liked this shit. Box of Rain? China Cat Sunflower? Jesus Christ. There’s not enough acid in the world. I mean my god. Everyone under the sun listens to Grateful Dead. Parents that used to be fun, that one frat guy at your job who won’t let his 20s go, your professors who maybe used to be real people, everyone. They played a 3-night set in Chicago two years ago, and it was fucking terrible. I didn’t go (duh) but mother of god, there were “hippies” everywhere. Tweaking on their memories of times long gone, these overweight baby boomers crammed into their old tie-dyes, trying to reclaim the past and hear the same different shit they’ve heard a thousand times before.
I’ll concede and give LSD a big portion of credit for the Dead’s popularity but how they seeped into the mainstream I will never know. You call them a revolution, I call them a fad. How one band created this whole sub-culture within the counterculture movement obsessed with making tapes of live shows that were many hours, but only several songs long. Why listen to the same set of songs, over and over, at different venues, taped over different decades? It is the same. fucking. music. You can’t convince me that every different venue had its own nuances that made the music “magical.” Get the fuck outta here. Let it go. If you love the Grateful Dead, fine, don’t listen to me. What do I know? I’m just a pudgy guy who listens to music and writes down his thoughts. You call them a revolution, I’ll call them bullshit.