The Grateful Dead were a cornerstone of the Collective’s teenage brahdom, and thus an essential part of the Collectivist myth that followed — not to mention the inspiration for the band’s ever-changing setlists filled with improvised segues. For the budding young psychonauts acquiring bootlegs from the lunch dude at their junior high, the Dead provided numerous portals, from “Dark Star” jams to musique concrète adventures to the radical notion that a rock band could jettison song form entirely for a transitive nightfall of diamonds.
Geologist: When you’re a middle schooler, if you were into music, you sort of looked at what older people were doing. I think that’s why I started wearing Grateful Dead T-shirts. Like, I have to be honest, you did it because you saw older kids doing it and the imagery was just…you know, with the bears or whatever. It was just fun. You know, like a skeleton on your T-shirt. I had an older cousin who went to college in Athens and he would just leave and follow the Dead for whole summers. I was more into it initially by watching older people that I looked up to. And then I think it was in eighth grade that a friend’s brother came home for the summer from college and he was just playing them in his car all the time. And we were being driven around by him a lot.
“St. Stephen,” I think, in eight grade, was the first Dead song that I got really, really into. There are moments when they scream and it gets a little wild and there’s a more dreamy psychedelic part of it. It kind of had everything about those early Dead records shoved into one song, you know? The Dead are a really good thing that felt really dangerous and free, warm, and welcoming at the same time. Dave was actually going to the shows as early as seventh or eighth grade with his older cousins.
I sort of left the Dead for a while, especially living in New York and being in my early 20s. The Dead just didn’t make much sense to listen to. And then when I moved out to Arizona for a while and just driving around the desert a lot…I haven’t really listened to American Beauty in like ten years, but I kind of feel like it’s the only record that I really want to hear right now. Now, regardless of where I am, that music helps me go to that place to relax. They do seem to have a big fanbase and following again. We were invited to perform at Jerry Garcia’s birthday event and I looked at the lineup and there were dudes from Vampire Weekend and the National or one of those bands and I was like “I didn’t know all these people are Dead fans!”