A month or two, a screencapped image from Instagram showed up in my Twitter feed. It showed a man and woman in conversation over dinner, possibly on a date. The caption was formatted like dialogue in a script: “ME: I’m into rock n roll, jazz, folk, rhythm and blues, funk, gospel… HER: OMG! You are like, totally eclectic!!! ME: Not really, I just listen to the Grateful Dead.” This dumb, obvious, and still somehow charming joke was my introduction to the world of Grateful Dead memes. Today, I’d like to welcome you, weary traveler, into this strange and bountiful land.
Grateful Dead fans, of course, are a uniquely impassioned bunch about their favorite band, so it makes sense that the Deadhead subculture would give birth to its own system of in-jokes and visual gags. Only God and Jerry above know how many Dead meme pages are out there on the internet. This is blog post is not an exhaustive catalog, but a simple appreciation of this particular strain of folk art.
The memes I first encountered came via the aptly titled @grateful_dead_memes Instagram account, which features as its avatar the band’s famous “Steal Your Face” skull logo, with a pyramid inside instead of the traditional lightning bolt, and an eye of Pepe the Frog atop the pyramid. (Here’s hoping whomever created the account took up Pepe before he became a symbol of white nationalism.) To begin, let’s look at a selection of memes from there:
Most of the content on the @grateful_dead_memes account follows a familiar format. There’s a well-known internet joke, or an image from pop culture, with Dead lyrics or ephemera swapped in for the setup or punchline. For Deadheads, the appeal is in the familiarity. I’ve shown a lot of these memes to non-Deadhead colleagues, and they seem to think they’re even funnier than I do, encountering them as free-floating bits of absurdist nonsense.
I’ve followed @grateful_dead_memes for weeks, and have occasionally wandered into other, even more esoteric accounts. My favorite of these is @shakedown_skreet, whose owner has a bizarre obsession with the aging Grateful Dead of the ’90s, and a more understandable love for the music of Young Thug.
Figuring a few confused freaks might be out there, my next inclination was to search for “Deadheads for Trump” memes. Lo and behold, there’s an Instagram for that too. Ideological differences aside, you gotta admire the sophistication of this guy’s photoshop skills.
Ultimately, my favorite subgenre I’ve found is the Grateful Dead meta-meme–memes not about the Grateful Dead’s music, but about the memes themselves.
Grateful Dead meme creators of the world, we salute you.