Andrew Behar's feature-length investigation of the Deadheads charts the progress of an extraordinary cultural phenomenon: the survivors of the Dead, an estimated two million fans who had followed the rock band Grateful Dead worldwide, from one concert to another, for three decades. The "Long, Strange Trip" of the band ended on August 9, 1995, when middle-aged...read more
Andrew Behar's feature-length investigation of the Deadheads charts the progress of an extraordinary cultural phenomenon: the survivors of the Dead, an estimated two million fans who had followed the rock band Grateful Dead worldwide, from one concert to another, for three decades. The
"Long, Strange Trip" of the band ended on August 9, 1995, when middle-aged frontman Jerry Garcia died of heart failure at a rehab clinic.
Behar's lens focuses on the impromptu carnival in parking lots and meadows adjacent to any Dead show. During the 1994 summer tour, the Deadheads put on their own performances, with guitars, bagpipes, drums, even didgeridoos. Vans and buses testify to years on the road, while tie-dyed Deadheads and
their children greet each other with easy familiarity. Many have indeed met before, at concerts thousands of miles apart. Some are working professionals; others map their existence around the Grateful Dead. The Deadheads come across at first as a friendly extended family of free spirits whose
sunny attitudes evoke the good feelings of the 1960s flower children.
Later on in the film there emerges a darker portrait. Veteran Deadheads admit there has been a change for the worse in the late 1980s, when the band's lone chart-topper, "Touch of Gray," attracted a younger crowd interested less in flower power and more in hard drugs and violence. The band's
reputation as a magnet for narcotics and liquor is hardly unearned, but Behar counterpoints dope-addled zombies and nitrous oxide inhalers with groups like the Wharf Rats, a subsection of the Deadheads pledged to sobriety.
Draconian federal antidrug operations have targeted Dead concerts (Behar had to convince some of his subjects that his camera crew were not undercover DEA agents), but a rural policeman and a shopkeeper testify that they personally have had no problems with the swarming fans. TIE-DIED concludes
with various Deadheads naming their favorite Dead song, including a tot's amusing vote for "I Want My MTV."
While TIE-DIED was in post-production, lawyers for the Grateful Dead sought an injunction against the film, in what Behar later said was a simple misunderstanding over music rights, but which the press blew up into a conspiracy to suppress any hint of drugs and decadence. In fact, while not
ignoring the negatives, TIE-DIED ultimately favors the Deadheads and their mellow fellowship, typified by the recurring appearance of "Jahree from Boston," a young New Englander in dreadlocks. When first seen, he is endearingly eccentric. His next appearance, searching for his dog lost somewhere
along the tour route, seems forlorn and pathetic. In a final, post-credit visit, Jahree repeats the dog's description and optimistically gives his actual phone number out to the (presumably Deadhead) viewers. His simple trust suggests the Deadheads are indeed onto something, a sense of belonging
that transcends mere recording-industry demographics.
The Grateful Dead's 1995 concerts were marred by untypical riots in Indiana, and several patrons were fatally struck by lightning in Washington. Garcia's demise confirmed the end of an era in rock culture to which the film bears testimony. (Substance abuse, profanity, adult situations.)