by Russell S. Glowatz
Like oil and water, politics and jam bands rarely mix. Yet many jam bands support political causes, and occasionally even support or oppose political candidates. When the latter is attempted, it’s often to mixed reaction from fans. I can recall being at a Crosby, Stills & Nash concert at the Beacon Theater in 2005 at the height of George W. Bush’s unpopularity. When David Crosby went off on a rant about the politics of ‘W,’ a fan in the crowd bellowed at him to shut up and play. Crosby told the fan that if he doesn’t like it, then he could get the eff out of the theater. The crowd ruptured in applause to Crosby’s response in dealing with the heckler. While many fans would agree with that disgruntled concert attendee’s sentiment, but would not yell as much in the middle of a performance, many other fans believe that these musicians have given us so much, and paid their dues time and time again, that whatever political crusades performers’ may go on, it is their right to do so.
When The Dead reunited for a concert at Bryce Jordan Center, on the Penn State University campus in October of 2008, many Deadheads expressed disappointment that the godfathers’ of jam would abandon their, for the most part, apolitical stance to support then candidate and Senator Barack Obama. Fans expressed their disapproval (and approval) on forums such as Facebook, MySpace (yes MySpace), and Twitter. Regardless of mixed feelings, the show went off without a hitch, and at the end of the concert, Mickey Hart came to the microphone, and echoed the sentiment expressed in the now famous Hunter S. Thompson quote, that “if every Deadhead in Florida had voted [in 2000] the world would be a different place.” As Mickey’s reading of that quote suggests, the band’s inaction during the 2000 Bush v. Gore presidential campaign spurred The Dead to life in respect to intervening in national politics.
The same Hunter S. Thompson quote is said to have inspired Head Count to set up shop, in 2004, at concerts and music festivals across the country to encourage jam band fans (and now music fans in general) to register to vote. While mixed feelings have certainly been expressed by jam band fans about inserting politics into our community, most have no issue with Head Count’s effort to register voters, as they do not encourage fans how to vote, as long as they ultimately head to the polls and do their civic duty. Perhaps Head Count doesn’t push people to vote for particular candidates or political parties, because it is widely believed that the jam band community consists of mostly liberal-minded people. I can not be certain if that is their intent, because I am in no way affiliated with Head Count, but feel free to check out their website here to read about all they do (and if you have not done so already, register to vote while you’re at it!).
While our community may lean liberal on the surface, I am certain that we do not all identify that way. Ann Coulter, well-known conservative talking head, is a devout Deadhead and jam band fan. She can be seen in the below photo posing in front of a Grateful Dead, Europe 1990 Tour poster. Coulter also once dated a taper, and due to that relationship, has an “excellent collection of tapes, including Mickey Hart rapping Fire on the Mountain.” In a 2006 interview with Jambands.com, Coulter suggested that “true Deadheads are what liberals claim to be but aren’t,” yet she also implied that we are a ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ type of community, and would fit more succinctly in the conservative camp. While Coulter may be drinking a kool-aid all her own, maybe she has a point. In researching, I have not been able to come up with any polling information regarding jam band fans political affiliations, so no one really knows where we all stand (comment below if you know of any studies).
So what we are going to do here today is ask you nine survey questions to gauge where you fall in the political spectrum, and how you feel about politics being inserted into our community. The poll itself is not scientific, but my hope is that if enough of you participate, we will discover some overriding patterns that define our community in the political sense. The poll will be anonymous, easy, and quick to take. The polling period will end at noon on Monday, August 3rd, which gives us roughly two weeks to get as many jam band fans as possible to participate, so please share far and wide!
You must be of voting age to participate, so those of you that are under eighteen years of age, I am going to ask you to please sit this one out. Don’t worry, there will be more polls, experiments, and quizzes for you to participate in down the road.
Whether you are political or apolitical, please lend a hand with this survey! We value your opinions, and without them, this whole experiment will not work. In the upcoming weeks, stay tuned for the follow-up article on this poll you took part in! So you surely see it when it comes out, please like the Grateful Globotz Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter @GratefulGlobotz. And if you are unsure of where you fall on the political spectrum, definitely take the Political Compass test (a fun and enlightening thing to do if you know where you fall on the spectrum as well!–If you find the results at all confusing, read deeper on their page, it’s absolutely worthwhile and fascinating).
Now sit back, and have fun taking the Jam Bands & American Politics survey!
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© Watts Glow Grateful Productions, 2015