Jam Sanders: United We Stand

2016: It’s Our Time To Make A Difference

Throughout the past year, a rejuvenated entity has taken the jam band scene and many of its devoted followers by storm. I am not discussing the recent Dead reunion, Dead & Company tour, or even Phish’s best year in a generation. What I’m talking about is a gray-haired, balding, four-eyed, seventy something year old man speaking his truth to the masses. A man who has declared his intention to run for the White House in 2016. A man who was largely unknown to mainstream America a short few months ago. By now you must realize I’m referring to the straight shooting Bernie Sanders from Vermont, by the way of Brooklyn. For an old dude, Sanders has pumped new lifeblood into the Democratic Party and the American political system at large. And he has undeniably struck a chord with countless jam band fans and musicians alike, and while not every phan is on board, Sanders is squarely the jam band scene’s candidate of choice for the presidency in 2016.

Back in May, for his official campaign announcement, Sanders was accompanied by the unofficial ice cream makers of our scene, and a band fittingly called Mango Jam. It’s apt Bernie chose a homegrown, local, jam band to help kick off his presidential run, as he is a homespun grassroots entity himself. Likely it’s his democratic socialist ideals that appeal to our community in a large sense. We wax communal ourselves, and often root for the underdog in music and elsewhere, so the more I ponder it, Bernie is the perfect choice for jam band devotees. He appeals to our tacit instincts embodied within our gatherings to help those in need. Our penchant for karma aligns positively with the idea that our society should not be oligarchic in nature, and Senator Sanders seems to be the only viable candidate hitting the nail on the head in respect to this broad notion. Whatever it is that Bernie is tapping into, our populace generally feels it’s the real deal. 

And we are not the only ones. Sanders has highlighted a course for this nation that many of the disenchanted and disenfranchised feel we should take. And while some may sense that this guy doesn’t have a holy chance in hell, I can recall an African-American senator with a funny name garnering similar recognition at this very point in the 2008 election cycle. So take notice, and remember Hunter S. Thompson poignantly saying that “if every Deadhead in Florida had voted [in 2000] the world would be a different place.” There’s contemporary truth to that quote, and we as a massive population of jam band enthusiasts have power in numbers. If every one of us jam Sanders supporters voted in the upcoming primaries and subsequent election, the world can be a different place. It’s up to us to get involved.  

And jam band junkies across the nation are heeding that call. From a Phans of Bernie Sanders table being set up at the Phish Dick’s campgrounds over the summer, to totems and larger than life Sanders cut outs raising awareness at festivals and shows across the nation, Bernie fever has fallen upon our community, and at no other time have I seen our members be so overtly politically active. Some will fret that politics should not be inserted into our special scene, but since our unique universe brings so many of us together on similar wave lengths it’d be a terrible shame if we don’t use it to potentially change the course of human history. Stakes are high, and we can make a major difference. Remember that. And if you’re not political, but care about our collective future, take a few moments to discover what Sanders and the other candidates are about. If you jive with what he has to say, register to vote at your next show with a Head Count booth. It doesn’t take too much to make an informed vote, and your impact could change the future of the world. Pretty heady stuff. From Jon Fishman to Horizon Wireless, artists are for the first time using their good names to endorse a presidential candidate. While that shouldn’t paint your point of view, such endorsements should encourage a closer look.Our future is on the line, and there are some colossal issues we’ll be facing in the upcoming decades that could forever alter or even extinguish reality as we know it. Our way of life is extremely precious, fragile, and very much a privilege. If you are politically apathetic, I don’t say any of this to piss you off, although I’m surely bound to aggravate some by broaching such a topic. And while far from all of us are on board the Bernie train, many are, and if these words contribute in a small way towards mobilizing our community it’ll absolutely be worthwhile, and I’ll happily take flak from those who send it my way. So if you’re feeling a sensation in your nether regions, a buzz in your heart or mind, a Bern if you will, head to the polls in the upcoming year and make a difference for all of us.

Words: Russell S. Glowatz

© Stand For Jam, 2015

Jam Bands & Politics Rarely Mix (Or Do They? You Decide!): The Survey

The Dead w/ President Obama & First Lady, source: rollingstone.com
The Dead w/ President Obama & First Lady at the Mid-Atlantic Inaugural Ball                            source: rollingstone.com
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).

Source: liveforlivemusic.com
Source: liveforlivemusic.com

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