Swifties vs. Deadheads
Clash of the subcultures or unexpected alliance?
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In This Issue
Swifties vs. Deadheads
New Releases from indie artists
Directly impact a music maker’s career in 2024
📸 Jolie Gendler
I’m a Deadhead
I saw my first Grateful Dead show at Joe Louis Arena in ‘88 (I was 19) and was the AOL liaison for chatroom vigils when Jerry Garcia died in ‘95. I see Dead shows, post-Grateful Dead bands, and Dead cover bands whenever possible, wherever possible.
I flew from Detroit to San Francisco for the last three Dead & Co shows at Oracle Park in July 2023. My college friends made the pilgrimage from DC, New Jersey, and even Zambia for this sacred tour’s finale. They were with me at my first show in ‘88, and with me at my last show. Now, the Vegas Sphere rumors are looking like a reality … What a long, strange trip it continues to be.
Most importantly, I married a Deadhead who was a “taper” in his college days and saw over 70 shows by 1995. We attended a few of the same shows, but didn’t meet until 1999. His collection of recorded performances, books, and merch continues to grow. Note: we are not considered “hardcore” compared to other heads we know.
Takeaway: Being a Deadhead isn’t a hobby, it’s a way of life.
So, I 100% relate to Swifties.
Before all you Dad Rockers out there get your tie dyes up in a wad, think about it. While the musical genres may seem worlds apart, Taylor Swift fans take their music and lifestyle just as seriously as we do.
Connecting The Dots and Beads
My college friend Chris Kapp showed up to the Oracle Park shows with a bag full of handmade bracelets with GD song titles/jargon beaded into the designs. This is a classic Swiftie activity to which she and her daughter Nora, a life-long Swiftie, can relate. We 50-somethings (men and women) each grabbed a handful and gleefully doled them out to strangers. This is the Deadhead way. And The Swiftie way.
Takeaway: Collecting and trading is fun and knows no age limits or gender.
Reader question: How old were you when you went to your first [enter favorite act name here] show?
Like me, Nora was 19 when she attended her first Dead & Co show this summer with her parents. She also saw her third Taylor Swift show at the Eras Tour. When asked what the differences were between shows/cultures, Nora’s first word: AGE. No surprise there.
Nora pointed out another obvious difference: Taylor’s show is a larger than life theatrical production with dancers and props versus The Dead’s “stand there and play” stage setup. (I didn’t forget the drones. We’re talking about on-stage theatrics.)
Yet, she said both concerts were alike in how the audience becomes a part of the show, not just a group of spectators.
Chris & Jim (Nora’s parents), Nora and friend Danielle Bloom at Dead & Co at Citi Field. 📸 Chris Kapp
Shakedown Street, the fan-organized street/parking lot marketplace that follows the Dead cross country, amazed her.
“I think I even had a Snapchat saying, that I sent my friends, ‘I thought Taylor Swift fans were a cult until I showed up here.’”
Don’t worry, Nora. I’m sure Swifties will organize their own Shakedown soon enough. They just need a catchy name based on a song or album… suggestions welcome in the comments!
The Kapp family passing the Dead experience to their kids isn’t unique. Aditi Shrikant wrote about Swiftie moms who are passing their “parasocial” relationship with Taylor to their kids. Surely there are Dads initiating this multigenerational bonding ritual. Share your story if you took your son or daughter to a Dead or Swift show!
Takeaway: We’re all going to church, just different preachers leading the congregation.
Above: Samantha Flynn, Nora, Maura Hamilton, and Ava Solis at Taylor Swift at MetLife Stadium. 📸 Chris Kapp
The Swifties’s heavy and sophisticated social media use is a glaring generational difference for both the artists and fans. Nora claims, “I follow both of them [Swift and Dead] on social media… John Mayer and the Grateful Dead, they never come up on my feed. Rarely.” TS posts frequently, and Swifties disseminate and dissect every post with unparalleled fervor.
They take advantage of technology to buy, connect, debate, trade, create, speculate, and celebrate — not realizing that us Gen Xers and Baby Boomers were the ones who laid the foundation for this intricate, community-based music business model. We’re just chill about it after all these years.
Or could it be the weed? 🤷🏻♀️
The social frenzy can lead to unforgiving reactions from otherwise fun-loving Taylor fans. “We’ll fire anyone on social media for any reason,” explains Nora.
Just ask Dead & Co guitarist John Mayer. Swift penned “Dear John” after her brief relationship with Mayer ended in 2010. Taylor was 19 and Mayer was 32 when they first linked via Twitter. The recent re-release of her album “Speak Now” drudged up those hard feelings for Swifties. One lyric in particular raises hackles:
Don't you think nineteen is too young
To be played by your dark twisted games
When I loved you so?
Mayer called it “cheap songwriting.” This is where a lot of people may have started shading Swift’s music and fans. Guys, in particular, throw around “girl” like a dirty, four-letter word. The 13-year age difference between the artists makes Taylor’s maturity an easy target. There are thousands of social media references to Taylor’s “childish” or “juvenile” songs about her relationships. BTW, Mayer later recorded the song “Paper Doll” with obvious references to TS. What do we call that?
Nora is a generational outlier as someone who has seen Swift, Mayer, and Dead & Co thanks to her parents. References to Taylor’s music as juvenile don’t bother her too much. She shrugs it off as people who don’t bother to sit down and listen to the music. But her direct assessment of Swiftie group think is clear:
“All the Swifties hate John Mayer.” Swifties hold a grudge against anyone who may have wronged TS or their community, even 13 years later as reported by Business Insider. Furthermore, Taylor has a pen and is not afraid to use it. Maybe fans will one day call a truce and move on.
Takeaway: What’s good for the old goose is good for the young gander in love and war.
Friend Of The Devil…
Is a friend of mine. While we may not get each other’s music or lyrics, there is one thing both subcultures love to hate:
And there’s nothing like a common foe to bring people together.
“I think Swifties with Deadhead/Phish parents get it,” says Nora’s mom, Chris.
“There’s a lot of overlap. I think Swifties with deadhead/phish head parents get it. At least as far as the willingness to spend all their money and throw everything aside to just GET TO THE SHOW NO MATTER WHAT. That’s a very specific kind of drive, and we’ve totally been there. I mean, that’s why I signed up for presale codes for TSwift and was like, I’ll throw my hat in the ring on this shitshow with Ticketmaster because you need everyone trying and it’s going to be crazy. (Much like it was for the Sphere with Phish yesterday.) Getting tix is an all hands on deck situation and I’m in. I do kind of wish I’d been able to go, though. Her shows are spectacular. Really.” — Chris Kapp
Vegas Sphere tickets went on sale last week for Phish, the jam band that took up the Millennial torch after Jerry Garcia died. Leah Hudson, a diehard Phish Phan / Deadhead, said she recruited the Swifties in her office to help secure tickets for her. Guess who’s stealing that idea for Dead tickets at the Sphere?!? 🙋🏻♀️ And I’ll gladly reciprocate when Swift hits the road again.
Why help Swifties with ticket sales? Because they FEEL OUR PAIN when it comes to winning the lottery called a Face-Value Ticket from Ticketmaster.
Takeaway: Collaboration beats competition.
This screenshot my friend Wright took when the Phish Sphere tix went on sale says it all.
Taylor Swift show, MetLife Stadium. 📸 Chris Kapp
Dead & Co show, Oracle Park. 📸 Thea Wood
Girls 🏻 Hippies 🏻 Girls
One community is inspired by gray-haired rocker Hippies, while the other is inspired by a 34-year-old country pop Girl turned biggest superstar on the planet. Rather than focus on the division that gender and age can sow, Turn On Your Love Light. Not all Deadheads are men, and not all Swifties are women (see chart below), so let’s take gender out of the equation just because the artists are one or the other.
Remember all those derogatory things Haters say about Deadheads before swinging at the Swifties. And vice versa. There’s nothing wrong with a little cross-culture pollination. Twice the music and fun! Swiftie Deadhead Jolie Gendler totally gets it.
📸 Mark Aidinovich, Eras Tour photo
As Rep. Wiley Nickel (D-N.C.) said to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell this summer, “I like people who like the Grateful Dead.”
From my experience, I like people who like Taylor Swift.
Here’s a fun chart to show that we’re not all that different.
Takeaway: In the end, it’s about the power of music to unite and heal.
Thanks to indie artists who post new music and tag Herizon Music. Let’s help each other out and give these new tracks a listen. Sharing is caring!
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