July 15, 2009

The Grateful Dead//Uncle John's Band

Anika and I went camping in the Catskills last weekend. Even though it totally poured on us (all night) Saturday night, we still had an amazing time. We hiked up Wittenberg Mountain and took a funny day trip to burnt-out hippie-mecca, Woodstock. Some pictures here.

This all really reminded me of summer camp, mostly because we were just a few miles away from Frost Valley . I am one of those nerds who could probably be called a “lifer” of summer camp. I started going for two weeks, when I was just six, in 1989. By the time I was 14, I was volunteering in the barn, tending to horses and teaching beginner horseback lessons.

Camp was, without a doubt, one of the coolest experiences of my young/young adult life. This also might be because, despite the fact that it was officially "YMCA," my camp was a SERIOUS hippie camp, complete with a "World Hunger Day," a mock "Underground Railroad" and our own music festival, where I first played guitar in front of people, Hirdstock (remember, we were just a short drive from Woodstock). Of course, a camp of such a peace/love/wellness caliber attracted a particularly hilarious demographic of counselors, a number of which were serious hippies themselves.

One particular counselor, Zim, was no exception. We frequently played guitar together, including songs by Joni Mitchell, REM, 10,000 Maniacs, Rusted Root (I went back and considered "Send Me On My Way" for this post, and honestly, that song is just not good, guys) and, the ultimate hippie jam band, The Grateful Dead.

I am not ashamed to admit that I own and love two very fine Grateful Dead albums, American Beauty and the ultra-folky Workingman's Dead. Look, no one's going to argue that The Dead's eight-thousand-minute jams sessions aren't hard to handle sometimes. Also, they serve as the butt of many a joke by countless indie snobs. All that said, The Dead kinda rule. You can't beat them for honey'd up harmonies and thick coppery guitar tone. And dudes, I'm sorry, but without these guys, you hipsters don't get your Fleet Foxes or your Blitzen Trappers or your Motel Motels or even your Animal Collectives. Their influence is palpable and essential to the modern-day indie folk/noise/experimental groups--so chill the fuck out, smoke a J (like the crazy guy sitting behind me in the coffee shop garden is doing RIGHT NOW OMG, I love you, Brooklyn) and come hear Uncle John's band.

Uncle John's Band.mp3

When life looks like easy street,
There is danger at your door.

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