That the Grateful Dead are neither seen nor heard in Andrew Behar's "Tie-Died: Rock 'n Roll's Most Deadicated Fans" should come as little surprise.
The band--which may have trucked its last after the recent death of guiding light Jerry Garcia--was always reluctant to acknowledge its camp followers, the Deadheads, and certainly never endorsed them. And for all their devotion, the Deadheads in the movie seem to get along perfectly well without the band.
But it's strange that the word \o7 religion\f7 is never uttered, because everything else Behar includes in this examination/celebration says exactly that.
The Deadheads--who'd go on the road with the group, turning parking lots into medieval fairs and doubling the size of small towns--have turned their lives over to what they perceive as a higher power.
In chronicling the Deadhead scene during the band's 1994 tour--and employing the music made by the Deadheads themselves--Behar doesn't go far enough in examining just why certain people are drawn to the Dead's music.
He interviews enough of them--from grizzled ex-hippies who have been "on tour" since the '60s, to young, love-soaked dilettantes who will soon be heeding the call of college and the corporate hive. He lets them generate their own auras of absurdity.
But while many of the Deadheads seem sincere about what their lives are about, Behar isn't actively skeptical of what he sees; he simply doesn't take enough of a jaundiced view of an often-pathetic phenomenon. Or he's too nice a guy to burst anyone's bubble.
Or, he doesn't have the nerve to be critical of something he's become part of. There's a point in "Tie-Died" (preceded in theaters by "A Conversation with Ken Kesey," directed by Peter Shapiro) where he shifts gears and deals with the occasional ugliness of a Dead show, the sporadic violence, the way the attitudes in the lots have changed over the years, and the way mandatory minimum drug laws have been used to hassle and incarcerate people outside concerts. But it's just a perfunctory caesura in his hymn of praise to all things Dead.
In one of his better scenes, Behar follows a handful of Deadheads to a gallery show of Jerry Garcia art and records them informally reviewing a recent show. It is a startling example of inarticulateness, of "yeahs" and "wows" and 'far outs." And they all understand each other perfectly.
\o7 * MPAA rating: R for drug content\f7 , \o7 and language. ("A Conversation with Ken Kesey" is PG-13 for drug references.) Times guidelines: Youngest Deadheads will be bored to tears.
\f7 'Tie-Died: Rock 'n Roll's
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Most Deadicated Fans'
Released by ISA Releasing. Director Andrew Behar. Producers Marsha Oglesby, James Deutch. Executive producers Joseph A. Kim, Sara Sackner, Jennifer Fish. Cinematographer Hamid Shams. Editors Behar, Sackner. Music Peter Fish. Running time (both films): 1 hour, 28 minutes.
\o7 * In limited release throughout Southern California.\f7