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Why do noodle-dancing white kids pile into vans, abandon their personal grooming habits, and hit the road in the wake of jam bands across America? The answer varies from person to person, but Dreadheads: Portrait of a Subculture takes an interesting look into the lives and times of the ratty-haired free spirits who started out following the Grateful Dead and now latch on to the festivals and tours of Phish, Widespread Panic, Phil Lesh and Friends, and other jam bands.
I’ll admit to digging the Dead myself, and I have even been known to noodle. (Hey, I have my musical tastes, you have yours. Stop rolling your eyes.) I also dig indoor plumbing, combed hair, and smooth armpits. My hippie chick tendencies have serious limitations. Still, I was fascinated by this documentary, where director Steven Hurlburt and co-director Flournoy Holmes spent two years gathering interviews and footage (much of it shot outside our very own Red Rocks) of the dreadlocked vagabonds who proudly sport their tentacled hair to signify their exclusion from the mainstream and their inclusion in this particular subculture. Little Ashley Tree is the wounded artist, a frail, wizened, drug-addled escapist. Dave is simply a seeker of sun, fun, booze and ganja. James seeks spiritual transcendence and lives serenely in his tricked-out gypsy van. Most just want to express themselves freely and follow the music. Interviews with authors, musicians, and academics add different perspectives; a few must-ask questions are dealt with as well. (Question: Do you ever wash your hair? Answer: Occasionally for some, rarely for others. Shampoo good, combs bad, lice problematic. Yikes.)
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Ready to take a look at this tie-dyed doc yourself? Catch the screening this evening at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom, or head up to Trilogy Wine Bar in Boulder this Sunday. Both Hurlburt and Holmes will be on hand following the screenings for Q&A sessions.