With those Phish fellas starting a three day run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City tomorrow — their legion of “phans” in tow — we wanted to give you a list of 11 other artists that have their own super fans. These are not only strong fan bases, but obsessive, crazed and loyal (often to a fault) followers — many as famous or infamous, as the bands they worship.
What drives this kind of devotion? Is it the music? The herd instinct? The drugs? A life-long dream of finally hooking up with that scruffy looking bass player who probably smells like five-day-old seafood floating in a open grave?
Though we may question their taste in many of these cases — these overzealous fanboys and girls love their bands and they’re not afraid to let you, or anyone else know.
11. Morrissey — Weeping concert attendees at a Morrissey show range from rockabilly-styled Latino look-alikes and chubby goths in flowing black garments to frail, pasty indie kids who may not survive an ill-attempted stage dive. Sure the Smiths were awesome, but do you really want to risk life and limb just to try and hand off a bundle of roses to the great and powerful Moz?
10. Dispatch — When Dispatch sold out three nights in a row at Red Rocks this summer, you may have found yourself asking the same question as I: “Who the hell is Dispatch!?” Turns out the Boston-based Dave Matthews-like jam band were starting up a reunion tour and — big shocker — jam band fans don’t mind traveling to see their favorite act. Especially when it’s at the best venue in the country.
9. Rush — Canadian prog rockers Rush have earned a rabid fan base over the course of their four decades as a band. It’s been an uphill battle to earn the respect they’ve long deserved, and Rush fans — typically lonely dudes who are better at air drumming than talking to girls — have not only had to stand alongside their favorite band, but in defense of themselves as well. How do I know? I’ve been to a lot of their concerts and my wrists are really sore. Uh…from air drumming.
8. Flight of the Conchords — Hapless New Zealand duo Bret and Jemaine (played by Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement) really only have one true fan. But oh, what a fan. Sweetly psychotic, Mel (Longmont native Kristen Schaal) takes obsessive love of her favorite band to hilariously disturbing realms previously undreamed. Unfamiliar? Check out an episode of this excellent series and see for yourself.
7. Kiss — If you grew up in the mid-1970s, you knew about the Kiss Army. Even if you weren’t a fan of the band’s rock and rolling all night and partying every day, you had to admit, a band having its own branch of the military is pretty cool. Plus, you didn’t have to get a haircut to join and you could even wear make up! Don’t ask, don’t tell indeed.
6. Slayer — My personal favorite clan of lunatics thanks to their volume, both in numbers and well, volume. Thrash metal maniacs are a breed unto themselves. And the elite of the group has always belonged to Slayer. For example, many fans carve “Slayer” into their flesh with a razor blade before shows. Does the greatest metal band ever deserve this kind of devotion!? Just ask this guy:
5. The Beatles — It began around 1964 with hordes of fans, notably screaming young girls, that would grow up with the band during that turbulent decade. In addition to all of the brilliant music, there were movies, TV specials and merchandising galore. It made for a Beatlemaniac’s dream and eventually nightmarish prices for collectors on eBay. If any band deserves the continued reverence thrust upon them by super fans and price guides, surely it’s the Fab Four.
4. Jimmy Buffett — The tropically minded singer’s followers are called “Parrotheads.” They’re typically exemplified by “party guys” — middle aged men who probably bought both their first Buffet record and Hawaiian shirt the day after hearing “Cheeseburger In Paradise” at a Phi Gamma Something bash their freshman year at college. Expect them to be a bit soft in the middle and maybe even softer in the brain — thanks to too many visits to Margaritaville.
3. Elvis Presley — Ever been to Graceland? What other rock star has his own museum/mauseleum? Fans of all shapes and sizes still flock to Memphis to get just a taste of the peanut butter, banana and bacon lifestyle lived by rock and roll royalty. Many teary eyed devotees continue to believe that the King still lives, and we’re due — any day now — for another comeback special. Bless their delusional little hearts.
2. Insane Clown Posse — Oh. My. God. No joke. These clowns actually have a circus of followers, called Juggalos (Juggalettes if they’re female). More than just wiggas with attitude (a phrase that skirts offensivness by actually implying envy of other cultures, other musical genres), Juggalos not only devote their lifestyle and look to their favorite “band,” they’ve developed their own language and have their own yearly gatherings (11 years strong now). I know, I know. I didn’t believe it either. Just, sit back open a can of Faygo and enjoy this vid:
1. The Grateful Dead — In the early 1970s, Jerry Garcia and company became the pied piper of rock bands, amassing what was truly the premier brand of super fan: the Dead Head. Through no small sacrifice, these fans began traveling any distance with the goal of seeing the band as many times as they could — often taping each performance to later trade with others, should they (God forbid!) miss a show. This tie-dyed community created a crunchy culture and a marketplace for hippies, heads and freaks that continues to reach new generations. It echoes from the exhaust of Volkswagon buses tirelessly treading never-ending highways to parked, dancing-bear-stickered minivans resting in the safety of the suburbs. Though the Dead is gone, they continue to answer the piper’s call, and keep traveling — ever furthur.
Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor. The worst crime he ever did was play some rock ‘n’ roll.