By Mollie Olsem

They say when you love something, let it go. What they don’t say is when you really love something, get a commemorative tattoo, follow it across the country and name your dog after it.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in your favorite band, and even better when there’s a community of like-minded people to share it with.  Here are five bands with seriously devoted fans:

Grateful Dead: Deadhead: not just something you do in your garden.  When the Grateful Dead started touring in the 1970s, groups of fans would make a point to see them as many times as they could, stopping at every city and festival along the way. At the shows, Deadheads would sell custom-made tie-dye tees, homemade food and recordings of previous concerts to keep afloat. This community was so dedicated, and so good at preserving the Grateful Dead culture, there’s actually a museum for it.  In 2008, Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Mickey Hart donated materials to the Grateful Dead Archive at UC-Santa Cruz, like live performances and production memorabilia, artwork, newspaper clippings and important documents they received over the years.

Lady Gaga: Her Little Monsters are everywhere. Lady Gaga accrued her fan base by being open and honest about her personal struggles and supporting those facing oppression. Her music has been blasting across the Top 40s since 2008 and almost every person with ears can recognize a Gaga tune. Fans come out in droves to her massive, sold-out shows and have shown their obsession over the years in the form of intricate Halloween costumes, tattoos and even scientific discoveries. There are a number of species named after every variation from her name, including a genus of ferns and a newly-discovered wasp. Gaga is just as devoted to her fans as they are her; She has “Little Monsters” tattooed on her body.

Jimmy Buffet: This fandom will keep the Hawaiian shirt industry alive. Buffet coined the term Parrothead in 1985 when he commented on the fans who wore parrot hats and followed his tours around the country. These fans are so devoted, they even get together when Big Bird is not in town. The Meeting of the Minds in Key West brings fans from around the world for a weekend of music, alcohol, raffles and a few charitable activities. On a smaller scale, about 239 local Parrothead clubs meet to continue their charitable giving, focusing on causes like the environment and cancer research.

Justin Bieber: If Justin Bieber asked the world to jump, 46.8 million Bieber fans, or Beliebers, would ask “how high?” The potency of Beliebers is that they live online and have devoted their fandom in person and in front of a screen. With almost 47 million Facebook followers and 29 million Twitter followers, Bieber is able to speak to his fans with the click of a button. By the time he was a legal adult, Bieber had released back-to-back-to-back number one albums and 786 million YouTube views. As if selling out stadiums across the country wasn’t enough, his 3-D concert film grossed $73 million. It’s a numbers game.

Phish: Phish fans, or Phans, definitely swim in big schools (get it?). Between 1989 and 2004, Phish concerts alone grossed over $175.5 million. When they reformed in 2009 and announced new shows, they broke the internet and temporarily shut down Live Nation’s ticketing site. This might come as a surprise for a band with almost no radio play, no mainstream appeal or any significant industry recognition.  Phans keep coming back for the band’s improvisational  style and jam band fun. Any Phan knows that every show is different, and every experience is something new. As if this wasn’t enough to prove Phans are die-hard, Ben & Jerry’s created a flavor dedicated to them and their mutual Vermont heritage.


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