A Fan of FansPosted: September 1, 2011
Why music fans are the best…and worst.
By Colin Peters
Part 1 in a 2 part series
I tried reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, once. I got to the part that reads, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson.” The cover was cool. The publisher and title page were equally gripping. I was about to dive in when I was interrupted by something hanging from my wrist. Actually, an individual, inquiring about what was hanging from my wrist, interrupted me.
“Sorry, is that a Bonnaroo bracelet?” asked a fellow juror. Indeed, it was. And so began my “service;” which resulted in several hours of productive conversation and a new friend, rather than an isolated and boring day off work.
The inquisitive young lady we’ll call “Liza” was a music junkie. She, too, had been to various music festivals and recently (cliché warning) followed Phish for much of their tour of the northeastern United States.
Our taste in music differed quite a bit. She was pretty into electronic, dubstep and jam-band music. Not exactly my cup of tea, but it led to fascinating conversations of genre-bending artists and the current direction of musical trends. We talked about our favorite bands, concerts, festivals, music experiences and pretty much anything that had to do with sound. We didn’t always agree, but it was entertaining. We ended up getting lunch together on our break, rode the train home together and have kept in touch since then. It was like meeting an old friend. We got along so well simply because we both had so much to say about music. I believe the day would have been quite different had I not been wearing my Bonnaroo bracelet. I learned about a lot of new music, grew as a fan of music and expanded my tastes because of Liza.
Was this mere coincidence? Perhaps. After all, it was jury duty. However, I’d like to think that music fans gravitate towards each other. To put it simply, I’m a fan of music fans. I love a lot of music. I dislike a lot of music. But if you like music, and who doesn’t, chances are- we’ll get along quite well. Beyond the sounds that are pleasing to our ears, I think music’s greatest strength is the community that it builds. Whether you find a community of people who like the same band as you, or you find a good friend who has completely opposite taste- music will produce, encourage, provoke and foster (hopefully) enthusiastic interaction.
Have you ever heard of miracle tickets? Liza told me that she saw miracle tickets appear on numerous occasions at Phish shows. What are miracle tickets, you ask? Pretend a show is sold out. Someone holds up a pair of tickets and shouts, “Who needs a miracle?!” Boom. There are your miracle tickets. How does something like that exist? It exists because people love music. Maybe someone bought extra tickets; and where Craigslist and eBay exist to ruin your bank account- miracle tickets exist to share the joy of music and shared experience. Sure, the instances of such offers are rare, but the fact that they exist at all clearly illustrates true love for music and community.
With almost every band/artist/musician there is a group of people that can connect on the common bond they all share; no matter how foreign they may all be to each other. Whether you meet two people at a nearly empty show or a thousand people online in a forum, the idea is the same; music builds community.
I went back to Bonnaroo this summer, which meant another sixteen-hour car ride. None of my friends from home were going, so I hopped in a car with a complete stranger and again met a new friend in music. I would probably hail a cab to the airport before I’d ask one of my neighbors to drive me. But I trusted a stranger for a cross-country trip because it just made sense to me. After the sleepiness of my 5 a.m. wake-up subsided, the journey began. Katie was seven years my senior, from New York and worked as a health care professional. On the surface, we had absolutely nothing in common. We started talking about music first, given the nature of the trip; but in less than an hour we were already talking about growing up, hometowns, traveling, families, relationships and all sorts of things that rarely come up with someone you hardly know. We traded off driving from Minnesota to Tennessee, parted ways then met up again for the drive home; which of course included hours of Bonnaroo storytelling. It was all sort of bizarre but oddly comforting.
Music brings people together. Maybe that means complete strangers in my case; but it can be much simpler. I’m sure my mother didn’t think she’d see Springsteen as many times as she has, but my dad loves Springsteen and now they share those experiences. It doesn’t have to be a grand occasion, but music connects people.
For me, the most important part about liking music is liking music. That may seem dumb, but I promise you it has merit. I am constantly frustrated by individual’s tastes being influenced by what is cool and what is not. If something is too “mainstream” than it’s not cool anymore. Wrong. If you think something is cool, then it’s cool. Go out and enjoy it.
Perhaps I’m being too optimistic and soon-to-be too cynical. Music isn’t the only thing that builds community and certainly isn’t the only thing that causes passionate debate. I’m a fan of music fans. But I also despise music fans.
Maybe I should take a break from music and the music industry. A break from all of its glory and all of its disgrace.
After all, I could use a little time to myself. I still haven’t read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Coming soon: A Critique of Fans