Greg Swan, managing editor


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Obsessive Music Fan: Friend Or Foe?

You know the guy. He’s the one listening to some obscure band with infinity symbols in the name going, “Wait, now listen to this part,” as he pauses the music at his party. He follows bands across the country, on the Internet, and actually buys albums to complement his cache of mp3s to show he’s a real fan.

He subscribes to the standards: Rolling Stone, Spin and Blender. But he also buys music mags like Magnet that come with sampler CDs containing music even Jack Black hasn’t heard of. He reads them cover-to-cover while making notes in his journal: Some critic sitting in a cubicle outside of New Jersey thought this band sounds like “Pavement crossed with Godspeed … only with that indie/emo vibe.”

He remembers enough of an article from 1999 to know that your favorite pop band sucks but he can’t tell you why. Oh, and he hates pop music, period. If KISS-FM plays it in one of their 400 markets, then it automatically sucks — even if he didn’t know that last week and praised them.

He’s got the trophy t-shirts from concerts. They’re pretty much all he wears. There are shirts from his metal phase: Sevendust, Grinspoon, Reveille, Godsmack, Metallica, three years of KoRn and three years of Ozzfest. There are trophies from his rock phase: Oleander, Incubus and G. Love. He even wears his Dave Matthews shirt from 1996. “That’s from the ‘Crash’ tour; their last good album,” he laughs, sticking a finger through a hole in the sleeve. The pride and joy of his wearable collection? The Jimmy Page and Robert Plant shirts that “were worth $50 bucks each, seriously.”

There are ticket stubs in every drawer of his desk, peeking out from underneath the stacks of CD-Rs, alongside gas receipts from road trips to towns that actually draw enough music fans to bring a “quality artist”. He scours the Internet for months after a show, praying somebody smuggled in a digital recorder and managed to mic and mix it correctly. He succeeds often, then forces you to listen to the abrasive recordings filled with clapping, cheers and random comments like: “This song sucks, let’s leave!” interspersed throughout.

He prefers small clubs and obscure bands to anything that seats more than 100 people and sells 10,000 albums. He is obligated to hear the latest song from a band, even if he listens for only a few minutes and judges it “crap.” He prefers albums to singles and concept albums to collective albums. “Greatest hits albums,” he tells you, “are for non-fans with no taste in music.”

He owns over 1000 CDs and isn’t about to stop collecting. Some CDs have been listened to once through and dismissed. Some were a mistake from the beginning and left in the plastic wrap. Most have been burned for friends, thrust upon co-workers and embellished to the point that Hendrix himself couldn’t argue their quality. He has a 300-disc CD changer that still plays one CD at a time.

He has put over $1000 dollars in his car stereo system: premium JBL honeycomb speakers, three JL Audio subs, Pioneer 12-disc changer and the best Pioneer Premiere stereo available. Then, when faulty wiring set his car on fire, he didn’t have the money to repair it.

He’s the guy that supplied you with all of your Napster/Kazaa/etc. music files, asking for nothing in return. He believes in his heart that “Music is destined to be shared, enjoyed and embraced.”

“Music is the soundtrack to life,” he tells you. “It can stir up emotions you never thought you had, complement the emotions you already possess and take you on an auditory adventure unchallenged by any other form of media.”

“Think about movies, television shows, the Oscar-Meyer wiener song and other TV jingles,” he testifies, voice quavering in persuasive seriousness. “When you were a baby, your mom sang lullabies to quiet you down. She gave you toys that chimed ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ and along with your dad, exposed you to your first musical radio on car trips.”

He is your friend — the reason new bands are signed everyday. He’s the reason your future 16-year-old son will form a band in the basement with his acne-ridden buddies. He is the motivation for record executives to take a chance on four kids from B.F.E. He purports to be on the cutting edge of the musical scene, yet resents the implication that he’s doing it on purpose. “I don’t claim to be a trend setter,” he maintains, “But I suppose I’m an early adopter that loves to pass along great music.”

“Musicians talk about the high they get while performing — something sex, drugs and booze can’t compare to. I think the feeling is reciprocal,” he says with growing intensity. “If the crowd isn’t into it, or they aren’t feeling the music, the performer has no reason to continue. But if the crowd is into the music and performance the venue’s walls disappear for hours as both factions feed off each other.”

“You can listen to a song in headphones or the car and have it completely wash over you to the point you forget what you’re doing and are actually riding along with the song — following it wherever its going until you snap out of unconsciousness and see the dotted yellow line cross the hood of the car.”

Thank you, Music Freak. You’re my friend, after all.

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