You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, And My Misadventures With Two Of Music’s Most Maligned Tribes, by Nathan Rabin
I would have liked this book more if it would have been less suffused with the author and his own whining. I wasn’t offended or bothered by the tribes of either Phish or the Insane Clown Posse. I must admit that I was not very familiar with Phish’s music before reading this book but can understand why their music and the mystical lore that surrounds it, as well as their indulgent jam-band tendencies, can gain a loyal following that is not too unlike that of, say, the Dave Matthews Band, whose music I frequently enjoy. Neither do I find Insane Clown Posse to be a band I hate, as they have some songs (and movie reviews) I greatly enjoy, even if not all of their cartoonish and exaggerated style is to my taste. That said, while I was perfectly fine with the author’s desire to be an anthropologist to two hated music tribes that I don’t happen to be a part of but that I don’t happen to hate at all, it is a shame that he had to spend so much time talking about himself.
This book is about 250 pages long and takes place over a couple of years. A relationship with a much cooler and much younger girl leads him to follow Phish around while seeking to understand its appeal and charm a young woman simultaneously. Despite the author continually framing himself as a hopeless putz, he manages to find plenty of friends and use a lot of drugs while avoiding legal trouble and only occasionally finding himself facing the natural consequences of his folly. He finds a great deal of enjoyment listening to music and finds some people are in both the tribes of Phish as well as the Juggalos. He comments on his career with the Onion, the beginnings of his book project with Weird Al (it was a good book, by the way, review forthcoming), and his love/hate relationship with Greyhound buses. In the end, of course, the author becomes genuinely and personally interested in the music of both Phish and ICP and someone who seeks to defend the tribes of fans of the music of both bands from the easy prejudice that tends to come upon them, even as he seeks the resolution of some personal crises by proposing to his girlfriend even as he faces large amounts of debt for his concertgoing.
Ultimately, the least interesting aspect of this book is the author himself. He comments on his half-brother’s identification with the Juggalos and that is at least somewhat poignant. He falls in love with a young woman and proposes to her and I suppose I can give him at least a golf clap for that. He discovers the worthlessness of his own prejudices against ICP and Phish, and learns to love shambling covers of various tunes, extended guitar solos, and Faygo. That is something at least. But the music and the culture of the bands he discovers are far more interesting than he is, like when he is whining about being diagnosed as bi-polar or when he is talking about his use of various mind-altering substances that go awry. I would have wanted to better understand the lore of both Phish and ICP than what was uncovered than to have listened to the self-absorbed naval gazing of a man who believes himself to be more interesting and worth knowing about than he is. To some extent all authors convey information about what they experience and witness through their own perspective and worldview, but not since reading Peck’s A Search For Stones have I wished the author could get out of his own way and provide as unmediated a travel experience as possible.