Dancing About Architecture: You Don't Know Me but You Don't Like Me, A Journey to the Heart of Fandom

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With festival season winding down and a fond farewell bid to the 14th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos, there’s no time like the present to check out You Don’t Know Me but You Don’t Like Me, a chronicle of former A.V. Club head writer Nathan Rabin’s two-year odyssey to understand “two of music’s most maligned tribes” — namely, Juggalos and Phish-heads. In the beginning, a favorite ritual for Rabin and the girl he’d fallen in love with was watching the video for Insane Clown Posse’s "Miracles," despite neither of them having any affinity for the band. It came to light that Phish fandom was a vital experience in Rabin’s sweetheart’s adolescence, and his desire to understand what she got from a band he didn’t appreciate became the catalyst for an in-depth exploration of both bands’ music and their loyal fan bases.

To get a firsthand look, Rabin followed Phish through several tour legs, punctuated by two Gatherings and a Hallowicked. The resulting travelogue is a quick and fun read, marked by memorable characters and plenty of laugh-out-loud situations (many of them courtesy of travel by Greyhound bus). You Don’t Know Me is also a deeply personal narrative, and you may learn more than you ever cared to know about Rabin’s personal life. His path to appreciating the groups and their fans gets pretty dark, as he tries to juggle this book with his A.V. Club responsibilities, a coffee-table biography of Weird Al and the intricacies of being emotionally intimate with his soul mate, all without succumbing to the nervous breakdown that seems to lurk hungrily around every corner.

However, the book wouldn’t do its job without a fair amount of self-reflection. While being part of a fan community is about relating to other people, being a fan is ultimately about the most personal, intimate feelings. As Rabin finds himself by trading his journalistic objectivity for full-body immersion, he reveals a pattern for self-discovery, at least through the questions he asks about his own motives. Giving yourself a black eye by chugging Four Loko and tripping over your own shoes is optional, as is running up a ton of credit card debt.

Overall, Rabin paints a more detailed picture of ICP than Phish, but the bands themselves aren’t really the focus — not to mention that Phish’s extensive online presence dates almost to the dawn of the Internet. While both groups of fans are victims of stereotypes, Phish-heads have never been labeled as a gang. Though Rabin’s assessment of both communities is realistic — he never suggests that they do more than provide a release and a much-needed sense of community, and his traveling companions include plenty of characters you don’t want to be — his travels and conversations with members of each put a human face on people who are easy to dismiss when you know them only by reputation. In an age when time is a precious commodity, and stereotypes are a real time-saver, that's a profoundly useful message.

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