You Don't Know Me But You Don't Like Me (Books: My Favorite Movies)

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 TribesYou 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
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a glorious mess. I mean that in a good way, mostly. I definitely enjoyed it, but even Rabin admits that the book he set out to write when he embarked upon this deceptively complex project is not what he ended up creating.

Part ethnography, part musical criticism, and part gonzo journalism in the Hunter S. Thompson mode, the pieces that Rabin has grafted together don't necessarily fit. That tension, though, gives the narrative a weird energy. His anecdotes and reflections from following Phish around for a few weeks, attending two Gatherings of the Juggalos, and sinking into a drug-fueled quasi-breakdown are hilarious, depressing, and cathartic at the same time.

I picked up this book for a few reasons. I have long enjoyed Rabin's extensive work for The Onion's AV Club. His "My Year of Flops" series was a revelation of sorts. I won't lie, I was also Phish fan back in my teenage years (the late 90s) around the same time a lot of people in my high school were very into ICP. I went to a couple of Phish shows and only understood the layers on a surface level. Given that Rabin's journey takes place mostly in 2010 and after, it's a different time for both scenes than when I was familiar with them but that only piqued my interest.

Obviously fans of both Phish and ICP can find plenty in Rabin's account to be upset about, especially his obsession with the drug aspects of both subcultures, but he becomes more sympathetic as he learns more about both groups and becomes a fan himself. That his sanity, relationship, career, and finances come under siege as a result also offer an interesting source of inner tension. It's unfortunate that so much of the book is comprised of lengthy drug stories. While some of the stories are great, the sheer number of them and the number of pages Rabin dedicates to them seem like overkill. Rabin also spends more time in his head cataloging his thoughts and reflections while giving mere tastes of the surreal spectacles happening around him. That was the sort of account I hoped to find in this book and it was sparse.

I certainly wouldn't recommend this book to everyone. It is, after all, a heady critic's journey through two disparaged/reviled subcultures as while having a deep, personal crisis. If that doesn't sound like your thing, then don't proceed further. That said, if you like any of Nathan Rabin's other writing or you're feeling morbidly curious about what fans of these groups must be like, then it's definitely worth a read. I approached this rambling story with that curiosity, and I walked away feeling more or less satisfied.

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