I first came across Nathan Rabin’s writing in his long-running “My Year of Flops” blog. The blog took an exhaustive journey through movies that flopped critically and/or commercially. (Think Ishtar or Kevin Costner failures such as Waterworld and The Postman.) Rabin would write a fresh critique of each flop and end each blog post by rating the movie a failure, fiasco or secret success. Rabin’s odd new memoir You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures with Twoof Music’s Most Maligned Tribes most definitely falls into the fiasco category, and the author even admits as much several times. However, the book is a fiasco in the best way as it is highly entertaining and unpredictable and often on the verge of completely falling apart.
Rabin goes on journeys similar to those of many Phish and Insane Clown Posse fans, and it’s his break from the traditional reporter role that really makes the book. Rabin does not bring a reporter’s detached eye to the two bands he follows on and off over the space of several years. Instead, he immerses himself in the scene, often to his own detriment. He naturally spends time discussing the music of each group but what he really investigates is what differentiates the cult-like following of Phish and Insane Clown Posse from the fans of other more popular artists. What he finds is that fans of Phish and Insane Clown Posse have a very personal connection to their bands. Rabin freely admits that at one point while following Phish from gig to gig he became so severely burned out that he pretty much joined the scene, even partaking in some illegal activities. He wisely never immerses himself in the culture of Insane Clown Posse fans, known as Juggalos. He does attend the Gathering of the Juggalos, a sort of convention for Insane Clown Posse and its fans, several times. I won’t go into too much detail about what he observes at the Gatherings, but it does take hedonism and the rock and roll lifestyle to a whole new, absolutely-anything-goes level.
With both groups, Rabin does a good if chaotic job of documenting how music can become not just a lifestyle but almost a religion. It’s Rabin’s mostly uninhibited descent into the madness that really drives this point home.