A great lesson to learn (that I'm always re-learning) is this: Different people think about music in very different ways. This point was illustrated for me in a couple of different, almost equally annoying and sobering ways last week. The first:

My girlfriend got invited by some co-workers to see the Sarah McLachlan show at Philips Arena, so of course, we went. When I saw that McLachlan was coming to town, I was vaguely interested, but I immediately shut that off when I saw the words Philips Arena thrown in. Add to that a ticket that was, at best, going to set us back $40 a seat and the idea of seeing the show seemed all but lost. Then, we were invited to see it for free, in a corporate luxury box no less, with some folks who had actually come out to see the Enduser/Larvae show at eyedrum and were certainly hipper and more open to new things than most would give them credit for on first sight. They actually liked the Larvae show, and stayed through the Enduser set cause they were intrigued, so that's massive points in my book. Hundreds of supposedly in-the-know hip young people in ironic t-shirts don't have as adventurous a spirit!

So we sent to see McLachlan at the basketball/ice hockey arena and it was as awkward and stiff as you would imagine. The sound is absolutely terrible, especially in the luxury boxes that are situated high up and out of direct line of fire from the stage. The fact that you have access to 'decent' food instead of hotdogs and popcorn is little comfort when the vocals sound like someone is singing from the batcave. The crowd was dominated by post-Lilith Fair, feminist-light, female fans, which I half expected. You have to understand, I saw Sarah McLachlan in a club that was 2/3rds empty in 1993 and I was in love with her album Fumbling Towards Ecstacy for at least a couple years in college where it literally never left rotation in my car stereo, so Sarah and I... we have a history! I knew that the big, lavish production in the sports arena wouldn't hold a candle to the show where she seemed to thank all 250 of us personaly after each song, but nevertheless, I was interested to see where this went.

Now, aside from the Lilith Zombies who unfortunately got sold on the 'feminism as a lifestyle brand' message by the VH1's of the world, the audience was populated by a large number of soccer moms and their husbands, people in their late 30's to mid 40's, successful downtown socialites, and people going out for some entertainment on the company dime (those luxury boxes!) It was all a bit of a culture shock to see a performer I had grown up with in a way, in such a strangely alienating and overwhelmingly grown-up environment. What I realized though, was that not everyone approaches music in the same way. Not everyone has the fetishistic 'finder's mentality' of those of us who are avid fans of lesser-known artists. Most people probably don't own an artists' whole discography, or in fact even know what the term "discography" means, because for most people, a greatest hits or token album by their favorite artists is really enough. A lot of folks seem to dive into music in college as they experiment with things, but then jump back out of that culture pool later, sticking with a solid collection of essentials: Beatles, Dave Matthews, Eagles, Nora Jones, maybe some classical--the kind of 30-50 disc cd collection that offers variety, if not depth. So, when I go to a show like Sarah McLachlan at Philips Arena, you have to expect that not everyone is going to approach the show, the music, or the artist the way I do. Not everyone is going to remember the drummer's name, or recognize that there's a new backup singer! Not everyone's going to be thinking about calling out "Into the Fire" and "Dear God" at the top of his/her lungs, but that doesn't make them... bad.

The second event that drove this point home was a little more distressing, because it reinforced that "30 disc collection" mentality. We went to a party of collegey people (read: grad students, professors, spouses and the like) that was set up as a CD Swap. It was a cool idea: you wrap up 2 cds that you are willing to part with then everyone exchanges them in a kind of Dirty Santa type game where inevitably, someone gets stuck with "Christmas Guitar Classics" while everyone else keeps stealing "Live from the Mountain" because, well, I don't know why. And THAT was the irritating part. The most clamored after cds of said cd swap were some random album by Jimmy Buffet, the "well-known but politely boring MOR artists doing covers of O' Brother Where Art Thou songs" compilation, and the soundtrack to Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion.

I'll be the first to admit that there wasn't really a lot in the swap to get excited about. Old copies of Belly, Tool, The Band, and karaoke CDs aren't really worth popping into a player. But, we tried to make it interesting by bringing things people would never have heard of, but that were nonetheless, quality. You would have thought we brought CDs laced with the ebola virus. The obvious and cartoonish disdain for things like Ryuichi Sakamoto's BTTB CD (which was dismissed as "some sort of Japanese electronica", even though it's modern classical and released on Sony Classics!) and Scanner + Tonne's excellent found sound compositions, "Sound Polaroids" was astonishing. I mean, these people acted like they had just been fucked by the meanest CD Swappers in the history of CD swapping who wanted to play a cruel joke by brining things that must obviously suck because they have never been on the radio.

So, the tolerance I learned at the McLachlan show was being tested. Here were well-educted, nay, ivory-tower dwelling souls who had not the least bit of interest in expanding their appreciation and view of music beyond Jimmy Buffet, Flamenco Guitar, and cheesy movie soundtracks. "Suicide Machines, what is that? Sounds gloomy" (uh, actually it's bouncy ska-punk, if you want to know). "What is this, I can't even say it, Basquiat?" (only a great soundtrack from a movie about an important contemporary artist that drew a roomful of blanks.) And on and on it went. It was funny to watch how disrespectful people were of music they hadn't heard of, issuing defacto insults to whomever had brought those discs to the party by insinuating that the music must be awful, and that whoever owned it must lack taste. Watching that room gravitate in such a conservative way towards the things they were comfortable with reminded me that I never want to be in that place. Okay, so the Mo' Money soundtrack we ended up with was a piece of shit--at least I gave it a chance and looked at the liner notes and said "hmmm, Public Enemy and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis--this might be okay."

So yeah, different people approach music in different ways. I can respect people who are casual about music and who don't venture deep into the recessed catacombs of obsessive fandom and indie-thrill seeking newness. But I can't get down with people who think that everything they don't already like must be crap.