Technically, this is a guest post, but once we get Cole his log-on privileges, he will be a regular contributor to Music at Sixty-Eight Degrees. We also hope to get him up to Middlebury from his home in Brattleboro for a turn on the radio show.
In my personal experience. fandom can be a lot like masturbation: a solitary pursuit, often done in the privacy of your own room. Maybe that’s because I first came to fandom through comic books, not sports, well before geek culture conquered pop culture. Also, I grew up in a small, sleepy Vermont town. The idea that other actual people shared my interests took a long time to present itself to me. I now make regular treks to Comic-Con in San Diego with my best friend from Midd and tens of thousands of other fans, but no matter how big the crowd gets, part of me still feels alone in it.
This attitude has bled into my experience with music. Did I mention I grew up in small-town Vermont? That meant a radio dial filled with 90% static and 10% classic rock, top 40 or country. No college stations. A cable system that didn’t pick up MTV until 1987. A cohort whose collective musical tastes ranged from the Doors, Rush and the Stones, to Led Zep, the Who, and…not much else.
Geographic isolation also meant no rock concerts nearby. And to my parochial thinking, rock towns like Boston or even Northampton might as well have been the moon. Instead, being a music fan for me meant staying up until 1 AM on a school night hoping the radio would play my request for “One Night in Bangkok”; learning everything I could from the occasional copies of Rolling Stone; perusing my parents’ neglected record collection, or hanging around the record store.
Things changed over time. First, there was my high-school pastime of driving endless loops around town with my friend Todd, and Prince. Our mutual admiration for Sign ‘o the Times and Lovesexy marked my first instance of shared music interest. When MTV finally hit our area, it became a huge, if halting topic of conversation, as I found I spoke in Cure, P.I.L. and Love & Rockets, while Todd conversed in Crüe, Ratt and Winger. But at least our enthusiasms were within spitting distance.
Then my first concert, when I yielded to Todd’s hair metal devotion for a “99 Rock FM Party Bus” pilgrimage to see Skid Row and Bon Jovi in all their leather-pants-wearing, fireworks-exploding glory alongside, for the first time, thousands of genuine screaming fans. Still, as guilty-pleasure catchy as “Runaway” may be, I knew I wasn’t one of them.
Finally, Middlebury College remade me, especially my experience at WRMC. The station exposed me to a huge amount of music new and old, and providing regular access to live shows, shared with fellow fans I still consider some of my best friends—people with whom I still swap Spotify playlists, go to occasional shows, and have endless “have you heard this band” conversations. That said, today I live in a slightly larger Vermont town, with a spouse who’s a passive music fan at best, kids with little interest, and very few local friends who kept paying attention past their 20s. Most of my time spent with rock and roll is the same as it was when I was ten. Just me and the music.