A week after being besieged by Bisco-goers, I try to pick up the pieces.
Last week, as you may recall, I angered the rabid fans of Disco Biscuits by painting an extremely accurate portrait of them in a cover story I wrote. Each year Biscuit fans gather at Camp Bisco—a festival held by the group in upstate New York—for three days of hacky sack, heavy drug use, “rape vans” and dancing like the whitest whites in all of White. Borne of a desire to have people actually read the thing, I chose to focus on the Bisco’s most interesting aspect (the crowd), and not the music being played.
That’s not the way “a review” is supposed to be written, I was told by countless fans in the comments and over email. “You didn’t write about the music!” I was told by others, none fully comprehending, bless them, that it was never meant as a review, but instead a piece about the notorious culture surrounding Bisco. (First clue: It was a cover story, and no one in their right mind—Biscuit fans included—would’ve read 3,500 words describing the music of Shpongle and the Maniac All-Stars.)
In the past week I’ve been told I look like Corky from Life Goes On, been sent scores of angry messages over Facebook (my account was posted on a Disco Biscuits fan board) and have had to “Ignore” several friend requests from Biscuit fans who wanted to dig deeper.
Someone who’s carved a living out of intentionally getting under the skin of bands’ fans is David Thorpe. Thorpe, now at Boston Phoenix , wrote a column called “Your Band Sucks” for four years for Somethingawful.com, regularly skewering big names with passionate fanbases like Coldplay, Radiohead, System of a Down and the Mars Volta. He became quite used to being slagged by bloodthirsty fans via email.
As someone who’s usually hailed as a genius with very succinct insight, the torrent of angry emails from Biscuit fans has been a bit of an adjustment for me. Here, I seek Thorpe’s advice over iChat about how to cope with the confederacy of dunces.
Is a Coldplay fan’s anger different than, say, a Mars Volta fan’s anger? Or are they the same? Is a Radiohead fan’s anger more cerebral?
“Yeah, different bands have totally different styles of angry email. You really get a feel for a band’s fanbase as a whole. Radiohead fans really try hard to convince you to like Radiohead using logic and sincerity. System of a Down fans are just fucking furious that you don’t like System of a Down. The Mars Volta fans think you’re an idiot for not liking the Mars Volta. One that I got hardly any hate for was They Might Be Giants—their fans have a sense of humor and they know they’re nerds, so they thought it was great when someone made fun of their favorite band.”
When a Mars Volta fan gets really, really miffed, and writes an overlong email about how much you suck, do you attribute that more to passion for the act or lack of an actual life?
“It has to be some combination of the two. People just take it really, really personally. I mean, some of this shit was coming from people’s work email addresses at law firms and stuff. People were taking time out of their day to yell at me for not liking the Mars Volta. These were adults too, not just angry teenagers.”
Do you remember any emails in particular?
“I got so many thousands of them they all sort of just ran together. I couldn’t even read them all, to be honest. I just kind of skimmed over them. There was one that actually made me kind of sad. I made fun of Insane Clown Posse and the whole Juggalo thing one time, and this guy sent me this incredibly long, sincere email about how he was this completely friendless, abused loser and the only hope of a real family he could ever have was to get really into ICP and hang out with all these other friendless losers. It was really pathetic. Also, after people emailed me, I’d be in their contacts list, so when they blast-emailed all their friends, I’d be on there. I got a bunch of weird forwards and stuff because of that and—this is completely true—I even got a couple of suicide notes over the years.”
Ever go back and read anything you wrote for YBS and think “Oh, I was way wrong about that”?
“Nah, definitely not. I knew they were bullshit when I was writing them. They were 100 percent intended to piss people off, and I’d often be making fun of bands I really liked: Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, whatever. People who read closely could usually spot the joke—why would this guy know so much about a band he hated?”
Is there a common thread that runs through rabid fans that makes them take time out of their day to fire off a rage-filled missive?
“It would be easy to say they’re just fucking dumb, but some of them clearly have some intelligence, at least in the conventional sense. I think it’s just that they let their favorite group become way too big a part of their personality, and any insult toward the band is an insult toward them personally.”
Last question. Here’s a picture of me. Do I look like Corky from Life Goes On ?
“Auto-reply: I’m not here right now.” ■
Most of the year Indian Lookout is dead, but things heat up during the summer. Every third week of June the grounds play host to the Harley Rendezvous, one of the nation’s most popular motorcycle rallies. And in July, the land belongs to Camp Bisco—the largest, most drug-crazed electronic music festival on the East Coast. And Bisco? It belongs to one of Philly's most-loathed bands.
Letters about Brian McManus' article on Camp Bisco -- jam band fans are enraged! -- and Roberta Fallon's critique of Art in City Hall.
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