There are two types of music nerds. There are the nerds who derive pleasure from holding their knowledge over your head, periodically using that knowledge as a bludgeon against the less-initiated. Think Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity. And then there are the big-tent music nerds. They’re the ones who delight in telling you everything you want to know about a song or artist, sharing their enthusiasm freely and without pretension. Take a wild guess as to which nerd genus I’m more fond of.
I was reminded of this (admittedly oversimplified) dichotomy two Fridays ago, when I saw Carolina Chocolate Drops perform on Brown’s Island in Richmond, VA. There may be no more inviting group of big-tent music aficionados than this Durham-based old-time string band. A decent percentage of the songs they played were covers or traditionals (“Jackson” was a personal favorite), and they took the time to explain the origin of almost every one. Who wrote it. When. What style it represents. I love hearing this stuff. Not only do these pre-song explanations serve as a preemptive Wikipedia lookup, they foster this wonderful atmosphere of inclusion — an even playing field where everyone can participate fully and enthusiastically.