For more than 20 years, with only a couple of interruptions, my family has done a summer beach week in the Outer Banks. We’ve rented houses all over the place down there (as I type I’m subconsciously rewriting the lyrics to “I’ve Been Everywhere” and swapping in names like Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, Kill Devil…) but we’ve spent the last bunch of years in Corolla. It’s become my happy place — as much a soothing thought as a geographic location. My favorite pizza place and bar are there, and it’s hard to get to, which is good, because it keeps us from making plans that would require driving.
What I didn’t realize until this year is how much of that happy place feeling had to do with the luxury of being a kid.
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.