The title "You Don't Know Me But You Don't Like Me" sums up Rabin's thesis. He wanted to explore the popularly reviled subcultures of Insane Clown Posse and Phish fans, both of which have come to be defined by stereotypes created and perpetuated by outsiders.

These bands' music couldn't be more different, but the groups share many similarities. Both have mythologies surrounding their music, and their concerts offer an intensely physical experience. In both cases, being a fan is like belonging to a secret society.

In short, it's about more than the music.

Evie Nagy, music editor at Billboard magazine, fell in love with a Phish fan and came to understand the band's followers through him.

Phish fandom is "largely about the experience with other people who share a sensibility," she wrote in an email. "I think for a lot of fans it started with freedom and getting away from home; for others it's the fact that you'll never get the same show twice because of Phish's reliance on improvisation …. The band does things like encourage participation on certain songs that you would only know to do if you've been to shows before, and that makes fans feel like they're part of a special club with a bunch of secret handshakes."

It took Rabin a year to decide that he couldn't understand these bands unless he was on the inside: You have to be an ape, not Jane Goodall watching from the fringes.

Rabin's unique combination of pop culture and life experience led Brant Rumble, a senior editor at Scribner and editor of Rabin's two previous books, to purchase the manuscript for this book.

Rabin "puts forth the mind set that 'OK, let's give everything a second chance. Let's give everything a harder look and let's not assume that we hate things. Let's be open in terms of pop culture,'" Rumble said.

Through his writings and AV Club columns such as "My Year of Flops," in which he chronicled his viewings of movies largely panned by critics, and "Nashville or Bust," which featured his sojourns into the world of country music, Rabin fought to understand people's obsessions.

"My entire career has been dedicated to trying to articulate the value of things that people don't like," Rabin said.


Back in 2011, when seemingly everything was going wrong in Rabin's life, his wife, whom he refers to by the pseudonym "Cadence" in the book, was the only person who could ground him.

"She was the one connecting me to the rest of humanity," Rabin said. "I was losing my (mind), but I had this wife who understood me."

In large part, he felt lost because she wasn't with him. Her love of Phish in high school and college set him out on a quest to understand how someone he adored could enjoy the notorious jam band's music. Their shared amusement over Insane Clown Posse's over-the-top music video for the song "Miracles" partly inspired Rabin's decision to add the Juggalos to the narrative.

Rabin's journeys with "two of music's most maligned tribes" yielded more than a book. Soon after returning from the 2011 Gathering of the Juggalos, he asked Cadence to marry him, and they commemorated the occasion by going to a Phish show that night. The couple celebrated their first anniversary July 3; the same day Phish's tour kicked off.

Since writing the book, Rabin accepted a position at The Dissolve, a new website dedicated to film.

"I found my destiny (writing this book)," Rabin said. "I found what I am supposed to do in the universe, which is to be empathic and compassionate and to be a champion, because there are already enough things in this world that people just pan and assume are awful."

Courtney Crowder covers the Chicago literary scene for Printers Row Journal.

"You Don't Know Me But You Don't Like Me"

By Nathan Rabin, Scribner, 272 pages, $16