Feeding the Obsession 

Craigslist music forum beckons: To work or not to work.

For anyone who's been laid off due to the bogus Internet revolution and consequently failed Marshall Plan (aka Bush presidency) that has dragged along in its wake, what better way to spend your lonely days than incessantly browsing craigslist.org in search of work?

You might even find yourself surrounded by weird new friends. Over the past few years, the nonprofit bulletin-board site has become a gumbo of the local community, infused with posts from the disenfranchised, the erect, the generous, the über-left, and the Savage Nation, all of whom have discovered that the Net was never all it was trumped up to be. It is, in essence, one giant, glorified Yellow Pages, and that is good enough. The Web wasn't the second coming after all, nor even a new frontier, really.

What it is good for is cavorting with complete strangers, who for all you know may be highly intelligent ten-year-old chimps. On craigslist, most people check out the "missed connections," "general for sale," and "best-of -craigslist" categories, but the truly indoctrinated head straight for the lower left-hand corner of the home page -- where the forums are.

"The use of the forums is expanding rapidly," says a jaunty Craig Newmark, the Craig who started the whole thing eight years ago. "People find that there is a community there and they want to participate. The real issue is, in our culture, we don't have a sense of neighborhood or community anymore, and well, there's no substitute for face-to-face stuff, but the electronic stuff ain't bad."

There are 25 forums to date, including parenting, cuisine, local politics, and pets. The most popular is romance, which gets more than 5,000 hits a day. But for us record geeks, it's all about the music forum -- an irresistible temptation to anyone who, unlike Clair, is supposed to be doing other things at work. After all, what indie-rock obsessive could resist this thread:

Epic Songs: I'm in an epic song mood. Currently playing "If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next" by Manic Street Preachers. The song is fucking epic. Any other suggestions for download? P.S. -- No "Bohemian Rhapsody" please, it's a bit obvious.

--"Duress" by Swervedriver

--hot damn couldn't have picked a better song

--Jane's Addiction "Three Days"

--"Djed" Tortoise

Among music-forum posters, there seems to be an implicit reverence for the Smiths -- tons of Smiths allusions, songs, and Johnny Marr sightings -- the Pixies, and as of late, that English geezer known as the Streets. Occasionally a No Doubt fan will hit the scene, only to face certain ridicule by the indie-rock orthodoxy. And there's the occasional entertainingly obvious attempt to stir up a buzz for some loser's band:

Has anyone out there heard of StickyWicket?

-- Yeah! They are so awesome! I hear they are playing tonight!

-- Oh yeah? Wow! Where?

-- I heard they are the best local band

-- so did I, totally killer and original with a hardrock edge

-- I'd like to go, I love a hot band, but I don't have much money

-- dude! It's only five dollars!

Some posts get a bit more controversial:

Has anyone had problems at the Fillmore? Ushers saying things that were out of line? Searches that felt more like being felt up? If so, please send me an e-mail describing the situation. This is confidential and I am in no way related to the Fillmore. Thank you.

Then, of course, there are the regulars, like "Loquat," who also happens to be a member of the Bay Area band of the same name but wishes to remain anonymous since he spends much of his workday noodling around in the forum. "I'm a little bit music-obsessed," he admits. "I think about it too much, and there are so many people on [craigslist] talking about it all day that it is hard to ignore. It's like working at a record store where people make "best of' lists all day, you know?"

Compared with the posters on other forums, people on the music one also tend to be pretty nice. Maybe that's because the forum is so homogeneous. People log on to share their latest purchases -- which in a recent case included Iron & Wine, Kinski, and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes -- rather than debating the finer points of the Pearl Jam catalogue. "There's people I've talked with on there for a month, only to realize I knew them," Loquat says.

"I've met a few of them at our shows, too, and you'd be surprised that they are not freaky, not computer nerds," he continues, as if to assure Planet Clair that his numerous postings do not a dorkwad make. "I've met a few people that are actually cool, interesting, attractive people -- not what I would've guessed."

Every couple of months a group of the regulars meets at a bar for what they call a mix-exchange, where everybody swaps homemade compilations. "I've been turned on to all kinds of good music," says "TooOldToRockAndRoll," aka Mark, another regular. "Everybody brings multiple copies of a mix; depending on the number of people that come, you end up going home with five or six mixes of new music."

As the music forum expands, angry factions and embittered splinter groups are likely to form around subgenres and subsubsubgenres of grindcore and electroclash. But for now, lots of pallid indie-rock dudes are livin' large on company time, as evidenced by the following post: "Records I'd rather listen to than work this fucking temp job."

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