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The Music Interests Of New Jersey Cabbies

As someone who has music for his vocation and avocation, it's always fun to hear what people who don't spend all day listening to, thinking on, and writing about the subject have to say about it. This past weekend, I got a nice opportunity to do that.

Last Saturday morning I took the train from New York City to Trenton, NJ to visit my grandmother. When I arrived in Trenton, I got a cab to drive me 30 minutes to Warminster, PA, where she lives in a retirement home. I've done this trip a small handful of times. And each of those times, my cab driver has been a talkative dude. It's never more than a couple minutes before I'm asked what I do for a living. Then the pattern unfolds.

First, there's always a flash of excitement when I say I work for a music magazine. Then, they ask if I get to go to a lot of concerts for free. When I tell them I do, there's another burst: "That's great! I wish I could do that." Then, invariably, they ask if I've met rock stars. Here's where the disconnect begins. I'll say I've met a few. They start to throw out names: The Stones? U2? Bon Jovi? (And most often) Springsteen? There's always a vague, almost barometric drop in interest when I explain that the magazine I work for mostly covers newer, younger bands. Last Saturday, the driver responded to my explanation by saying, "You mean like Greenpeace?" We eventually figured out he was talking about Green Day. Usually, though, the drivers seem genuinely curious about the bands I have met, like Muse and Grizzly Bear. It's nice.

Admittedly, the names being bandied about by Trenton taxi drivers represent a thin slice of the demographic pie, but in a way, both their enthusiasm about the fact I work for a music magazine and their interest in learning about bands they've never heard of is encouraging. We hear so much about how the music business is in a free fall, unable to adapt to the digital world. That may or not be true. But it obscures the fact that a music writer from New York City and a taxi driver from Trenton can sit in a car and talk about Springsteen and Animal Collective and have a sincerely good time. People care about music. It makes me feel good to be reminded of that.

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