They're just photos, after all. 
Earlier this month Nick Southall, who wrote for sadly defunct webzine Stylus, unveiled The Music Diary Project. The project's worthy goal is "to document, over the course of one week, how we listen to music: when we listen, where we listen, who we’re with when we listen, and how we choose what we listen to." This week a whole bunch of smart people I follow on Tumblr have been participating, dutifully posting listening logs and sharing their experiences. It's a great idea, and while I'm far too neurotic to take part, it's been a lot of fun seeing not only what people are listening to, but how they listen.

On Day Two of the project, Australian writer Jonathan Bradley posted some observations I found myself copying and pasting into my own media-consumption diary of sorts-- this weird little blog. Most of Bradley's music listening is solitary, he says. He writes that "I just don't give a fuck if I can't share music with other people, because usually I don't. I listen to a ton of stuff, and most of it I know of no other person who shares my liking for the music, just because I have my taste and other people have theirs and the two don’t need to meet for us to be friends... The music I listen to is for me, and it doesn’t worry me if I’m not sharing it."

These comments started me thinking. How much of my listening is solitary in the same way? How much is driven by this mad urge to share, share, share?

For sure, I'm usually by myself for most of the music I hear, either listening to the stereo or on my headphones, while working, while making lunch, while half-heartedly squeezing in a few push-ups, while walking the dog, while reading, while playing on the internet, or most precious of all, while just listening. But I've also always been the guy who tells all his friends about the song blowing his mind that particular minute-- a habit that eventually eventually translated nicely into being a a guy who writes about new music for a broader audience. I used to make a lot of mix CDs. I play music for my wife I think she might like, or I take note of her criticisms when I play something she says she doesn't like. I go to a lot of shows. I love being DJ for people-- driving home from a Menomena show in Ames a few weeks ago, when B.P. let me use his well-stocked iPod and I got to jump from something off the latest Spoon album to the Walkmen's "The Rat," the Strokes' "Last Nite," the Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers," LCD Soundsystem's "Losing My Edge," Lil Wayne's "Shooter" (see?! why do I remember this?). Or throwing together a playlist of newer stuff, everything from Squadda B and OFWGKTA and Childish Gambino and Soulja Boi and Ke$ha and Fiend and Diddy Dirty Money and Britney Spears and R. Kelly to Sleigh Bells and Cults and Tennis and James Blake and Tamaryn and Toro Y Moi and jj and Smith Westerns and Weekend (and Personal and the Pizzas), and putting it on shuffle via iPhone remote while grilling for some people on Saturday. I don't need my friends to like the same music I do-- Mrs. Des Noise wasn't even particularly into music before meeting me. But I definitely like passing music on to other people.

It's late enough to go drivin'.
A band I had never really shared with people before: Queens of the Stone Age. These Southern California hard rockers must've hit it big just as I was heading to college and, via first Scour.com and then Napster, pretty much as far away from macho aggression, musically, as possible. But I could've sworn I wrote about and enjoyed the desert-party video for "Make It Wit Chu," off the Era Vulgaris album, though I can't find any evidence of that online except on a site flagged for malicious software. And I know critics have generally been kind to the band. So when Ladd said he had a couple of extra spots on the list for QotSA's show Monday night at the Val Air Ballroom, where they would be playing their recently reissued 1998 self-titled album in full, I was totally down, as long as we could find someone to drive-- and it turned out Chet Boom was down for that, too.

At long last, this was my first time at Val Air Ballroom, a 2,000-plus-capacity venue that dates back to 1939. This was also the first show I've been to in a while where you had to get frisked to go in, and we mostly hung around back. I'm told that besides Josh Homme, the rest of the band was totally different from when they played now-defunct Des Moines venue Hairy Mary's years ago. Homme talked about that gig a bit, describing people doing meth in the bathroom. "I remember standing on the bar, pouring shots into people's mouths, and I thought, 'This is just like my hometown,'" he said. "Y'all a bunch of tough bastards, aren't you?" Most of his stage banter was pretty much like this. I hear the power went out at that Hairy Mary's show, too.

Anyway, they played the album pretty close to how I remembered it from pre-show cramming-- heavy, with some nicely droney jams here and there, though in slightly different order (setlist)-- and then started rattling off hits, whatever fans wanted, before Ladd, Boom, and I headed over for fresh-squeezed greyhounds at nearby Charlie's Filling Station. Everybody says the Val Air can be uncomfortably hot and crowded, but it wasn't that night, though I'd guess there were at least 1,500 people there, probably more. I overheard one guy picking up a quarter, another guy making fun of him, and then the first guy going, "Donald Trump picks up change."

I wanna know why! (I wanna know why.)
Seattle indie-rockers BOAT are all about sharing the music they love. The band's latest album, Dress Like Your Idols, even pays homage on its cover to some of the group members' favorite records. Musically, they're not far off from central Iowa boys the Poison Control Center: spiral-y guitar lines, yelp-y vocals, and a wry sense of humor that recall 1990s-era bands like Pavement, Built to Spill, and Modest Mouse. I've written about them a couple of times, but Wednesday night at Vaudeville Mews was my first time seeing a BOAT show (or a boat show, for that matter-- har har). They even played an oldie, "Elephant Ears," from their first album. No headstands or on-stage splits, but it was a high-energy set, and it was great to hear songs like "Lately," "(I'll Beat My Chest Like) King Kong," "Forever in Armitron," and "When Frank Black Says (No. 14 Baby)" live. Headliner Mark Mallman always seems to play a late, weeknight set, so I had to go home early, and I was reading down the street at the Lift before the show giving Clint a hard time on his birthday, so I only caught a bit of opener Cameron McGill & What Army, whose roots-rock my friends were raving about as they proceeded to buy shots, and missed Creeping Weeds.

Gymnastics exhibitions, suicide missions.
Saturday night was Gross Domestic Product, an annual showcase of locals bands held at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. Now there's an event that's all about sharing music with others-- basically, showing people how much music this area has right beneath their noses. It was great to see a crowd out that might not make it to a show at Vaudeville Mews: everyone from kids to actual, like, grown-ups. I didn't end up catching as many sets as I liked, because I kept getting caught up in conversations and losing track of who was on when. I did manage to get a few photos of the Seed of Something, the rap showcase (Gaiden Gadema/Young Tripp/ Chris DSKUS10/Bru'tal, with Richie Daggers on the decks), and the headlining Poison Control Center-- the band that, ever since blowing me away on one of my first nights in town, I can't seem to stop wanting to share with you. Joe from PCC told me new song "Church on Mars" isn't really about a church on Mars, but I prefer the mystery.

Will I disappear or prevail?
It's a ghost town!

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