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Culture, Music

In Praise of Frontloaders

by Bianca Fernandes / 08.09.2010

The first frontloading probably happened in brightly-painted VW shag wagons. I’m guessing it involved hippies, travelers, touring bands, gypsies. They pioneered road trip soundtracks – a series of songs evoking adventure and belonging. It was probably earlier though. Back in the 1950s with the introduction of the car radio, then 8 tracks, followed by the classic cassette, and on up to CD frontloaders, and the current generation of mp3 players – by far my favourite device for an automobile audience.

You get the artist, song and album name right there on the device for passengers to see, making it that much easier to get seduced by a new band, genre or sound. Next we’ll be watching bands in 3D on our dashboards. I’m not the biggest fan of 3D taking over the entertainment world, especially in music. It’s got to be about the sound, man, visuals just ruin it for me.

Listening to Iggy Pop or a drugged up Pete Doherty in Babyshambles makes me so damn grateful for all the random people’s cars I seem to find myself in. The frontloader has a big responsibility. Vibe master. Audio curator. Today a frontloader can refer to the actual machine or whoever’s sitting in front loading it. The term is interchangeable. You can tell a lot about them by the music they choose. It’s the best kind of foreplay.

Besides inducing vivid memories and taking you back to the era of the song blasting through the standard, bad quality speakers in student cars, travel music gets conversation brewing, leading to all kinds of hookups and connections, while spreading real music appreciation – or criticism.

Being online, downloading bands you’ve never heard of is cold and lonely. It’s better discovering new music in some random guy’s car. That’s old school information flow. Word of mouth backed up by the immediate experience of listening to the tunes. It offers something completely new to your senses with real-time commentary.

I remember roap trippin’ it to the holy grail, recently, Ramfest ’10. I finally got dubstep on that ride. Base-thumping, sanity soothing, dubstep. That whub whub whub got us all trying to dance to it. An underground-recently-gone-commercial sound that’s just amazing to drive on. It really made sense after the debauchery of Ramfest, high on shrooms and fully loaded with the aftermath of “the greatest weekend ever”. Some frontloader slapped it on and my trip was made!

So go on and discover a new band – get into a somewhat stranger’s car (better keep it to acquaintances) and listen to what they’re playing in their frontloader. Agreed, you may run into Lady Gaga or the lame new rock stylings of Lil Wayne, but every now and then you’ll be blown away. Oh and pack some mace (just in case). Whub whub whub.

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