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You are what you play

Page 2 of 2 -- Or so I thought.

The night before, I created a playlist that I thought would wow the crowd. To me, it was an ideal musical casserole, blending tracks from obscure 1960s divas (Helen Shapiro's ''I Don't Care") with 1970s pop chestnuts (Neil Diamond's ''Kentucky Woman") and topped with just a pinch of hipster credibility (the Postal Service's ''We Will Become Silhouettes"). Once the general public heard my range, I figured it was only a matter of time before I was plucked from obscurity to become a superstar New York DJ and soundtrack coordinator for ''The O.C."

Instead, my evening went something like this: I signed up for time, handed over my iPod to Korval, and waited for the smiles to begin. I was looking for immediate gratification because the first song on my list was a 1960s hanky wringer called ''The Music Box," where singer Ruth Copeland breaks down sobbing by the end of the song. And who doesn't appreciate sobbing when they're out at a bar listening to music? From my own greedy perspective, it was thrilling to hear my playlist outside of my headphones, although I suspected that others weren't enjoying it as much. I mostly saw furrowed brows and heard disgruntled mumbling.

When Korval switched the music from my iPod back to her own, and began playing the Kinks' ''All Day and All Night," someone sitting behind me said: ''Finally! Some real music." I'm sure the sound of my superstar DJ dreams shattering could be heard as far as Coolidge Corner. However, I was warned ahead of time that I could potentially face this kind of pain. In London, where the level of pretentiousness at these nights falls somewhere between Sean Penn and Sir Ian McKellen, iPod playlists are regularly booed until they're replaced with another.

''I think if we build the night we could eventually do something similar here," Moxley says. ''If this place is packed, we want to keep people happy and listening, so booing could be an option. But it would be good-natured booing."

IParties around the world
Not everybody faced the same scorn as me. Andrew Bunnell, a 26-year-old student at New England School of Law, came in with a list that included the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dizzee Rascal, and a killer Devo-Destiny's Child mash-up, and the crowd was far less cruel.

''This has been something I've been wanting to get into for a while," says the self-described wannabe DJ. ''I know that these parties have been huge in D.C. and a couple of other places, so I was pretty happy when someone decided to start one in Boston."

Moxley fully admits that ''So You Want to Be an .MP3J," which officially launches tomorrow night, is a rip-off of similar parties happening in other cities around the planet.

''I noticed that these nights were being done in London, LA, Chicago, and D.C.," he says. ''And I was waiting for someone to do it here. I'm really amazed that I'm the first one in Boston."

The first known iParty started three years ago in New York with a pair of DJs who call themselves Andrew Andrew. Their night is more focused on DJ skills than sharing music. Participants mix songs on a special iPod mixer. Andrew Andrew provide all the songs and equipment. Playlist Club is an open playlist night that started in London last year and spread to Philadelphia last month. And across the country there are several knockoff iPod DJ nights. The Playlist Club events give participants the option of bringing their own iPod or choosing songs off iPods that the club provides. The Common Ground is breaking ground by staging a night where you have to bring your own music.

''The whole iParty phenomenon speaks to how much the iPod has taken off in the past year," says Jeremy Horwitz, editor in chief of iPod Lounge, an independent iPod information website. ''The iPod went from having an installed base of around 4 million people to growing to 10 million by the beginning of this year. Sales have been staggering over the past year. Now it's at the point where the iPod isn't a luxury item for a select few. It's ubiquitous. The idea of people bringing their own iPods to these nights is not difficult to imagine. And it's expected that Apple will sell 4 million of the new iPod Shuffle in the first quarter alone."

As sales of the iPod continue to rise, so will the number of open playlist nights.

''My guess is that it's not going to become as common as karaoke," Horwitz says. ''But I don't think we'll see the end of this any time soon. People love to unleash their musical tastes, or lack thereof, on an unsuspecting world."

Christopher Muther can be reached at 

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