As for the awe he inspires himself, Christgau’s devotees are smaller in number these days than in his Voice years, but they’re still extraordinarily dedicated, particularly among a small community who came together in the comments section of Expert Witness, the MSN blog he started after leaving the Voice. (He’s since moved on to the Medium site Cuepoint.) “The Witnesses are the greatest experience of my professional life,” Christgau says. “Most of them are very married kind of guys, but I’m so very married that it makes sense.”
He credits the Witnesses with helping him to stay current. Nick Farruggia, at 25 years old, is one of the youngest members of the group; he first heard of Christgau when he was 15 and trying to branch out musically. During the hours and hours he spent researching music on the internet, he began to notice that the same critic’s name kept appearing in nearly every Wikipedia entry. (At first, “I thought he was really pompous and pretentious,” he admits now.)
Eventually though, Christgau became a kind of reference book for all the things Farruggia was curious about in music. He found the Expert Witness blog, and quickly mixed in with its surprisingly robust comment community: The Witnesses meet up in person occasionally, usually at shows by Wussy, an Ohio indie-rock band that has been Christgau’s favorite for the last few years.
“It sounds so weird, to be honest,” Farruggia says. “We have a hard time explaining it to our spouses that there is this group of people who all have respect for this one older guy, and who collectively constitute this amazing group of friends.”
If Expert Witness is essential to the Christgau diehards, it’s an even more necessary outlet for the author himself. “There’s the sense that there is just not enough time for him to get everything out that he needs to get out,” Farruggia says.
—Leah Carroll, profiling rock critic Robert Christgau in Deadspin. Christgau spent three decades reviewing music for the Village Voice.