This is, to a great extent, one of those books I wish was around when I was playing in a band – certainly, when I was 18 and in my first band. We could have used a guidebook, which is how I view this fine piece of writing by Daniel Makagon, associate professor in the College of Communicaton at DePaul University. It is not filled with witty recountings of life on the road; no amusing anecdotes about women, drugs or which promoter fucked which band over. It’s all of it, but done in a very direct, matter-of-fact manner (little wonder since Makagon is an academic) and I applaud it. Sometimes, it’s all well and good to read road tales, but if you’re going to go out as a performer, especially in these tiny, makeshift scenes, you really should have a map and a knowledge of the proverbial bear traps out there, as not everyone is altruistic and money becomes the central point of everything. Yes, it’s vital to have these networks – the “American Underground” of the ’80’s could never have existed – and it’s equally important to have fun and maybe bring people together for good reasons. But there are pitfalls, especially with “illegal” shows…
Nonetheless, Daniel Makagon knows; he was there and has experienced it all firsthand. Which is crucial to this book’s impact. It’s coming from an insider; one who has seen it, heard it and lived it. And by putting it all so straightforward, it makes the validity of his stories and what he relays from the musicians interviewed and their recollections even more poignant.
In a word, if you are in a band – or thinking about starting one – and want to work your way into a scene, you really must get this book and read it, end to end. It’s a necessity. Call it mandatory reading.
Underground: The Subterranean Culture Of D.I.Y. Punk Shows will be available on Tuesday, September 15, 2015