Touring In a Van. Sleeping On Floors. Chasing a Dream.
This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.
For 33 days in the summer of 1987, Divine Weeks toured in a beat up old Ford Econoline Van, sleeping on strangers’ floors, never sure they’d make enough gas money to get them to the next town. This deeply personal, coming of age, on the road memoir follows critically acclaimed 80s indie alt rock band Divine Weeks’ first tour. Liberated from alcoholic upbringings and rigid cultural constraints, all they have is their music and each other’s friendship. The road is filled with yuppies, brothels, riots, sleeping on floors, spiked drinks, DJs with no pants, and battles with racism. They set out on the road to discovery to drink in all they could and maybe sell a few records. They grew up instead.
True Indie Rockism
33 Days: Touring In a Van. Sleeping On Floors. Chasing A Dream is based on indie rock band Divine Weeks first foray into "touring" (a loose term by an means) in the Summer of 1987. Inspired by "DIY elders" The Minutemen & Black Flag, See and his other bandmates seize the moment of their time as a local popular band in LA to spread their live music beyond LA's insular perimeter, hop into a van rented to them by the good graces of a friend as none of them even have credit cards to experience life 'On the Road'. It is a fun blast from the past for Indie Rockers as the author references the music of the time -- Husker Du, The Replacements, The Smiths, Jane's Addiction and of course R.E.M. throughout the book.
The author is adept at creating atmosphere of what it must of been like traveling in a van with 5 guys whose probably sole sustenance was big box cereal, pizza & beer (ew!). His descriptions of the venues they play are nuanced giving you a true feel for life on the road as an indie band. This was not a band backed by major record label by any means. Affording gas money and basic needs such as safe tires for the van are a constant challenge for these guys.
The main characters in the book, or bandmates and "tour manager" (another loose term) are all engaging with different plights in life. Lead singer and character Bill is insightful, poetic and ever challenging his bandmates. Guitarist Raj is battling his family's cultural expectations. George, the Bassist with a nagging girlfriend at home is truly at a crossroads trying to decide whether or not to pursue Grad school for Englisht Lit. Drummer Dave is the practical one of the group remembering to bring a toolbox (for van repairs) while Bill has only managed to remember his mix tapes and journal. Ian, the "tour manager" offers the non-musician perspective.
As Raj, the guitarist is of East Indian descent, race relations are dealt with in a spot on natural way, never didactic. You can always find some ignorant person in a bar who still believes the color of your skin is the most crucial aspect of one's being and there is a significant scene where Raj is picked on by an invariably low brow scary woman for being a "Paki". It is one of the many heartfelt and poignant moments in the book where friendship trumps all and strengthens the band's intent.
In some respects the book is 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' as See shares insight to his upbringings, a classic case of a dysfunctional family. See's writing is emotionally touching without ever becoming sappy or self-pitying. Raised by a single mother and his grandparents without ever knowing his father, music is a form of salvation for him. Now was Divine Weeks the long lost band of the '80's? Most likely not but if you venture on to the book's website to listen to the band's music you can hear their simmering soulfulness, songs written with integrity and solidly crafted music that is undeniably rockist.
If you appreciate good music with integrity (obviously quite a relative term) or some of the bands referenced, wonder what it's like to chase your dream no matter how scary or impossible it might seem you will enjoy this book. It is truly a story of friendships, how they grow and are challenged over the course of being 'On the Road' together -- basically a life and dream affirming, humorous coming of age story.