(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Acclaimed author, editor and musician Jon Fine will discuss his new memoir, Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution (But Can No Longer Hear), with poet, author and music journalist Karen Schoemer at Third Floor Gallery (above Hudson Wine Merchants) on Sunday, November 1, at 3pm.
An improbable scene took place at compact rock clubs across Asia, Europe and America in 2011 and 2012, as a post-hardcore band called Bitch Magnet reunited to play a series of shows for a small but loyal coterie of fans, nearly 25 years after its first records came out. Each night, flanked by his similarly older-and-wiser bandmates, guitarist Jon Fine—a punk rocker turned award-winning journalist—took these stages, strapped on his trusty Les Paul, flicked his cranked-up amp off ‘standby,’ and slammed into the first distorted chord. And, as the band journeyed from Singapore to Tokyo to London to New York and San Francisco, he was taking notes.
A few actual celebrities emerged from the American independent music underground of the 1980s and ‘90s. Jon Fine is not among them.
But his evocative and perceptive memoir of the rise and fall and persistence of the indie rock movement written by a musician who spent decades deeply immersed in it is the definitive chronicle of this time and milieu.
A superlative coming-of-age story not just for Fine but for this entire culture, Your Band Sucks traces indie America’s arc over three decades, from its early idealism in the 1980s to its flowering and disappointment, and its belated reckonings with adult realities. And then, when reunion tours beckoned many years later, how its bands grappled with a wholly unexpected midlife question: can we really make another run at this?
A sui generis snapshot of the last three decades of American culture, Your Band Sucks will appeal equally to Fine’s fellow indie rock nerds as it will to readers who love a good only-in-America story, thanks to Fine’s incisive prose, mastery of narrative, and eye for detail.
Fine holds nothing back as he takes readers into the overcrowded, clunky vans and the well-worn back stages, perfumed with stale beer and cigarette smoke, that defined the indie rock universe. Starting with his early days growing up in New Jersey, when the radio fodder of Journey, Bryan Adams, and even Springsteen was just noise to him, he draws on precise and unsentimentally-recounted detail in evoking the youthful desire to make a new kind of music.
By the time he arrived at Oberlin College in the mid-‘80s and met the musicians who would be his partners in Bitch Magnet, the likes of Hüsker Dü and Sonic Youth were carving out a substantial space in American culture through sheer determination, disdain for the musical status quo, and a ferocious do-it- yourself work ethic — back when record stores were the primary hubs of musical discovery, and the closest things to blogs and Internet message boards were smudgy Xeroxed ‘zines.
Like Kitchen Confidential, Your Band Sucks is an insider’s look at a fascinating outsider culture. Like Just Kids, Your Band Sucks is a unique account of a particular cultural moment, albeit one that lasted for decades. Enriched by in-depth interviews with scores of prominent indie-rock veterans — and plenty of wit and sharply-worded opinion — Your Band Sucks is a uniquely American story, an unmatched evocation of life on the lower rungs of the music industry, and the best account of life within the indie rock underground. Consider it both a love letter and a kiss-off to one of the most important musical cultures of the last fifty years.
Jon Fine is the executive editor of Inc. magazine and a New York-based writer, commentator, and musician. As a guitarist in a series of underground bands — most notably Bitch Magnet, Coptic Light, and Don Caballero — he has performed in fifteen countries on three continents and appeared on MTV. His writing has appeared in GQ, The Atlantic, Details, and ESPN the Magazine. His long-running BusinessWeek column, “Media Centric,” won both American Society of Business Publication Editors and National Headliner awards, and his writing for Food & Wine won a James Beard award for his wine writing.