Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide To Your Favourite Music Scenes – From Punk To Indie And Everything In Between
January 5th, 2012 | Features | 2 Comments
Leslie Simon‘s 2009 book Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide To Your Favourite Music Scenes – From Punk To Indie And Everything’s In Between‘s title is a bit misleading, despite its length. Firstly, it only covers a handful of scenes in the United States. Secondly, it forgets a couple great scenes (earlys aughts Detroit, any decade Austin-Texas(!?!?!?!), and Olympia, WA by the way, cannot be lumped in with Seattle) while focusing on others like suburban Florida (?!?!??!?!) that hardly anyone actually cares about. And thirdly, by “punk to indie and everything in between” it basically means punk, rock, indie, and emo. A lot of emo. The fact there’s a lot of emo wouldn’t be surprising if upon picking up the book you were aware that Simon’s last book Everybody Hurts actually was a book about emo culture. But I wasn’t. It was probably smart of them to leave the word “emo” out of the title because anyone over 20 wouldn’t look at the book twice.
That being said, the book does have a lot of cool info. Each section ends with addresses and small descriptions of cool rock locations in the city like venues, record stores, good restaurants, clothing stores, etc. which is perfect for someone like me who pretty much is only interesting in going to such places in whatever city I visit. The histories on each place are often ok, if a bit on the brief side, and often focus more on the emo bands than I’d care for. The album guides are for the most part useful – if sometimes not always as tight with the quality control as I’d prefer – but I can’t understand why Simon only does them for like two places, you’d think that would be essential for every place that she, um, is describing the music scene of. Each section also has its little bit about maybe the kind of hipsters in the region (a fun read) or why people in Omaha get married at such a young age (meh) or how to identify a rock critic by his appearance (achem, achem…). Stuff like that. It’s hit and miss.
Simon’s writing is ok. Sometimes her shtick is entertaining, and sometimes its a bit annoying. For some reason she picks on bald (or balding) dudes a lot. Sometimes she says she’s not going to write something bad about someone or something for fear or lawsuits or them boycotting her book or something. It’s like – if you’re going to be snarky, be snarky, don’t be like ‘cute’-snarky. Maybe that works with twelve year old emo kids or something but the rock geeks who actually read these kind of books are cold-hearted, cynical people.
Wish You Were Here has some good info – mainly the locations stuff – but if you really want to hear the stories about the scenes in the States, go with the classic Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azzerard. That book’s the real deal.