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Bill See was the lead singer for critically acclaimed Los Angeles band Divine Weeks for the duration of the band’s lifespan from 1984-1992. Divine Weeks was signed to the Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn’s Down There label in 1987 and released their debut Through & Through that May before embarking on their first national tour that summer. The journals Bill kept on tour are the source of the majority of 33 Days. Divine Weeks released one more full length album on First Warning Records called Never Get Used To It released in September 1991. “When we left on that tour, we set out to have our own Kerouac ‘On The Road’ experience, and when I wrote 33 Days my motive was to write a book you’d go searching for after finishing ‘On The Road’. The book’s less about making it, and more about how crucial it is to seize your moment and the perils of sitting on your dreams. It’s about liberation, giving yourself the gift of opportunity and ultimately defining your own idea of success. It’s for anybody who ever stood at their crossroads with a dream screaming inside wondering whether to choose the road that goes off the map or fold up their tent and head back home.”
on April 21, 2011 :
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.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on March 21, 2011 :
We all have dreams. Some of us pursue them, relentlessly, and often to the detriment of anyone or anything that gets in our way.
Some of us say, “It’s all too hard” and then spend the rest of our damned lives wondering...” What if?” This is about four amazing human beings that chased their dream. Without causing damage to anyone else on the journey…at least not with intent.
In 1987, four young men shared a common dream. They hungered for that bright shining star in their sky, and they had the guts to go in search of it. They didn’t understand on the day they left L.A just how deeply committed they would need to be to the music and each other. The 33 days of their journey altered their lives forever.
Bill See the author kept a journal of those 33 days that changed the lives of he and his friends. I am so glad that he did, for had he not; I may have never had the delight of taking that trip with him, here and now in 2011. For such is the quality of this Author’s work that you can’t be anywhere else, you are there, in the van, on the road, meeting sleazebags, saints, and sinners in all the wrong places at all the right times.
Meet the band members of Divine Weeks: Bill See: The author of this book and the singer with the band it all begins with Bill; he was 22 years old and hungered after a dream. Not to be super famous, not to live a life of "sex drugs and rock’n roll", that’s not what this was about. He believed that it would be for the good of all and not merely about the dreams of one. His dysfunctional early life had him searching for a pristine moment of clarity, a moment when all the pain and the insecurity would merge and become a musical voice, a musical voice of honesty, a musical voice of integrity. The music and the making of it, the memory, the chance to do it and get it right! How many of us wish we had the balls to go for it and make it happen? I smell the back of the van after days on the road, no windows, no air, all fodder for memories he recounts that will make you laugh out loud just before your eyes fill with tears and you catch yourself nodding in agreement and understanding.
Bill See is a fine author; he brings the pages alive and makes you belong for the duration of the journey... you share it from the inside.
Meet Raj: The lead guitarist. A young man raised in the belief that family and tradition were all there was. Raised to believe that seeking an individual dream was somehow betraying what and who you were. Of the four band members, Raj’s and Bill's stories touched me deeply; they struggled with the yearning to make it as a part of this thing, this music, and this band. They fought against everything they had been taught to believe; to just once…just once; step outside the family and their demands and go for the dream. The moments of reflection into their individual personas show just how very close the band members became. They were brothers, unasked, and unrelentingly... brothers all.
Meet George: The Bass Player. Larger than life and twice as funny…ultimately belonging to the band allowed him to move beyond his preplanned and preordained life.
Meet Dave: The drummer Dave is a street smart survivor, with a huge heart and the gift of the gab. He has the ability to keep the guys centred when this road trip hits the dark edges.
Meet Ian: The Road Manager...The only non band member on the tour…The doer of all things miraculous, Ian’s steady hand, and calm demeanor helped keep the dream on track.
I read this book way ahead of schedule. Naively thinking I could pick it up and put it down over a period of time. Wrong! I began reading and the sunrise startled me into finding I had read all of it throughout the night and had lost myself in its pages.
Do yourselves a favor folks, if you only read one non-fiction book this year make it this one. I am left with a knowing smile on my face and the realization that I have just shared in something quite wonderful.
A couple of quotes from the book.
"This book is for everyone who’s stood at their crossroads with a dream screaming inside wondering whether to choose the road that goes off the map or fold up their tent and head back home. "
“It’s not about the having and getting, it’s about the being and becoming...we’re artists, wounded birds…descending, ascending…always chasing the muse."
(reviewed the day of purchase)