Posted by:on July 27th, 2003
Review Date: 2003
Amped made me laugh.
Not just a “tee-hee” or “ha-ha” sort of laugh. But the type of laugh that’s so consuming it becomes silent, tightens your stomach until it hurts, makes you choke and turn red in the face and forces anyone within earshot to think you’re pyschologically unwell.
Amped is a self-published novelette by Chicago graphic designer Jon Resh (it’s only 159 pages) and his short, sweet and funny times in his punk band Spoke from 1990 to 1993. In 30 short chapters Resh takes the reader through the trials and tribulations of him and his friend’s three piece unit, from formation through it’s last sad show.
Amped’s a short and fun romp through Gainesville, Florida’s music scene, where Resh was attending college at the University of Florida. School obviously took a backseat to music as most of the band member’s energy was channeled into the band–practicing, writing songs, performing, touring, designing fliers, booking and promoting shows and of course partying and trying to nail a few chicks.
What’s refreshing is that Resh never pretends that Spoke was anything more than a slightly better than average punk band. He doesn’t try to inflate Spoke’s talent or place in punk’s history. In my mind, Resh’s stories are much subtler and richer than the story of a band who achieves international fame, earns millions of dollars and dates an unending stream of supermodels, pornstars and groupies then falls to earth a few years later broke, balding and in rehab ala VH-1’s “Behind the Music.” This story of a band who tried their damdest and had a great time going absolutely nowhere, is much more real, human and honest, making Amped that much more endearing. I honestly believe that this book would make a wonderful independent film because it’s a small story about real people.
Resh also doesn’t try to deconstruct these experiences and add meaning where none is needed–or asked for. Luckily, he doesn’t dwell on anything more than necessary and allows the reader to add their own context. Resh’s style of stream of consciousness recollections, whipsawing between extemporously exhaustive descriptions to single world sentences, gives the book an excited rythym and makes the book that much more enjoyable to read.
Mainly due to an admitted lack of natural talent, Spoke never really gained nothing more than regional fame. The band gained their following for it’s energy, and willingness to entertain it’s fans at shows, (throwing a multitude of objects into and directly at clubgoers and dressing up in an assortment of costumes) and generally have fun. And as much the book is about the Florida punk scene during this time and Spoke’s place in the scene, it’s even more about the people and experiences and stories surrounding the band and it’s cadre of friends and fans.
While Amped is the story of a specific band, in a specific town, at a specific time in history, I think Amped is even more the universal story of youth and music in America. The stories are similar to the ones I had going to college. The characters in Amped remind me of the many characters in the cloudy memories of what were my college years. I bet the stories in Amped have, are and will take place in college towns all across America. I just think Jon Resh is one of the first to chronicle these stories so humorously and sucessfully.
My only criticism of Amped is it’s brevity. I have to believe there are many more stories that went untold. So after 159 pages I was left with a smile on my face and an ache wishing I could read even more.
Amped is available at Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago, or at viperpress.com.
$4.50, 159 pages, perfect bound. Viper Press
Reviewer: Mike Timble
More Print reviews