Book Review: "Wish You Were Here"

Music isn’t just what we listen to. It’s culture; it’s political; it’s identity. But sometimes in the midst of iTunes, MySpace, Last.fm and (ahem, illegally) downloading mp3s, we forget that music is, in fact, history. In Wish You Were Here: An Essential Guide to Your Favorite Music Scenes--From Punk to Indie and Everything In Between ($15, HarperPaperbacks), author Leslie Simon tries to remind us of that by investigating some of the country’s leading indie music scenes.

From hardcore bands like Bad Brains and Fugazi in Washington D.C. to celebrity acts like Zooey Deschanel's She & Him and Jared Leto's 30 Seconds to Mars in Los Angeles, Simon puts her tongue in her cheek and writes about the development of indie rock from coast-to-coast. She points out the key music venues in each town, notable hangouts and the kind of sceneters native to each city (For instance, you have the “Intellectual Indie” in Seattle, while Suburban Florida is home to the “Beard Punk.”)

Whether you’re a music geek with a high aptitude for music facts and bands-that-no-one-has-ever-heard-about or just want a starter guide through indie music, Wish You Were Here is a fun, funny and informative read. I grew-up in California, so the chapters on the Bay Area punk scene (Greenday, Operation Ivy, Rancid) and Los Angeles (Weezer, Phantom Planet, That Dog) really tugged at my indie heartstrings. How emo of me. Now, where's my cardigan....And just for some multi-media enjoyment, here is That Dog’s music video for “Old Timer,” directed by this guy named Spike Jonze. Maybe you've heard of him.