Rock Reads: Out of the Basement: From Cheap Trick to DIY Punk in Rockford, Illinois, 1973-2005 by David A. Ensminger

Reviewed by Kevin Wierzbicki

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The latest in the "Scene History" series from Microcosm chronicles the birth and evolution of the punk scene in the Rust Belt city of Rockford, where, like elsewhere, punk was a powerful magnet for bored and alienated youth. Author Ensminger, a musician himself, explains his entry into the scene and offers memories and observations about the cast of characters that he ran with at the time. Eventually, as it becomes obvious that the worldwide punk scene is something more than just a raised middle finger to the establishment, the kids in Rockford get serious too; punks learn to play their instruments, fanzines are born, touring punk bands are booked for local gigs. For those who weren't on the scene in Rockford at the time, most of the local personalities Ensminger talks about will be unknown; readers however will be familiar with some of the nationally-known players they interact with, like Fear's Lee Ving and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. As a player Ensminger was in the middle of it all but this recollection is refreshingly written without his ego upfront; he also for the most part refrains from getting too detailed about the debauchery that came along with the scene. A quick and fun read with a handful of rare photos and other illustrations, "Out of the Basement" will appeal to a lot bigger audience than just those interested in the history of rock in Illinois; while not meant as a tutorial, there are lots of budding musicians and scenesters the world over who could learn a lot from spending some time in its pages. Order your copy here.

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