Sunday, April 3, 2011

Punk Rock Etiquette by Travis Nichols

Punk Rock Etiquette by Travis Nichols
ISBN: 1596434155
Roaring Brook Press, 2008
144 p.

Plot Summary: Travis Nichols was in a somewhat successful punk band that got the chance to tour the United States. He learned a few tips and tricks along the way. He splits the book into two parts: the basics and touring. The basics chapters involve tips on naming your band (DO: Go online and search extensively to see if that name is taken. DON'T: Misspell words in your band's name) and searching for compatible band members. The etiquette part of the title comes from a bit on stage etiquette. Nichols stresses that after a band plays, they need to get their gear off stage as fast as possible so that the next band can set up. If the transition isn't quick, the crowd gets restless and bored. Nichols also provides helpful advice on recording such as using a metronome to decide on the tempo of each song and how to properly tune instruments. On the touring side of things, Nichols offers advice about van choice. He says to avoid placing stickers on it so that it doesn't look like it belongs to a band. A van full of expensive musical equipment is attractive to a thief. Relying on the kindness of others is the last point Nichols makes for a band on tour. He says that oftentimes, a band can say on stage that they need a place to sleep and a crowd member will offer a floor to sleep on.

Critical Analysis: As a musician myself, I can attest that Nichols' advice is spot on and helpful. Much of the information that he gives are things that I've learned the hard way myself. Things like not playing for too long and setting up a mailing list to get in contact with fans may seem like common sense, but it's good to say again and again. Despite the title, the information that Nichols provides is universal to all do-it-yourself musicians. Nichols also added comic-like illustrations of many of the things he said, which gives the book a funny but informative feel.

I felt that Nichols was a little high and mighty in a few places, he takes an unnecessarily hard stance on a few issues. Otherwise, the tone of the book was playful and helpful. I have to criticize the title of the book because Nichols is greatly diminishing his potential audience. As previously mentioned, the information in this book is universal to all musicians, not only bands who play punk rock. Sure, there's a stronger do-it-yourself attitude that is prevalent in punk bands, but that's not to say there aren't other bands that would do the same. The etiquette part of the title is also misleading, as the only true etiquette advice was covered in the stage etiquette chapter. A better title would have been: The Do's and Don'ts of Being in a Band or something to that extent.

Reader's Annotation: Learn the do's and don'ts of starting a band and touring from a punk rocker himself!

Author Information: Travis Nichols is a vegetarian author, artist, comics aficionado, and a rocker. His comics were featured in Nickelodeon Magazine and this book was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults by YALSA. He is an avid recycler and hopes to release a YA novel in 2011.


Genre: Non-fiction/music/young adult

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalking Ideas: What do you think is proper stage etiquette?

Have everyone think up band names, maybe use

Reading level/interest age: Grade 9 and up

Challenge Issues: N/A
Challenge Defense Ideas: No challenge issues come to mind when reading this book. The best defense is having a strong knowledge of the book, so becoming familiar with it by reading reviews, finding other opinions, and reading it one's self is a good start. One could also refer to the library's collection development policy here.

Why I included this title: Everyone wants to be in a band or at the very least everyone loves music. Nichols' book manages to be informative and entertaining simultaneously, I'd recommend it to any beginning musician. This book is a great YA choice because so many musicians and bands get their legs during high school.

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