I had totally forgotten about this. A few years ago, a music journalist from Detroit (my ancestral homeland) rolled into town. His name was Ryan Bartek, and he was staying with Chris and Jeffy MacCannon from Vertigo Venus, also from Detroit, while working on this giant book about underground music in the U.S. It was going to be his Great American Novel, in every sense.
Bartek had an enormous appreciation for Chris and Jeffy’s band in Michigan, enough to convince him that there must be something good happening in Albuquerque if this is where they ended up. So this is where he came. It was just another stop on his yearlong U.S. tour. Only Bartek wasn’t playing music; he was documenting the little communities that musicians fabricate—the places where underground music comes from. And the only way to do that is pure legwork, and osmosis, talking to musicians and going to shows from one end of the country to another. I wasn’t sure he’d see it all the way through.
Well, now. Here it is. The Big Shiny Prison (History of a Year 12.20.06-10.13.07). He spent quality time in the Duke City, where he was able to ferret out some great sources. Jeff and Chris are priceless, and it’s actually well worth your time to know more about where they’ve come from and what they do. Your band might be mentioned in there. One of mine is. He also talked to the excellent lads of Chestnut Productions, who interviewed me for their documentary Glocal Scene—similar in conceit to Bartek’s book, but filmed on a global scale. You might be in there, too. (Find it here: glocalscene.com.) And since Bartek is giving his book away for free as a PDF, you can do searches for the passages about Albuquerque.
Yep. He put his book out as public domain. “File sharing is approved and encouraged by its author, Ryan Bartek,” he says in the forward. “Having spent a Herculean effort on this project, his only wish is that it be circulated. “
And it turns out, Albuquerque stacks up pretty well. After traveling all over the U.S., he concludes in the epilogue that “the best relocation spot in the Southwest is a definite toss-up between Austin (TX)/Albuquerque (NM).” And “the greatest punk hangouts are the unholy trinity of Burt’s Tiki Lounge (ABQ), The Funhouse (Seattle), and the [now defunct] 2500 Club (Detroit).” That’s a superlative superlative.
So there you go: Download The Big Shiny Prison for free.