In the summer of 1987, LA-based band Divine Weeks went on its first (inter)national tour. Instead of limousines and entourages and fancy hotels, however, they lived out of the back of an increasingly fetid van, slept on strangers' floors, and, on occasion, begged for food. Yet for the band, it was more than music: it was an opportunity to live. Lead singer Bill See's 33 Days lets us share in the experience.
From the get-go, one can tell that there's something special about this group and its journey. Unapologetic idealism, and hesitant optimism, permeates the text, convincing the reader that this is an adventure with a worthy purpose, one extending far beyond selling a record here and there. Admittedly, the first chapter is a little slow, full of background information about each member of the band. The struggles that it highlights, however, form the baseline from which each person grows throughout the book. The story picks up once Divine Weeks finally hits the road.
One of 33 Days' biggest achievements is perhaps its effective breaking of stereotypes. Few will paint rock stars in an intellectual light, but the members of the band are both traditionally educated and socially smart. It comes through in the way they balance one another and the deep conversations that they share. It's also reflected heavily in See's writing, an eclectic combination of college-level vocabulary words and the everyman's speech patterns. His earnestness is what keeps his speeches uplifting, while his unassuming tone of voice makes it feel as if you're really inside of his head, hearing his thoughts without the filter of a backspace button.
One thing that readers may or may not appreciate is the frequent mentioning of other bands, ones which heavily influenced Divine Weeks. Admittedly, my exposure to the music scene has involved more violins than bass guitars, which means that I had to spend some quality time with Youtube to get the point. Those a little more "in the know" might not have to. Additionally, See discusses several songs related to their line-up, and while I could easily look up each one, it would have been nice to have had a reference section with lyrics in the back of the book (unless there are some copyright issues involved). The few lyrics he included gave the relevant scenes a little more meaning.
For the most part, the author's writing style works. There are several instances, however, in which the "fast and loose" approach to grammar goes a little too far. Some of the sentences become confusing or, at the very least, awkward. How much this bothers you will depend on how picky you are. Also of note is the frequent use of the f-bomb. I don't particularly mind, but for those who are turned off by profanity, you've been warned.
33 Days is an inspiring story, told in a voice that is one part grit, one part tenacity, and five parts soul. Whether you've been in a band, wish you were in a band, or admit that you're completely tone-deaf, the book is well worth the read.
(Review copy provided by the author)