When Franz Nicolay quit his job playing keys in The Hold Steady, he did exactly what any sensible, accordion-toting folk-punk would: he went to tour the former Soviet Bloc on his own, sleeping in strangers' apartments and on venue floors, and traveling via overnight trains with dubious schedules. With Rebecca West as his literary guide, Nicolay visited some of the darker, stranger corners of the Balkans and the former USSR, met a tight-knit community of rockers, artists, dreamers, and all-around nutjobs, drank a quantity of Vodka, and played some great shows – all while witnessing firsthand the disturbing resurgence of nationalist movements and the renewed spread of Kremlin control in the region. A fascinating travelogue, a political study of an increasingly relevant corner of the world, and a rare rock and roll tour memoir that manages to be engaging and intimate without feeling self-indulgent, all wrapped up in one excellent package.
For readers who remember what it is like to use the click-wheel on a first generation iPod, or watched Gideon Yago on MTV2, this book is for you. Exploring the rise and fall of the post-9/11 indie music scene that grew from the grimy grates of NYC and beyond, the oral history includes vibrant voices like Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, The Strokes, Interpol, and other bands that your cool older sister introduced to you back in middle school.