The early days of a jam band show it’s all been a long, strange trip.
Although this debut novel from the pseudonymous Mae opens with the demise of jam band Too Cubed, it’s not long before the story finds its true beginning: the back story of the original four members and how they bond through their love of psychedelic music and a fabulously pure and potent form of acid. This first installment of a four-book series—with a fifth volume available for reference—takes readers from the early days of Too Cubed until they are poised for takeoff with a new bassist in tow. Like-minded souls Stan, Max, Bert and Trip rally behind Stan’s controlling nature. The eight man lineup, musically structured like the Grateful Dead, drops acid nonstop and endeavors to stretch musical boundaries while seeking collective enlightenment. Each of the four main characters is written with a distinct, stereotype-free personality, as is Olly, the Hawaiian drummer Stan encounters on vacation and coaxes into leaving paradise for the cold Massachusetts winter. Too much of the text, however, is given over to Grateful Dead shows, drug dealing and dropping acid; passages describing concerts, parties and hallucinations drag. But when the band members are allowed to roam the page, a wonderfully hypnotic narrative rhythm develops and it’s hard to put the book down. While there’s not much at stake for the band—small problems are glossed over and big ones dealt with by a literal stroll on thin ice—it’s clear the next volume will pick up where this one ends. The unconventional novelistic structure is as gleefully loose and laid back as the band whose story it tells.
Seasoned veterans of the psychedelic music scene may see parallels to modern-day band Phish but the heavy drug use may turn off outsiders.