Panic Years

Daniel Difranco Tail­winds Press (AU­GUST) Soft­cover $16 (344pp) 978-0-9975742-2-7

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - CLAIRE FOS­TER

Daniel Difranco’s in­ti­mate novel Panic Years fol­lows a twelve-week tour of ev­ery­where-but-nowhere, through tiny clubs, on filthy stages, and across long stretches of high­way.

Life as a gig­ging mu­si­cian is rough. Twen­tyeight-year-old Paul, who’s been play­ing bass with ob­scure in­die bands for a decade, hits the road again with a new band, Qualia. Paul, though in a state of sus­pended ado­les­cence, is painfully aware that he’s get­ting older in a busi­ness ob­sessed with young tal­ent. Life out­side of the tour van races by as he car­ries his own gear and trades drink tick­ets with his band­mates.

Qualia, a charm­ing col­lec­tion of quirky mis­fits, in­cludes Laney, Jeff, and Gooch. Their char­ac­ter­i­za­tions skirt the edges of well-worn stereo­types. Laney, do­ing dou­ble duty as the band’s man­ager, is a “Yoko” whose sex ap­peal changes the group’s dy­namic. Jeff, on hia­tus from his co­caine habit, has switched to alarm­ing quan­ti­ties of booze. Surly, salty Gooch is too re­spon­si­ble for his own good. Drix, a friend from Paul’s past, joins the group as well, adding a rock-and-roll el­e­ment and a pre­dictably tragic out­come.

Paul is the old­est, long­est-work­ing mu­si­cian in the group; he is jaded, but his per­spec­tive is also laugh­ably im­ma­ture. He sneers at oth­ers’ youth­ful­ness while fail­ing to see the con­se­quences of his own in­abil­ity to grow up. Twenty-nine may feel old af­ter a decade of dive bars, but it is far from adult­hood. Panic Years is at its best when it lingers in the mo­ments that evap­o­rate from mem­ory as soon as they’re ex­pe­ri­enced, from bick­er­ing about whether The Pix­ies are any good to ridicu­lous jokes and the mu­sic in­dus­try’s ur­ban le­gends.

Panic Years is au­then­tic, big­hearted, and fun. The novel’s tight pac­ing and un­cyn­i­cal ap­proach to its sub­ject mat­ter cap­ture the essence of a young group on the road—a trip to be sa­vored, one gritty gig at a time.

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