Play Like a Man: My Life in Poster Children By Rose Marshack, 200 pgs.

Jan 27, 2023

If you think about it for a sec, being in a touring band is absurd. You and a bunch of people—hopefully people you like, though not always—drive around, loading and unloading heavy gear in a different town every night, intent on playing songs for a bunch of strangers. And that’s just the base level of absurdity: what happens if the band gets popular, say? Then even more absurdity as vans are replaced by busses, venues get bigger, on and on it goes. Until it doesn’t.

Rose Marshack plays bass for the long-running band Poster Children. Her new memoir Play Like a Man elevates itself above the heap of rock bios because it’s not concerned with the usual rags-to-riches-to-rags story so common in the genre. Poster Children started playing, did some recording with Steve Albini and Iain Burgess, and were sniffed out during the major label feeding frenzy around Nirvana. The band members decided to play the game as best they could and gave it a go on Sire Records, a major label—but they were dropped after being shuttled off to the side in favor of other, more mainstream bands getting all the hype.

This part of the story is common. What’s not common—and what makes Play Like a Man so entertaining and vital—is the way the Poster Children were able to create connection through their opportunities. By the time their Sire career was on the wane, this thing called the internet was starting to happen. Marshack and her bandmates were early adopters, seeing the new technology as an opportunity to connect with the audience they’d fought so hard to foster through their days of constant touring. They created (and maintain) an internet presence, did some of the first-ever podcasting (though they didn’t call it that), and took chances by including interactive programming in their CDs.   

Marshack is a great narrator throughout, weaving present-day reminiscences into passages from the band’s extensive tour diaries (another way the band connected with fans online) to emphasize the aforementioned absurdity: dealing with radio DJs, promoters, technology, all of it, trying to maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of obstacles, crying because it’s ridiculous and hard. Play Like a Man’s honesty and conscious subversion of genre expectations is a microcosm of the band’s career, and makes this one a top-tier entry. –Michael T. Fournier (University Of Illinois Press, press.uillinois.edu)

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