Lonna Mae Enterprises, LLC
I remember when I immersed myself in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series many years ago. My voyage into Tolkien’s Middle-earth fantasy began as a slightly-trippy-feeling, fun excursion – chock full of characters that you could connect with, no matter how weird they were.
By the time I reached the far side, however, I was more concerned about what happened to Tolkien the author than Frodo the hobbit. I mean, it’s one thing to become one with your work (or your art as work), but as the Rings story began to fill with dense historical footnotes and highly-detailed maps (with more footnotes), it was easy for me to imagine that Tolkien had taken his tale as far as he could before being lugged off kicking and clawing at the air, screaming, “Burn, Gollum – you little bug-eyed prick! BURN!” I figured he’d spent his later years institutionalized, turning his cell into a massive diorama of Mordor by making use of dustballs, mouse carcasses, scraps torn from his hospital gown, and bits of leftover food he’d hidden from his attendants.
I couldn’t have been more wrong, of course: Tolkien lived a long, fine life (complicated only by his growing fame and his attempts to avoid it) with his wife Edith. The rascal did fire off a posthumous footnote of sorts on their shared gravestone, however: he had Edith tagged as “Luthien” and himself as “Beren” – fierce lovers from the Rings series. Good one, J.R.R.
Anyhow, I bring all that up to try to explain what it’s like to enter the world of Too Cubed, described on the back cover of all five (yes, boys and girls: that would be f-i-v-e – 5) volumes of their story as “the greatest Neo-Psychedelic Open Source Groove Rock Jam Band that (n)ever was.”
Author Lonna Mae (this much I can tell you: A. – that’s a pseudonym and B. – she hasn’t been institutionalized as of yet) has produced an amazing tale that tells the fictional story of a band from the individual members’ roots to their very final note together.
“In order to have a beginning, each story must have an end.” That’s how Lonna Mae launches into Book I of Volume I, describing Too Cubed’s last performance together. The fact that you know the inevitable as the story takes you through 21 years of the core members’ lives doesn’t detract from Lonna Mae’s ability to capture your interest. In fact, it inspires you to want to know more about the characters as they develop. And there’s plenty to know.
As many parallels as one might be able to draw between Too Cubed’s world and some familiar elements of jam history – the financial benefactor who happens to be a fine, fine chemist; the lead guitarist who struggles with a smack habit; the “cursed” position in the band – Lonna Mae’s tale goes beyond clichés, never cartoonizing familiar persons and events. She builds the story from the ground up, letting the band and its organization develop and grow along the way. She takes us into the heads and souls of the inhabitants of Too Cubed’s world, from the core band members to hard-core “Cubesters” who hit the road as the band’s music begins to gather a following. Characters come, go, and sometimes return; things take weird left-hand lurches; people live and people die; and many, many setlists are written. (By the way, setlists – every damn one from the band’s beginning to the end of the story – are all gathered inside Volume V, along with a complete discography and lyrics to the band’s original tunes – which are, of course, all totally fictional.) (I kid you not.)
The band’s successes and failures are made believable by financial, legal, and managerial details that may make some readers sit back and consider some of the realities of this world. By the way, the venues visited by Too Cubed during their career are ones familiar to all – you may even recognize a campground, mountaintop, or burger joint along the way.
I will admit that there were moments when the narrator’s voice seemed to interfere with the story – until I remembered that I was reading her version/vision of the band’s history. I mean, if there had really been a band to have a history.
And a narrator who witnessed it.
Like, in real life.
With her own opinions and all that.
You know what I mean.
(Burn, Gollum – you little bug-eyed prick.)
In the end, the Too Cubed saga is good entertainment, with plenty of humor, bits of mysticism, love, sex, hope, and dope, all slathered in thick gobs of jam.
Be forewarned: you may find yourself counting the shows since the bands’ last playing of “The Sophist.”
But don’t worry about it – you’ll be holding your own miracle ticket for when they do. Enjoy the read.