Directions to the Outskirts of Town: Punk Rock Tour Diaries From Nineties North America by Welly Artcore

Rating: 3.5/5
Publisher: Earth Island Books
Released: 2021
Buy Book: Earth Island Books
Pages: 326
Review by Demitri Levantis

Diaries are an artform that suits anyone whose profession involves being away from home for long periods of time, including musicians. Punk musicians included. “Directions to the Outskirts of Town” are the collected diaries of one punk loving Welshman who tells of his time on the road in the USA and Canada which come with all the paraphernalia to make any keen punk or hardcore collector smile.

Welly Artcore, all the way from Cardiff begins his tome in 1994 when he toured the states with the hardworking UK hardcore act, Chaos UK. From the word go, you are put on a hardboiled and humorous bus ride that starts on the West Coast and delves deep into the backstreets of America where punk rock can be found lurking. Be it a day where the band were rehearsing, setting up a show or playing some cramped and sweaty club in the middle of nowhere, Welly gives us a detailed yet minimalist insight into the everyday challenges and pastimes of a touring band – something any touring musician can relate to, punk rock or not.

Chaos UK’s journey is foretold in Welly’s cheeky and fun manner with details of shows with current classic bands in their infancy – so if you’re a fan of bands that are big nowadays like Eyehategod or Youth Brigade, check out this memoir to know what those blokes got up to when first on tour.

Part two of this recollection takes place in 1998 chronicling Welly’s tour of America and Canada with his band, Four Letter Word. Here we see a bunch of Welsh lads back on the road playing loud, fast, raspy, angry tunes to groups of wayward kids all across California, Oregon, Saskatoon, and North and South Dakota.

What makes this part of the story interesting is how it reflects the new wave of punk rock which took off in the nineties following the success of grunge and the more radio-friendly bands like Green Day. Four Letter Word’s appearance at an early edition of the Warped Tour made me realise just how humble a beginning that festival had and how much it has changed. Not to mention the surge of new blood that rushed into the underground with the popularity of punk and hardcore and later metal making it onto mainstream tv and radio. Four Letter Word’s tour sees the likes of Youth Brigade, 7 Seconds, Bad Religion and other classic American punks thrashing out their best tunes from that era on stage. Welly fondly describes the shows in detail in a manner that makes the book a real page-turner and comes to a happy and content end with the tour over and all challenges overcome with the aplomb a hard-working punk band can give.

When most people think of the early nineties they immediately think of Nirvana and the grunge scene spilling out of Seattle. But Welly Artcore has dug up some of his best memories to show that it wasn’t just grunge that was fuelling the hearts and minds of lost and wayward kids on both sides of the Atlantic, so I give him some well-earned kudos for doing just that.

Overall, this book is quite similar to many other road diaries I have read over the years, but it is worth a look at if you want to know just how big, strong and important the punk scene was in the nineties.

“Directions to the Outskirts of Town” is a compulsive addition to one’s book collection if you want to know how punk never died and went underground, where it is best kept.