background picture of a punk-rocker with a bass guitar and three more photos across of punk bands and people being and looking super punk

Out of the Basement: From Cheap Trick to DIY Punk in Rockford, IL, 1973-2005

by David A. Ensminger

Small townAmerica built the punk rock revolution; but big city scenes have gotten all the coverage.

No longer! Out of the Basement is a bracing, candid, democratic, and cutting edge portrayal of a rust belt city full of rebel kids making DIY music despite the odds. It combines oral history, brutally honest memoir, music history, and a sense of blunt poetics to capture the ethos of life in the 1970s-2000s, long before the Internet made punk accessible to small towners. From dusty used record stores and frenetic skating rinks to dank basements and sweat-piled gigs to the radical forebears like the local IWW chapter, the book follows the stories of rebels struggling to find spaces and a sense of community and their place in underground history.

Includes hilarious untold stories and anecdotes about Fred Armisen, Green Day, and the Misfits.




    "...funny anecdotes and tons of info on what was going on back then."


    "...funny anecdotes and tons of info on what was going on back then."


    "Not just a love note to punk music, Ensminger’s book is also an autobiography of how growing up in a dying town shaped his future.
    ... its communal tales and universal sound will resonate with everyone."


    "...a great read exploring the ups and downs of a small town and their struggles and successes."


    "This is one of those great books that goes deeper into the punk roots in Illinois and the general underground history in America."


    "scholar-activist David A. Ensminger’s thoughtful first-person account of growing up with Rockford’s hardcore scene"


    "...Ensminger does an excellent job of describing the music scene in the area from the early ‘70s up to the mid-aughts. His style, combined with plenty of quotes from scene regulars, manages to make someone else’s musical history relatable to the masses..."


    "Punk-rock fans will want to see how things shook out in the rust belt."


    " ...the real talent comes in making stories of these niche, local bands relatable to folks who couldn’t find Rockford on a map."


    "If you want to know what the rock and roll lifestyle is like, where it came from, and how its practitioners survived, even if they didn’t thrive, this book is a fine guide to a scene that has been replicated, paralleled, and repeats itself in today’s DIY world of music."


    "... there are lots of budding musicians and scenesters the world over who could learn a lot from spending some time in its pages.",_Illinois,_1973-2005.shtml


    "Out of the Basement is for anyone who ever saw a show at the local VFW, regardless of where you grew up."


    "...a striking memento of a youth well spent."


    "melds musical and personal history in this fascinating book."


    "Even if you only have a passing interest in the punk scene you won’t want to miss this one…"


    "…an interesting read even if you aren’t from Rockford or Illinois or the Midwest. Here’s hoping microcosm gets to your town and your scene soon!"


    "...Ensminger has managed to collate a lot of facts, characters, stories and historic detail into the pages as well as lacing the story with his own personal narrative and reflection lending it not just a gritty realism but a journalistic enthusiasm and passion that only a local (as opposed to a hackneyed journo) can muster."


    A great history of the scene in which I grew up. It hits many/most of the high spots of things as I remember them happening in the 1980s as written by one of the people who made the Rockford scene what it was.


    "...Emits in vigorous detail the lineaments of the sweat-drenched musical underground nestled in his rock hard hometown… sense impressions combine with slices of scholarly reflection and the author’s own energy and timeless enthusiasm."


    "[Ensminger's] done his homework...Out of the Basement is a cool study of how many American cities struggle to keep their DIY talent from either destroying themselves in an environment with below average social services or leaving town..."


    From touting long-defunct local punk hopefuls like The Names, PineWood Box and Bludgeoned Nun to reminiscing on a kerfuffle with a pre-stardom Green Day, to the foibles of staging local hardcore shows, Ensminger walks us through a slim digest’s worth of interviews and personal accounts, warts (plenty of them) and all, without getting too indulgent in the process.


    "David Ensminger writes a fascinating story about the development of punk in Rockford, Illinois. He weaves engaging personal narratives with interesting historical accounts of proto-punk, power pop, punk rock, and hardcore in this Midwest town."


    "A vivid portrait of late 20th century 'rust city kids' skateboarding through a kind of pulp noir 'dead-end America,' sustained by punk and its DIY ethos. As so often happens, punks crafted community and beauty out of the ruins. It is, at once, both a typical story and a singular one, and Ensminger captures it all."


    This latest dispatch from David Ensminger emits in vigorous detail the lineaments of the sweat-drenched musical underground nestled in his rock hard hometown. Wild, subterranean notations and sense impressions combine with slices of scholarly reflection and the author's own energy and timeless enthusiasm to deliver not only the glory of a youth movement on the page, but the nearly lost art of punk itself.