SPIN Underground USA offers look at cities’ unique hot spots

SPIN Underground USA (Vintage Books) is required reading for anyone taking a road trip this summer, those with the misfortune of getting stuck in Columbus, Ohio for a weekend or those who want to be in the know when someone is talking about their incredible trip to San Francisco.

SPIN Magazine recruited some of the country’s top underground journalists and musicians to uncover the best of any and everything in 20 major U.S. cities and geographical areas. The goal is to give an alternative to the shuttle bus tour, the guided museum trip and the photo traps tourists usually seek out. While some of the discoveries might not suit every traveler’s tastes, an obscure find is included to tickle everyone’s fancy.

Each city is divided into eight groups: Clubs, Bars, Food/Coffee, Shopping, Body Alterations (tattoos, piercings, etc.), Hotels/Motels, Local Wonders and Transmissions (radio stations). These subjects are where the similarities end, because each writer takes the liberty of sharing favorite places for whatever reason. Also included are local newspapers, Web sites and other places to get info on day-to-day events while in town.

The individual categories are as eclectic and strange as the locales they describe. “Best Gay Club with Straight People” is Gay Nineties of Minneapolis/St. Paul. “Best Musical Laundromat” refers to New Orleans’ Check Point Charlie. New York City’s “Best Ultrahip Conceptual Bar,” Barra Mundi, is “so hip it should be studied,” according to Matthew DeBord, Robert Sietsema and Chris Lawrence, who reveal NYC’s hot spots.

Be warned: No two cities have the same “Best” of anything, so it may take some work to figure out what is equivalent to Check Point Charlie in, say, Seattle.

While sticking with the proverbial centers of the universe that are New York and Los Angeles, SPIN Underground also delves into the equally exciting, but not as well known waters of Providence, Rhode Island; Louisville, Kentucky and the Chapel Hill/Raleigh/Durham area of North Carolina.

Washington, D.C.’s juiciest dives are exposed by the City Paper’s Holly Bass. Although local diehards probably could suggest a million and one new – or better – additions, Bass sets any tourist off to a good start. If anyone here isn’t familiar with the spots mentioned, it’s time to get a social life! Grab the book and get cracking as soon as possible.

This book is worth any true traveler’s trouble because each city is covered by a person tapped into what is and isn’t happening there. The vibe of each section is totally different, yet a feeling of discovery remains. Who knew that Tattoos By Lou stays open later than any other parlor and becomes a center of seedy nightlife in South Beach? And the index in the back is sure to come in handy when a friend recommends Memphis’ famous deep-fried burgers but forgets the name and address of the best joint.

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