Everyone is obsessed with the 80s now, especially New York in the 80s, and most especially the East Village in the 80s. It’s hard not to get caught up in it: as I say and say and say, that was my 80s, my New York, the East Village 80s, and it was that cool and we knew it at the time. Nearly everything I do and believe and think about now is deeply rooted in that era. My politics certainly, my experience of the art world, my notions about what New York is and means, how I dress and cut my hair, the theater and music I love. I used to even say back then, probably like to my parents, and I blush to remember, but it was true that what I loved about living where I lived was that we were “at the vanguard of culture.” It was true of art, of music, of fashion, of theater, of urbanity itself.
I think, because of how communication/media/technology has changed in the last 30 years becoming so quick and ubiquitous, that that time and place may be the last time and place about which you could really say that. The vanguard no longer has location.
It was a very different time as far as documentation. The artifacts are few and precious. I wonder how this era will look to us in 30 years, the relentless constant self-surveillance, every gesture documented and uploaded. Back then, it was a big fucking deal just to get a crappy videotape of a show and usually you just didn’t. What few reminders we have on VHS are rotting quicker than we can convert them to digital files. So the moments we did manage to preserve are like holy relics, inspiring worship and sweet tears.
I found an old poster I’d saved from a CBGB’s gig. In my early 20s, I was in a band called The Woods with my boyfriend at the time and a lesbian couple from Baltimore who had just moved to New York. One of them, Linda Smith, made a name for herself in the indie cassette scene that thrived at that time. She released a handful of gorgeous albums of her songs, all recorded by herself on a 4-track Portastudio and released on cassette. I was very influenced by her ideas about music and art being things made by hand at home. (They lived in Greenpoint, in 1985. Let that sink in. It was a horrible neighborhood -- in a completely different way from the way in which it’s horrible now.)
The Woods played probably a total of 15 gigs, including a few live radio spots, over the course of about 3 years, put out a 7” single and recorded a bunch of other songs that we never released. That night at CBGB’s we were on a bill with Hugo Largo. Great band. We listened to their record “Drum” a lot.
I posted the poster on Facebook this week, tagged my old friends and bandmates, which inspired a flurry of nostalgia and spurred Linda to dig out our old recordings and send them to us as mp3s, rough mixes of some of that stuff we recorded and never released.
And this is a quick little movie I made with a handful of photos of us coming and going to various gigs. The song is I think maybe the second or third I ever wrote. I love listening to this old stuff. I hear the seeds of everything I’m doing now.