Goodbye to All of You (who want to go)

Sunset Park at winter twilight is a surreal and magical place

I composed this post while I was walking home through the silent, Brooklyn, evening during a mid-winter snowstorm. I love the times when NYC is quiet and feels like it’s taking a rare, much needed pause. I just had drinks at my favorite local bar with K., the kind of place that is dim and mellow, with chatty bar tenders and perfect Manhattans every night of the week except Friday and Saturday evenings, when it seems to be taken over by obnoxious hordes. We were talking about the difficulty and constant hustle of establishing ones self and building a satisfying professional life in New York City. Somedays it feels particularly out of reach. The economy is markedly improved in recent years, because of that, more and more people want to come to live here. I always maintained that creative, smart people had a better chance to find work here than elsewhere because there were simply more opportunities available. However, there’s also a lot more competition.

New York will always draw the young, the not-so-young, the creative and ambitious. That’s part of what makes it an exciting place to be. But now with the “brand” of Brooklyn being synonymous with global cool, silicon alley rivaling silicon valley for tech innovation, and shows like Girls broadcasting an unrealistic version of what it means to be a twenty-something in Brooklyn the NYC cool factor is having a real cultural moment. I feel like it’s really putting a lot of pressure, financial and otherwise, on opportunities like jobs, social events and housing for people in my age range.

... Except if they do

Moments like this never fail… by Dzine

Lately I found myself discouraging my peers who casts doubts on living in NYC from moving out. “I spent time in 24 different US cities last year!” I tell them, “I loved them all, they are all interesting places full of creative, smart people doing cool things, but I don’t want to live in any of them! I want to live here!” I say.

“Look at the access you have to culture, public transit, great food, innovative projects, and you don’t have to own a car!” I’ll argue.

“Feel the lack of social pressure!” I’ll implore, “You can be exactly who you want to be here!”

But tonight I had a change of heart. I realized I wasn’t so much trying to convince them to stay as to convince myself that I have made the right decision. It’s as if I’m worried I’ll be left clinging to a relationship that’s run its course out of nostalgia of how things used to be when the object of my affection, and all of my friends, have moved on. What I realized is that I need to feel confident enough about my decision to dig my heels in here and stay and let others go through their own discovery process with what they need in a place to live and what they need in life.

I wrote this past fall about the backlash many artists and writers have felt against the city because they moved here to pursue their artistic dreams and felt that the reality fell short of their romantic notions. I start to wonder why I stayed and stayed devoted to the the idea that one can build a creative life here or anywhere. And then I realized this:

My romantic notions of my New York City life lasted about 3 weeks. I moved here in late August of 2001 to start college. On September 11th, I realized with a sinking feeling how little I knew about world politics, NYC, or what my life would look for feel like after that day. I realized quickly that the city owed me nothing and any attempt I might have to control my experience here would be in vain. It was in that moment I knew I could throw in the towel and go back to the life I had in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine or stay and tough it out. I knew if I stayed I was making a long term commitment to the city. I decided to stay.

I’ve stayed in NYC through loneliness, depress, recession, my saturn returns (if you believe in that stuff), and long enough to build up a career and now, begin pursuing a different direction. I’ve earned two degrees, become fluent in a second language, started to learn to code, played in bands, written a book, become a confident NYC cyclist, planned and then abandoned plans to move to Paris or LA, and most of all, eeked out a somewhat stable life for myself working in the arts, culture and education field, while nurturing friendships, hopes, dreams and plans.

Our rock'n'roll lifestyle to do list

NYC rock’n’roll life style to do list at my band practice space

In high school a teacher told me, “You can live however you want in New York City,” when I confessed to her my dream to study and live here. Since then I’ve taken her advice to heart. But living how you want in NYC often means doing so on the city’s terms. And that can be a tough proposition. So, if you find you can’t live how you want here, there’s no harm and no foul. There’s a place out there for you. It’s waiting. Go. there are so many places to be be cultured, innovative and interesting. To launch new businesses and make new art. And no matter what, New York City’s frenetic rhythm continues, whether it’s the current barometer of cultural cool or not, and honestly, whether you or I are here at all.  But I plan to be here. You are always welcome to come back to visit.

Writerly love for New York City

New York you do not disappoint take 2

Every New York-based publication I’ve picked up lately has had an article about young people, mostly writers or artists or other privileged creative types, packing up their bags and saying “Good riddance” to New York City. Many of them are inspired by the new anthology edited by Sari Barton, Goodbye to All That: On Loving and Leaving New York. The publisher must have had some great PR work because big articles about this “trend” heavily reference the book and have appeared quite notably in New York Magazine and the New York Times. The articles all mention that Joan Didion’s iconic essay “Goodbye to All That” inspired much of the writing (as well as the title) and Didion’s essay is certainly among my favorites ever written about being young and creative in New York City. However, reading all of these articles I felt a kernel of annoyance welling up in me. Of course I don’t begrudge anyone’s decision to leave the city, but I realized that I’ve been through an opposite thought process this past year, and wanted to give the city a little writerly love.

This time last year I was convinced I needed to get out of New York City. I felt done with it and, further more, done with the high cost of living, terrible weather, and the fact that it smells like garbage most of the time. A year ago I was convinced that at present I would be packing my bags and my cat and heading out to sunny Los Angeles.

Before I tell you about my change of heart about New York, let’s review the facts: The New York City is expensive and only seems to be getting more so. Rents are insane, it’s difficult to find a decent place to live, and daily life often feels like one hassle after another. Everything feels intensely competitive, it really does smell like garbage most of the time, extreme injustice and inequality gets thrown in your face almost every second, and commuting on the over burdened subway system sucks.

When I moved here to go to college I told myself I would leave soon after. I kept giving myself “one more year in New York” until I decamped to Portland, Oregon or Paris. That “one more year” became “three more years” became “I’m not going to leave.” I realized that the community I’d cultivated here couldn’t be picked up and moved to another place and that New York offered the kind of opportunities I wanted to find.

This year I felt like I spent almost as much time out of New York as in it. I traveled all around the Midwest, Texas and the West and East Coasts. I made multiple trip to Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and Portland, Oregon. I was charmed by places I’d never been to before, like Omaha, Cincinnati, and Tulsa. I found that with the growth in appreciation for things that are handmade and locally produced wherever I went to I was never too far from cold brew iced coffee, artisanal cocktails, and farm-to-table meals.  I met inspiring people who are pursuing creative and entrepreneurial projects and working to help others in their towns and cities do the same. I think on the Grow book tours alone I visited 24 different cities, and visited even more when I factor in other work and family travel. So I feel like I got a pretty good sense of the country in a pretty short period of time. And what all that travel showed me is that while I think it’s crucial to get out of the city and that so many places have wonderful things to offer, New York is the only place I want to come back to. It’s the place I want to call home.

New York you do not disappoint take 1

There’s a huge number of smart, talented, driven and creative people living here and those are the types of people who I want to be around. Those are the people I want to meet and learn from and have as my friends. As I work to transition my career from arts nonprofits to creative startups I realized that it’s much easier to do this in a city that is a center of both cultural organizations and a huge, quickly growing number of startup businesses. I also realized that, as much as I complain about it, New York has a great infrastructure in terms of public transportation and is getting progressively more and more bikeable.

Is it hard to “make it” as a writer and creative here? Sure it is, but where is it not? Does one need to live in NYC to write, play music, make art or launch the next cool start up? No, of course not, but I find that is I want to find people who are doing these things, there’s a great concentration of them in NYC. On a typical day here I can write in a bustling coffee shop, ride my bike across a bridge that is an architectural icon, visit a world class museum, browse a farmers market, learn to code, go to a punk rock exercise class, head to band practice and then a dance party that puts an emphasis on fake blood and homemade costumes. This is the way I want to live my life.

Beyond all of this is the feeling that I can be exactly who I am in New York City. The city is vast and diverse and as such, there’s far less pressure to cave into social norms, or to live life according on anyone’s schedule except my own.

I also know that New York City owes me nothing. What I’m able to do here is directly related to what I’m willing to put in. The city does not owe me a living and I fear that those who quit the city with a feeling of “Good riddance!” deep down felt like somehow they were owed something simply because they were young, smart, privileged and wanted to make their way here.

Working job #2. Sunset is a reward for the hustle.

Of course, leaving a city is a highly personal decision. I think New York has something for everyone if you are willing to look for it, but it won’t offer it up without a fight. Whether you stay somewhere depends on your personal goals. For example, I know a suburban or rural lifestyle with a car, dog, yard, house and children is absolutely not for me.

Of course, New York is changing and not always for the better. Is the city better off because of the plethora of glassy luxury condos and Duane Reades that have sprouted up over the past few years? I’d say not really, but I also think that New York has a grittiness that difficult to tame. Does the level of inequality here drive me crazy? Absolutely. But living in New York is messy, complicated, intense and frustrating. It’s also exhilarating, rewarding and completely absorbing. I’m a high energy intense person who loves a good challenge and need a city that matches these qualities in me. So hello to all of this. This is one writer who is happy she’s stayed.

The Same Blue Skies

Want for this city and for this world now what I wanted then: peace, justice & understanding

It’s the perfect blue skies that always remind me of that morning eleven years ago now. The skies and the air feel the same and that’s always what takes me back.

Last year was the big 10th anniversary of September 11th 2001 that also marked my ten years in New York that inspired more lengthy reflections. My feelings about the political and emotional circumstances around this day have not changed much since last year and the same feeling are echoed even further back. I’m tired of war and tired of patriotism and ready for real critical reflection, justice and peace. Searching in my old files, I found this piece I wrote about September 11 in 2003:

“On that morning language failed… In those moments of not knowing, not being able to articulate what was going on on a massive scale, I knew that never again could I believe in a narrow idea of “truth.”  No singular narrative could ever capture that, or any experience.  Of course, since then I’ve witnessed many attempts to manipulate these diverse and disparate narratives into one master narrative.  A narrative that believes in an idea of “America” as benevolent while at the same time baying for vengeance…

Remembering September 11th is a reminder to me of how the damage done by violence of any kind is permanent.  Whether that violence is an act of war, abuse, police brutality, or not having food, housing or medical care, or is emotional, physical, sexual, or psychological.  These types and acts of violence are not the same, but the systems that perpetuate them are similar and inter-related…  Because it continues to haunt me I know I need to oppose domination and oppression, and the acts of violence that feed them, everywhere.  I feel I must do this in order for healing to be possible.  Healing is possible, even though the effects of violence stay with us.  I believe this because I feel everyone’s life needs to be about more than just survival.”

Reading this now I still stand behind the politics and emotions expressed in that piece. However, I think, I have found a way to heal by slowly, deliberately and stubbornly building a life in this city. I have worked hard to find health and creativity and to inspire that in others. I still struggle with how best I can help contribute to a city that’s a just and beautiful place to live for all and how I can support and engage my own creativity, but I feel my small daily contributions and actions strive towards these ideals.

My life, and New York City, is obviously so different than it was eleven years ago. I had no idea how to picture myself at 31 at that time. Being an adult seemed impossibly far away with such a looming and intense event in the foreground. Looking back today I can say that the 20 year old me who witnessed those tragic events from my 6th floor dorm room in Union Square would be pleased with the 31 year old I have become looking at two towers of light rising into the sky in remembrance and tribute from Brooklyn.

GO See Art in Brooklyn This Weekend!

As some of you know, for the past few months I’ve been working on GO, a borough-wide, community-curated open studio event organized by the Brooklyn Museum. After months of planning, preparation and outreach the open studio weekend is upon us! This Saturday and Sunday, September 8th and 9th, over 1,700 artists with studios all over Brooklyn will open their doors to you from 11 am to 7 pm.  I am so excited about GO because it showcases the diversity of artistic talent that Brooklyn has to offer. It also gives viewers the chance to see art in places they never knew artists were working, whether that’s under their nose in their own neighborhood or farther afield.

I’ve been working as the neighborhood coordinator for my beloved neighborhood, Sunset Park, where 160 artists will open their studios! I knew artists worked in the neighborhood, but I’ve been so pleased about just how many artists there are and how many want to participate in GO. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to think about how we can continue to promote art in Sunset Park as a group and our first small step is a Tumblr page, Sunset Park Artists, for participating artists to share images of new work and work in progress. There’s also two fantastic nonprofits, Chashama and the New York Art Residency and Studio Foundation that offer artists affordable studio space, and many artists with studios in these buildings are participating. I’ve also put together a Sunset Park guide of places to eat and hang out before, after or during seeing studios. Why not make a weekend out of coming to Sunset Park? All of these sites give you a little taste of what you will find here in the neighborhood!

To learn more about participating in GO as a viewer and voter, search neighborhoods and explore the profiles participating artists visit gobrooklynart.org. If you want more information about Sunset Park artists stop by the Green Fig Cafe on Saturday or Sunday between 11 and 3 and I’ll give you all the information you need to get out and see art. See you in the studios!

The Summer So Far

Beach life, Fourth of July edition

Robert Moses State Park, July 4

It’s a cliche to say it, but can you believe how fast the summer goes? All around me I see announcements for “the last (your summertime activity here) of the season!” Already? I’m still sorting through my photos from France and there will be a myriad of posts coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s a little review of my summer activity so far. Enjoy and bon week-end!

Fireworks over manhattan (from Brooklyn)

Fireworks from a Greenpoint roof, July 4

Landing in Iceland with the midnight sun

11:30 pm “sunset” in Iceland, mid-July

Paris et ses nuages vue de haute

Rainy Paris, from le Ciel de Paris, Tour de Montparnasse

Prendre un apéro plus haute que la tour Eiffel... Check!

Cheers! With Byglam in Paris

Reportage direct de Paris: le temps de merde continue

Moody Paris skies, mid-July

Petit dej pour mon dej

Paris may have rain, but also, croissants!

Quiiiiick! Le soleil!!!!

And when Paris is sunny, there’s no where better!

Sète! Quelle belle ville! Merci @clumsy_maria pour la Tournée!

Escape to Sete and the sun in the south of France

Super déjeuner avec les fruits de mer et @clumsy_maria

Seafood feast in Sete with Clumsy Maria

A taste of the sweet life

Pool time in Provence

Beaux couleurs!

Exploring Provence by bike, mid-July

Merci mes amies pour le super soirée!

Back to Paris to wish our friends Au Revoir!

Made it to the farm in time for a beautiful ceremony!

…and directly to upstate New York for a beautiful farm wedding!

Mission of Burma hipster paradise

Mission of Burma, Ted Leo and Wild Flag for free in Prospect Park

It was a lovely beach day!

Back to Robert Moses State Park, early August

Chillin' with @easylovernyc

Corita played a show at Don Pedro’s with Easy Lover (above), Paper Fleet and Space Merchants

Now it's the ladies' turn! Let's go Brooklyn Bombshells!

Brooklyn Bombshells won a rollerderby match at Coney Island!

On a ferris wheel looking out on Coney Island...

… and after Corita rode the Wonder Wheel

Toasting a Brooklyn day well lived!

A toast to a summer well spent!

Punk Rope Games Recap

Team Henri the Depressed French Cat: Peter, Me, Marisha and Brian

For the first time since I was sixteen and used to compete in horse shows, I got up early on a Sunday morning for a sporting event. The event was the fourth annual Punk Rope Games, where teams of punk ropers competed in events like the chicken toss relay, as well as more “traditional” jump rope events, in addition to performing a fight song to show off their skills.

Gang of Genghis Khan conquer the doubles jump

I love punk rope because it combines fitness drills with serious fun, absurdity, music and team spirit. Tim and Shana, who run Punk Rope, are the most giving and energetic people who make the idea of fitness accessible to those who whose first impulse is not to be active.

The “Asian Contagion” team show off their infectious skills during their fight song. Jeremy (in the front) just got a bronze metal in a national jump rope competition!

My bandmate Marisha signed me up to participate in the games and after some brainstorming we opted for the surreal and based our look and name our favorite internet video of the moment of Henri, the depressed French cat.

This being our first games, and the fact we hardly practiced at all, meant that we manged to not score any points. I do think we nailed our 75 second “fight song” routine, which we did to that enduring 90s classic “Jump Around” by House of Pain. The downside of this is that song is now stuck in my head. And the lyrics are way worse than I remember.

Cat moves during our team “fight song” performance

Floor punch!

Concentration during the chicken toss relay

We also managed to heckle and cheer the other teams in bizarre, not quite French accents using odd expressions that proclaimed the superiority of the French culture and lifestyle (you all know I love France and I love to laugh at it too as much as I like to laugh at my own country).

Team Henri the Depressed French Cat

The teams performances and costumes made the event like a mash up between gym class and CHERYL, my favorite arty, off the hook dance party.

“Plague” from team Asian Contagion. She made her rat wig herself!

The eventual champions, Phat Positive, also put together a video to show off their skills even before the games. They have raised the bar for next year, and next year, my teammates and I will be ready.

Phat Positive performing their “fight song”

Phat Positive: 2012 Punk Rope games victors

However, my favorite part of the games was the after party, where we got to revel in the camaraderie that is Punk Rope. Of course, I had to change my clothes and put together  a relaxed, sporty outfit for the occasion.

Punk Rope Games after party outfit. T-shirt and skirt by American Apparel, ASOS “Deny” wedge sneakers. Thanks to Marisha for the photo!

What gets you up early on a Sunday morning?

The final scores. We scored a crying cat!

Thank you to Felicity Hogan for the great shots of Team Henri in action!

Hey, Brooklyn! Let’s GO see art!

I’m really excited to tell you about a great, new project that I’m involved in. The Brooklyn Museum, my favorite museum in the world, has launched GO, a community-curated, open studio event.  During GO, Brooklyn-based artists are asked to open their studios to the community on September 8–9, 2012. Community members registered as voters will visit studios and nominate artists for inclusion in a group exhibition to open at the Museum on Target First Saturday, December 1, 2012.

GO brings together so many of my favorite things: contemporary art, the Brooklyn art scene, social media, and the cultural life of the borough. Knowing that Brooklyn is a huge borough with 71 square miles and 67 different neighborhoods, the Brooklyn Museum is working with 22 neighborhood coordinators to help get the word out. I’m serving as a neighborhood coordinator for my favorite Brooklyn neighborhood, Sunset Park. If you see a redhead taking up posters or distributing GO postcards along 5th avenue or down in the industrial waterfront, that just might be me! You can meet the different coordinators, learn about art highlights in different neighborhoods, and learn more about the GO project on the very lively GO tumblr.

If you are artist with a studio in Brooklyn you have until June 29 to register to participate in the open studio weekend. You can find out more  and register on the GO website. If you don’t have a studio, but want to go see art in Brooklyn on September 8th and 9th, mark your calendar! Registration for voters opens August 1st.

Brighton Beach Memoirs

I want to feel the sand beneath my feet

June is always a fickle month. It’s not quite summer, but I’m already itching to go to the beach, to feel the sand between my toes, the sun on my back, and to spend long lazy days by the ocean or on the board walk, letting my cares drift away.

Down on the boardwalk

For a June birthday celebration we wove a nautical theme into a Saturday afternoon with clams at Randazzo’s Clam Bar in Sheepshead Bay (offering fried seafood that is, reportedly “the pride of Sheepshead Bay”), a walk along the board walk at Brighton Beach and a stop at Ruby’s Bar in Coney Island. In honor of all things sea worthy I pulled out my old favorite LL Bean tote bag and paired it with a very matching Built by Wendy dress.

This was the perfect outfit to show off my new Ellips shoes from designer Priscille Demanche’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection. She had a 4 day sale on my birthday and when I emailed her and said that I was offering myself a pair of her sandals as a gift she gave me free shipping all the way from France! What a darling! And hurry, she has organized a sale to benefit a charity of your choice on her past season collections just until Friday the 15th. Up to 60% off and a donation to a good cause! Shop your shoes at the Ellips site here (don’t hesitate to email Priscille if you are ordering from outside of France) and vote on which association should benefit here.

See you on the beach and the boardwalk this summer!

Thanks to my friend Heather Donahue for the lovely photographs!

En Fleur!

Cardigan: Brooklyn Industries, Blouse: Jennifer Glasgow, Belt: H&M, Pants: Zara, Shoes: Soda (from Modcloth). Photo by Christian

There’s a few weeks in April and May that are fleetingly perfect. The sun is out, the breeze blows, you can wear stylish layers, but not overheat, and still not freeze if you happen to forget your jacket. Flowers pop and everywhere you look there is renewed energy, color and vigor. This past weekend was an oportune time to pay a spring visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens where, thanks to a strangely warm spring, the cherry trees and lilacs are in full bloom several weeks early.

Azaleas at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

In planning my outfit I wanted to dress to match the colors I knew would be in full effect and also dress to around comfortably. Azaleas, lilacs, cherry trees, tulips, and peonies are all in bloom right now…  I knew the color palate would be pink, fuchsia, lavender, magenta and rose, so I put together the hot colors of the season: tangerine and bright pink, with the print of the season: floral. It was the perfect time to introduce my new shirt by Canadian designer Jennifer Glasgow that I bought in Montreal. With transparent tangerine and floral prints its on trend and timeless. Also, do you like how my pants disappear into the azalea bushes? Finally, did you know you can check out the status of the cherry blossoms at BBG on their bloom map?

Photo by Christian

I love the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in any season, but in early spring it is over the top with color and flowers. It’s wonderful for a weekend morning wander with friends and as a word to the wise, if you get there between 10 am and noon on Saturday entry is free! What is your favorite thing to do in spring?

Walking among the cherry blossoms

Lilacs are on of my favorite flowers. Couldn't you just smell them all day?

Cherry blossoms and blue sky. I tend to take the same photos every year at the Botanic Gardens.

Celebrating under the cherry trees. Photo by Christian

Tulips at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Oooh Chickfactor

Rose Melberg of the Softies and Pam Berry of Black Tambourine during Black Tambourine's set. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo, originally posted on Brooklyn Vegan.

When the MC on the second night of Chickfactor zine’s For the Love of Pop 20th anniversary show admitted to being, “A zip code fetishists who sent concealed pocket money to mysterious post offices boxes in hopes that weeks, sometimes months, later news from the outside world in the form of zines and records would return to my mysterious post office box,” I shared a knowing look with the group of ladies I had come to the show with. We could relate. We all met each other through the post and once referred to ourselves as the “Zine Girl Army.”

Zine Girl Army reunited. Keight "Pink Tea," Eleanor "Indulgence" (me!), Marissa "Red Hooded Sweatshirt," Yumi "External Text." Photo by Laura "Other Ramona."

Chickfator was, at times, infuriatingly snobby and unabashedly self referential. The editors, Gail O’Hara and Pam Berry, had impeccable taste in independent and underground pop music. The magazine was mostly a showcase of the editors friends and they referred to them by their first name and the name of their project, for example “Gail Chickfator.” In the late 1990′s and early 2000′s I loved to read it for a window into a world of indie musicians, both ladies and dudes, that interacted and partied and frankly, existed, somewhere outside of my small town, teenaged life. My friend Alex used to get so annoyed at Chickfactor’s inflated tone of self-importance he would rant ad nauseam on about it, but of course, couldn’t wait until the next issue came out. Chickfactor, and other zines like it, set the tone and the scene for today’s music blogs and helped paved the way for the explosion of indie pop bands like The Pains for Being Pure at Heart hitting it big time.

The cover of Chickfactor #10

No matter how you felt about it, Chickfactor had a magnetism and a draw larger than the publication itself. Twenty years later they were able to pull off a three-night extravaganza in two cities featuring bands who I thought had long since broke up with no chance of reunion. Lois, Small Factory, and Black Tambourine.  And the Aislers Set! A favorite band from the moment I heard them in 1998 until they stopped playing so frequently, perhaps circa 2004? Since my head has been in the sand about music since about 2008, I relied on Dominick to give me a hot tip about the reunion and bought tickets the minute they went on sale.

Zine Girl Army reunited and on the march!

More Zine Girl Army! This time with Laura!

The Chickfactor shows were like a class reunion of people I actually wanted to see. It was a reunion of those of us poured our hearts out in letters and cassette tapes and sent them to each other. Laster some of those friends became my everyday friends (and still are) and close neighbors. Seeing people I used to see at shows was almost as exciting as the music itself. Perhaps most awesome, Marissa “Red Hooded Sweatshirt” came down from Boston to join Laura “The Other Ramona,” Keight “Pink Tea,” Yumi “External Text” and me (Eleanor “Indulgence”) for pre-Aislers Set tacos. We all used to go to shows together in Boston and attend zine events around the northeast over ten years ago. When we sat down to eat tacos Laura turned to Marissa and said, “I haven’t seen you in 11 years!”

My friend Kirsten “Lightening Bug” surprised me by flying into Chicago. We staked out space by the front of the stage for Black Tambourine and the next night, for Aislers Set. She reminded me that she had visited me in NYC in 2002 to see the Aislers Set in Williasmburg when I said something to the effect of, “This neighborhood is just getting really gentrified” to explain it to her. “It’s our 10 year Aislers Set reunion!” she announced.

The reunited bands full of energy and sparkle and sounded as fresh as they did ten or fifteen or twenty years ago. Lois performed with Peter from Heavenly and Molly Neuman and played “Strumpet,” which I quoted on my senior page in the yearbook.

Lois performing with Pete from Heavenly. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo, originally posted on Brooklyn Vegan.

My heart raced as she sang, “I laugh too much, I talk too loud, people stare at me when I’m in a crowd, you say I walk around like I own the whole place, but I do, but anyone else can have it all too, just walk around the town like you own it.”  I turned to my friend Amelia, who also went to my high school, “This was on my senior page!” I whispered. She smiled, “I know.”

Pam Berry singing in Black Tambourine. Photo by Dominick Mastrangelo, originally posted on Brooklyn Vegan.

Black Tambourine were revelatory. So many bands now are playing washed out, reverbed out, noisy music with bitter sweet vocals (ahem, my band might do this too), but Black Tambourine helped start that sound. Hearing them alive made all those who cite them as a reference seem pale in comparison.

Small Factory also rocked out with upbeat disappointment and plenty of jagged, self effacing lyrics. They played one my favorite song, singing the chorus loud and heartfelt, “I’m not giving up, I’m not giving up on nothing, I still believe in nothing, just not so much in love.” To hear these words ring out over buzzing guitars and a sea of people left me feeling like if I’m still here, still listening to this music and still loving it as much as ever, I must have done something right in my life.

The second night British folk singer Bridget St. John entranced me with her ethereal yet earthy songs, but the real highlight for me was The Aislers Set, who played at the very end of the night. My friends and I staked out space in the front of the stage and refused to move. “We’re doing this 90’s style!” Constance announced, meaning, we’re staking our claim and not moving, just like we used to do as younger music fans. It was worth it. To have no frustratingly tall people between us and Linton and watch every strum of her 12 string guitar was better than I could have even dared to hope for.

Linton and Alicia of the Aislers Set

I love the Aislers Set. Their songs are catchy and poppy, and Linton’s lyrics are like stories that you tell someone about the small thoughts you have everyday that somehow add up to a profound reflection on your life. Her imagery always makes me soar, “The queen of every rooftop,” is one line I love. Their sound is big – big guitars, big pounding drums, big layers and harmonies, but still delicate and jangly.

As I soaked in their songs I realized a significant portoin of my life from about age 18 to 23 was spent listening to the Aislers Set. When they played “Mary’s Song,” with its wistful start and bass line that comes in like a tug on your heart strings tears came to my eyes. In away, I thought, my dreams from the time I listened to these records on repeat have come true, but I still feel the same wistfulness and longing that this song so perfectly captures.

When the Aislers Set took the stage an audience member cried out, “It’s been too long!” Indeed, it has been. My life has been missing the Aislers Set.

The multi-talented Linton. Trumpet and guitar at the same time!

I don’t know if there will ever be a new issue of Chickfactor, but if there is I will surely read it. I am grateful for the community I know and got to re-experience at the shows thanks to zines and 90’s indie rock. I’m grateful that creative people who make music and help make my world so great are in my city and I don’t have to wait for their letters in my mailbox. I’m grateful the rise of social media has made keeping tabs on a wider scene so much easier. But the Chickfactor shows also demonstrated how much was built during those days of zip code fetishism. As Lois sang, “I make a scene, I read about my scene in a magazine.” She then added, “I’m glad that for me at that time it was magazines because Tumblr just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”