I cannot believe that Bowery Poetry Club closed last night! I had no idea that was happening. It’s going to reopen as a “supper club,” whatever the fuck that is.
I know this will sound weird to New Yorkers who were adults in the 80s and 90s, but I miss the East Village of the early 00s! When I moved here, I had a tangible sense that the “actual” NYC downtown art scene was sort of over, and that, even though things sucked now, we were all still making work in the context of that history. And it was easy to think that, because, although nearly all of my contemporaries lived in Brooklyn and Queens, we all hung out in the East Village. Like: all of the time. I lived in Astoria for two years, but the East Village was my neighborhood. I’d spend every Monday night at the Sidewalk Cafe for the anti-hoot, and then run over to Bowery Poetry Club for the O’Debra Twins’ open mic. The performance scene was based on constant trial and error. Open stages. Trying shit out. You could perform everywhere without getting booked anywhere. It was spontaneous and weird and stupid and fun, even though it was surrounded by douchey bars, even though we couldn’t afford to eat in most of the restaurants, and even though we could NEVER afford to actually live in the neighborhood.
When I talk to young, early-20-something artists in NYC today - especially queer artists - I realize how lucky I am to have caught the last echo of a more integrated, local, spontaneous performance world. Once Brooklyn venues started providing a reasonable alternative to the E.V., people stopped congregating in the same, tiny neighborhood. Everything felt more spread-out. More ambling. Less desperate or relentless or fast. Less New York.
The Bowery Poetry Club scene in the early/mid 00s was weird and fucked up and sometimes kinda mean. It was insane and stupid and brilliant, and full of insane, stupid, brilliant people, many of whom I really loved, and who changed my life.
I feel bratty, talking like this. East Village nostalgia is for people older than me. It’s weird that I have it. It’s maybe even offensive. I don’t care.
There’s a 7-11 on the Bowery now. Nothing I will ever say or do will be as stupid as that.
How much of this post is just totally wrong? Lemme know.
actually have similar feelings. I began venturing into the East Village in 2000 or 2001. I feel in love with that place, and my friends and I spent all of our free time down there. It was obvious that we had missed the neighborhood’s electric heyday, but there were still remnants of that infamous electric punk spirit. It felt a lot less alienating to be the weird kid around St. Marks than the Upper West Side…