I used to live here. That doorway where the woman is standing? 128 St. Mark’s Place, right around the corner from Avenue A. It was a crappy 400 square foot garden level studio that was 3 blocks away from art school and a centrally located meeting point for all the East Village characters in my life back then. Funny, but I realized that I hadn’t walked on this stretch of St. Mark’s in well over a decade. It’s really hard to walk around this neighborhood and not feel a lot of nostalgia, but Friday it felt fitting to walk down those streets that at one time felt like home, but now often feels so removed from what it was like back then. I was in the neighborhood on Friday night because I accepted a spontaneous offer to see Echo & the Bunnymen with Anna from Door 16 and I suggested getting dinner at Yaffa Cafe before the show and we both said “YES!”.
I think my first visit to Yaffa was in 1988. A friend I had met in art school, who would later become my boyfriend, took me there on Halloween before we headed to a party and we sat down next to a guy in an octopus costume playing the piano. It wouldn’t be my last visit to Yaffa, particularly since I ended up in that studio just a few doors down, but it had been a good 20 years since the last time I was there. I was happy to see that the place really hasn’t changed AT ALL. The same kitchy decor, the same mural in that massive backyard, the same sunshine burger platter. Who knew that back in ’88, this place would be considered “Old School East Village”?
As for the concert, Echo & the Bunnymen was a band that I was really into in high school, right up there with the Smiths, the Cure and New Order. I even drew a large drawing of the band in pencil, a copy of the cover from their self titled 1987 album, and taped it onto my big black portfolio that all the art majors lugged around in high school. I had never seen them live and knew they were playing in NY, but didn’t really know anyone who might want to go. It was a total right timing/coincidental fluke thing on twitter when Anna said she had an extra ticket for me and really, I can’t think of a better person to go to an Echo & the Bunnymen concert with, can you?
The band sounded phenomenal, but OMG people, I am old. And not because I was the oldest person there. On the contrary, I actually felt kind of young in that crowd and that’s not something that happens very often anymore. But with my back problems I was in serious discomfort standing around in one place for 4 hours, and so was Anna. Apparently we weren’t the only ones in pain as the dude in front of us kept stretching and squatting with his hands on his hips. You never know what kind of crowd you’ll find at concerts, but there’s usually a guarantee that the people will be entertaining. We were standing directly next to a group of guys who looked and acted like they were at a Jets or Packers game and not so much like they were at a post-punk, 80s Brit pop concert. They high-fived each other after every song and gave each other frequent man hugs. I may have even heard an “I love you, man” uttered once or twice. It was truly the single most amazing display of male bonding I had ever seen. They were sort of annoying in that they were loud and rowdy, but they knew every single word to every single song and was therefore awesome in one sense, even though I would have rather heard Mac’s voice sing the songs than theirs. I just kept trying to visualize what these 5 guys might have been like back in high school. Who knows, maybe they were like any of the guys I went to high school with, but they were clearly in love with the band and each other and having the best time reliving their youth, just like almost every other person there that night.
Good times (minus the back and leg pain, of which I am still recovering from).