Monday, February 21, 2011
Fame is a strange thing. It’s not something tangible that sticks with a person. At its height, it can be frighteningly alluring, repulsive and inspiring all at the same time. When it wanes, you wonder why you or anyone else ever wasted their time; why that person endeavored or made the effort to put themselves or their work out into the public; or, if that person’s fame came without perceived labor, why you even bothered to care, why you wasted rainy nights or quiet mornings to follow their next thought, move or release. We all want to be relevant, but the degrees that separate relevance, fame and immortality are great and often confusing and it’s easy to forget what really matters or which aspect we truly want.
Forest City was clearly not a famous band. But to me, someone who is clearly biased, they were the best band in Brooklyn for a period of time. Their concerts were shambolic, loose and messy, but not in the legendary way that we remember Bob Dylan, the Replacements, Faces or Bruce Springsteen. They were messy because that’s just what they were. There was no great statement. The music was a take on country music, a sincere take that was meant to be lived in—and the band was lived in if it was anything. That is to say, four separate lives and ambitions carried on outside the parameters of the band and the shows they played, which made the fact that they were loose and messy make so much sense. Yet, in the days of head nodding and pretending to drink too much, Forest City concerts were the only places without computers were I saw honest dancing; where the sense of happiness, warmth and friendship that I look for in music best manifested itself in a close proximity to me (the albums I love are distant pinnacles with impossible sounding drums that play at the corners of my apartment on speakers and reverberate in my mind). People left Forest City concerts saying things about “fun” that eased my heart because, for a moment, they loved country music and that made me happy. And without knowing it, they loved what rock n’ roll was originally about: fun and loss.
In the midst of loving The Larry Sanders Show and watching the 2011 NBA All-Star Game in L.A., what I mean to say is that I’ve lived in Brooklyn for about three years. Nearly all of my friends are in bands. As someone who wants his words to be seen by the entire world, I know that all of us aren’t going to be famous. It is quite possible that the Tony Castles are the only band I know that are going to gain a modicum of fame; and even that isn’t a prediction. And I know that we’re going to feel shitty and petty toward each other to get to what we want, to get to that level of relevance for our work, of who we are, that level that may or may not resemble fame. Whatever that level of relevance may be, we should never forsake our art. And, even if we manage to do that, we will surely fall short of immortality.
And as I grow tired of Brooklyn and music and think about my search for an audience for my words, as I think about people that I’ve spent weekends with who have now died, I feel OK for moments about falling short of immortality. I feel OK because I know that I have this batch of songs. Not that they are extremely poignant or mind-blowing, but simply because they exist and I can remember a happiness from an era of my life as we move past it and into the vastness of whatever fortune will make of us or what we choose to make of it. I feel OK because in that era I could see these songs played on a Friday with friends, new characters in my life, new people who influenced me and one poor soul who I admired. In that era of song, I saw the first marriage of my young life unfold right before my eyes between two friends. And most of all, I formed a lifelong bond with someone who I thought would never be able to surprise me, which is a phenomenon that I am forever thankful for.
Of course, all of this isn’t in this set of eleven songs. However, some of it may be in you, so just take a listen.
Click here to listen to "Little Runner," track one of the Forest City album, Forest City.