"We were standing
At Forsythe and Bowery,
Flowers and painted forehead
Trying to forget
You can't tell if the ceiling's rising
Or if the floor's falling out.
At the time I wasn't with you
By that time I didn't care"
-"Bowery," Local Natives
This week's visit took me to Sarah Roosevelt Park which falls between Chrystie and Forsyth, skirting the north and south of the Lower East Side. It's a beautiful stretch down Forsyth Street, but my heart tells me it was no walk in the park that inspired the lyrics of "Bowery" by Local Natives.
The song is achingly personal, much like the rest of the album, which is a window into darker times for the band. Kelcey Ayer, vocalist, keyboardist, and lyricist, shared that together they were wracked with the loss of Ayer's mother, the departure of their bassist Andy Hamm, and relationship troubles, following their debut album Gorilla Manor. The beautiful byproduct of these troubled times came to be called Hummingbird.
It was a day of pink blossoms and blue skies with white clouds, strikingly reminiscent of the background and color palette of the Hummingbird album cover (which you can see on the playlist I've created to supplement blog posts.)
Interestingly enough, there is no corner of Forsyth and Bowery. Perhaps the lyrics refer to two separate corners, or, most likely, they refer to the Bowery area, rather than Bowery Street. Above is the corner of Forsyth looking down Rivington Street and below is the corner of Forsyth and Delancey Street. While I do not know this to be fact, I imagine that the lyrics refer to the corner pictured below, because Delancey Street runs along the Bowery, and the Bowery Ballroom, where the band has performed, sits at the corner of Delancey Street and Bowery Street. This corner is very central in the LES, and is brushed closely with the bustling nightlife. I'm sure many memories are made here.
I stopped to take a photo of the sky on my way to the Essex subway station. From where I stood, it looked like this white dagger seemed to end somewhere on Forsyth. I don't know, it just seemed symbolic, and a little bit sad.
There is not much for me to say, as the broken relationship in "Bowery" is not mine to explain.
But because pieces of this experience have been shared and immortalized into art, there's a sense of beckoning by them to be heard. Likewise the sights described in the song seem so ready to be beheld. I feel honored at the invitation to ache alongside this band.
It's amazing how intimate music can be, how committed artists are to their craft in sickness, in health, joy, and sorrow. And I vouch that their loving listeners feel exactly the same way.