Being a no-hit wonder, dear reader, I never thought I had written a signature song. However, seeing these two clips side by side made me think that possibly I have. The first is from New Band Night in The 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis during the summer of 1989. It was the first time I had played the song in public. The second is from the For the Love of Pop festival in The Bellhouse in Brooklyn April 11, 2012 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Chickfactor.
Being able to see performances of a song I wrote being played 23 years apart is really an intensely interesting thing – to me anyway! The song is my ode to the phenomena of internal emigration. Or as my friend Karrie once told me, “why do you try so hard to pretend you don’t live here?”
My experience with the real Amsterdam up to the point of the 1989 show had been one of wide-eyed wonder in the summer of 1986. I had traveled there and stayed a week after working 3-months in a pub outside of London in a suburb called Ruislip (no relation.) You might notice I don’t live in a zolder (attic) in the Van Wou Straat in the first version, because I hadn’t yet made its acquaintance.
My favorite part of the clip is seeing Rena playing the bass, the same one the band still uses. As most of you know, she died less than a year later in a traffic accident when we returned from The Netherlands after spending a school year there. She was the subject of many songs I wrote before and after her death. I think it is funny she is wearing stripes, de rigueur at The Bell House show, 23 years ahead of her time I guess.
Special thanks to Allison LaBonne for converting the Rena and Her Men show to digital for me and to Bleary Eyed Brooklyn for committing the Chickfactor show to digital for posterity. Also, a heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to learn and play this song with me over the years, I’m truly grateful.