Anyway, he showed me this video from They Might Be Giants, a song called “Canajoharie.”
Why does it matter? Well two things:
Before I was exposed to OK Computer in 97, all I listened to was They Might Be Giants and Queen. Yeah it was some pretty dope times growing up with “Flood” and “A Night at The Opera” in the tape deck. but the second reason is that Canajoharie is where I grew up. All 18 years in that little town.
Back in its heyday it was a pretty hoppin’ place (I’m talking like the 1800s) It was something like the 11thish most populated american “city” during this time. Look it up, it’s true. Bartlett Arkell pretty much made the area. With the help of the Erie Canal he made it a thriving industrial town. And now. . . well, now you’ve never heard of it till just now. Factories are empty. Not much going on.
Which is sad because imagine the kind of enormous luxury lofts you could make in those abandoned factories and warehouses.
It reminds me of North Adams Mass, when Matt and I went there for the Solid Sound festival (see blog post below) except North Adams made a turn. As Mass MoCA came in and put the town on the map, suddenly it became a destination. The abandoned factories are now museums, the abandoned warehouses now lofts and condos. It’s still sleepy except for when Wilco comes to town but at least the town got a second chance, another life.”Canjo” is where North Adams would be if Mass MoCA and following artists never settled there.
How do you do that? How do you make an area desirable? Is Canjo too far in the middle of nowhere to ever make a comeback? Is it too far away from the city to ever have a chance? Albany is 45 mins away if you speed a bit on the thruway. Would Albany need to be more desirable before we can have this conversation? There’s no train to New York City from there, does that make it disqualified? Ithaca is REALLY in the middle of nowhere and yet that’s a great town. Would it be without Cornell and Ithaca College? If not then where did the hippies come from?
We will play the Albany Restoration Festival, RESTFest, this year, as we did last year. It’s a music festival to raise funds to restore St. Joesph’s Cathedral. It’s a community action project that we and b3nson believe in. It’s a beautiful cathedral that we want to stop crumbling, we want to see it come back to life. But how do you make an entire town stop crumbling? How do you bring a town back to life? Does MASS MoCA #2 (NY MoCA?) need to set up shop in the empty Beech-Nut Factory? Does Cornell #2 need to set up a satellite college on the hill? Where do you start? Do you even start? Apathy is our generation’s drug of choice, and I guess I’m hooked on it too. But sometimes I want to get clean.
None of the above questions are rhetorical. I really want to know. And thanks to TMBG for getting me thinking. As the song ends . .
“Call me sentimental but I want to go back And commemorate the place with a historical plaque”