Thursday, October 29, 2009

Save your local music store!

I got stood up twice at the King's Head yesterday, and I'm the better for it.

Maybe I wasn't technically "stood up:" one of my friends took ill and the second had an important meeting at work. And I did need to be downtown anyway, so I could come in third at music trivia night and get heckled for winning a box of crayons and Dave Coulier CD called "Songs in the Key of Beaver." No, you can't borrow it. Don't even ask.

But even better than that: I needed to kill time, so I headed over to one of my favorite homes away from home, Into the Music: just a hop, skip, and jump away from Red River College's downtown campus and even closer to the King's Head.

When I got there, I was surprised to find that not only was the store open after hours, but that a Canadian musician named Dan Mangan was performing this lovely ditty - "the Indie Queens are Waiting" - on the little stage at the south end of the store with his winsome band:

It's fitting that Mangan mentions "the local record store" in the song; because I grinned ear to ear as I listened to the song and soaked up the store's magical atmosphere: outside, rain. Inside, loners looking through CDs, moms holding kids, employees grumbling that they were now well into overtime hours, and a woman in a fuzzy polar-bear coat. My peeps!

Find the polar bear hiding in this picture.

I've written before about my love affair with the music store and record collecting (here):
"When I was a kid, the record store was a place that I - and every other 15 year old - went to get away from the family.

"There were entire summers that I spent hanging out at Records on Wheels on Portage Avenue, where I'd listen to the British imports, talk to folks as aged as 25 about what was cool to listen to (no older brother meant I had to do the legwork), and meet potential girlfriends (they all looked like the Cure's Robert Smith, but - hey - beggars can't be choosers)."
Indeed, hanging out at Into the Music yesterday made me not only hum "In Between Days," but to consider the much-hyped "Save Local TV" campaign and wonder why there isn't a "Save Local Music Stores" campaign to drum up government funding and local support for something that may very well be gone before TV ever vanishes.

I might be a hypocrite for celebrating the local music store on the same day I bash newspapers, but to me there's a difference; the local music store is more than just a harder-to-navigate iTunes: it's an art gallery, a performance space, a refuge from real life, and the original, bricks and mortar Facebook with old-school, flesh-and-blood friends.

In larger cities, that's allowed great music stores thrive - like the incredible Amoeba Music in San Francisco. But many haven't been so lucky, like the late, great Let it Be Records in Minneapolis, now a sad mail-order version of its former great self on Nicollet Mall.

In Winnipeg, we're lucky to have two, great music stores: Into the Music and Music Trader. At Music Trader, the staff know enough about great music to compliment me when I buy CDs by the Dictators and the Adverts, and I can glance up at the checkout till to see my glowing, bald head on one of the Polaroid pictures of their clientele they have displayed around the store. Great idea! Err....the Polaroids, not the glowing, bald head.

It's also the only store in town where the guy working at the checkout writes down the CDs I've bought, so he can e-mail the lead singer of the Epoxies and the young woman sorting music asks me where I got my jacket. It's enough to restore my faith in youth, music, and the Canadian way of life.

Take it away, Robert Smith!


  1. I love music stores, too. I think with used record stores, it's really the thrill of the hunt that's appealing. Technically, you can get almost any rare record you want online, but there's this amazing satisfaction of sifting through bins repeatedly and then finally tracking it down.

  2. My Favorite place for music as a teenager was "The Cellar" in the basement of Music City. Then there was Mothers, Records on Wheels and Wild Planet. All great local stores. Unfotunately I think that is large chain stores have to resort to selling movies, video games and other non-music related items to stay afloat, then local music stores are going to have a hard time of it. Except for Wild Planet. They've got their "alternative tobacco" products to keep them in business.

  3. Though the one Minneapolis store has closed down, they still have Treehouse, Cheapo's, Extreme Noise, and the hip-hop record store... the name escapes me now. Something for everyone!

    Also, I find that Winnipeg's War On Music is becoming a little more diverse in their ordering (I picked up an N*E*R*D LP last time I was there, and saw a Lil Wayne one.... don't laugh, I actually considered buying it). So hurrah to Winnipeg for keeping some indie spirit alive!

  4. Aggie, you forgot Electric Fetus! They don't have a huge vinyl section, but they'e still pretty awesome.
    I find Cheapo kind of depressing. I visited some great stores in Montreal this summer, and came back with a tote bag full of vinyl. I've still got a soft spot for Dr. Disc in Windsor, Ontario, because for some reason, they've got amazing selection. I went there for a conference right after I got a turntable, and it's where I picked up my "Blue Monday" 12".

  5. I had heard Electric Fetus closed recently because of flood damage?? Or some sort of damage anyways. Made me so sad. That place was cool.

    My record collection used to be huge, now I have nothing but hip-hop and powerviolence. Yes. I'm weird.

  6. Electric Fetus is awesome; there's still a great one on main street in Duluth - the only reason to go there, as far as I know.

  7. I've been completely obsessed with Into the Music since finding the Forrest Gump Soundtrack for ten bucks there at the tender age of 14. Still my favorite CD, and my favorite music store.

  8. It is a good soundtrack. Wikipedia also lists songs in the movie that weren't in the soundtrack: sounds like the basis for a wish list to me!


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