16 February, 2006

On the ending of an era in Salem, VA.

The Record Exchange in Salem closed its doors forever this week.

First, let's toss out the empirical facts and disclaimers. A number of people lost their jobs due to the consolidation of staffs. I was one of them. Frankly, I barely worked there, so it is no real loss to me... I can get my discount, and my friendships are intact. However, some people who depended upon the ludicrous pittance that Don Rosenberg pays them in order to eat also lost their jobs. That is a bad hit. So yes, there is some bitterness involved, and some of the tone of this blog will extend from that, but let us not pretend for one minute that I am totally biased. I know what happened and soon... so will you.

This is no vast conspiracy to rob the Roanoke area of independent music outlets. YOU are the reason for the failure of the Record Exchange. If YOU would pay two bucks more for your Nickelback CD instead of shopping at Best Buy and WalMart, this place and others like it would thrive. Everyone runs around throwing their hands up... WHAT WILL WE DO? IT IS JUST LIKE SAFE AS MILK. Yes. It is. You didn't shop there either. If you had, it would still be there. There has been a lot written, some by me, about bad business models and poor decision making. This is all true. More will be written about internet downloading and major label CD pricing. Also true. Nonetheless... at the end of the day, the Salem Record Exchange failed because it didn't have the numbers.

Now, a person with no real knowledge of business will say... "the prices were too high, and if they were lower, we'd shop there." Ever buy anything at FYE? EVER? Then shut the fuck up. Record Exchange's prices remain between mall prices and big box prices. New releases are priced significantly lower the first week of release. "But they never have what I want." Neither does Best Buy, unless you listen to the radio incessantly. You just meander around the stacks until you find SOMETHING to buy... of course they have more in store stock... LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE PLACE. Barring exclusives... there is nothing that Best Buy can get that Record Exchange can't get. If you are into more esoteric music, Record Exchange can get it faster and cheaper than Best Buy. Now, there are things Record Ex CAN'T get... this is what the internet and mail order is for.

Bottom line is this folks... if you don't shop, don't bitch when your only option becomes the mall or Best Buy. That day is coming soon. Very soon.

13 February, 2006

Sad Cobras, Secret Squirrel, and Sean Poff - Mojo Cafe 12Feb2006

First off, the Mojo Cafe is small. Really small. Entranceway to Willy Wonka's factory small. This is probably optimum for intimate coffee talk and quiet reflective time, but for a show featuring a local band that has become quite popular, it is simply claustrophobic. Still, the same could be said of the Green Dolphin at times, and here at the Mojo Cafe, there was no smoke or drunken patrons tripping over my feet. So space is what you make of it, I suppose. That said, this was one of the finest musical events that I have had the pleasure of seeing in recent memory.

As a review, this is going to be a bit of a trial. I am unfamiliar with most song titles, and so if you are looking for completism, I am afraid that I may come up short. First up was Sean Poff abetted by a young cellist, which augmented his acoustic story singing nicely. Poff plays a Will Oldhamesque brand of music which while well written and played sounds a bit too samey for me; and as I am sure that I would be told that I just don't understand, I will just state that it was pleasant, but for myself, unhummable and therefore unmemorable.

Next up was Secret Squirrel which is a band made up of Jaime Booker, and for this evening my pal Jay Wilson, who I believe currently plays in every band in Roanoke excepting maybe the Pop Rivets. I have been listening to Jamie's record incessantly lately, and her voice is not really something that is easily compared. I suppose it is informed, to my old ears, by equal parts Joni Mitchell and Polly Harvey. On one song she sounded a lot like Mary Margaret O'Hara, and this ia a good thing. Jay, is, well, Jay and sounds a lot like Jay. Sometimes he does Jay with a accent. We were treated to covers of Billy Bragg and Spiritualized and nicely appointed versions of Jay and Jamie's greatest hits. While the songs didn't go off without a hitch, due to lack of rehearsal time, the glitches actually added to the show as opposed to being distracting. Honestly, Jay and Jamie seemed to be having a great time, which is what it is all about, this rock and roll.

After the Secret Squirrel set screeched to a halt after giving us a scare, but not quite careening off the tracks, the Sad Cobras took the stage aiding in the final Secret Squirrel song before starting their own set. I adore these kids, I really do. The Cobras (along with Poff's Young Sinclairs, Wilson's Violent Spectator, and others) are part of a burgeoning Roanoke scene that is playing truly original music again, and it is a pleasure to watch. Daniel, Jonathan, and Paige control the Sad Cobra's set with mad scientist like precision, and their unstereotypable dance rock is mesmerizing. Some dope somewhere is going to make a B-52's comparison someday and he should be killed in the street for it. Wait... does that make me that guy? Let me redeem myself... when I say dance rock, I don't mean pop. I mean FUCKING Dance Rock. Think Pylon. Right. It is impossible to take your eyes off of the dancing Paige as she shivers and shakes her way through her vocals. The crowd is whipped into a frenzy as they are ordered as vertebrates to "shake their vertebrae". The Cobras then give the kids what they want with a stunning version of "1, 2, 3, heart, 4" which is clearly as big a hit as they intend it to be.

This is rock and roll too big for a Sunday night.

Way too big.