April 20, 2010
Welcome to the first edition of Stomping Grounds, a new column focused on neighborhood venues and music establishments, and the proprietors that make them unique. Free ideas, charming characters, and some friendly incentive to get off your computer and onto the street.
Not that I’ve been to the MoMA in person lately, but I did hear Marina Abramović interviewed on NPR the other week discussing her latest venture – “The Artist is Present” – a retrospective of her performance pieces spanning 40 years. The part that struck me was not Marina’s artistic mission (energy shifts, awareness, world domination?), but more the performers she cast in the roles of her younger selves, and what they had to say. Apparently, to train for the MoMA show, the group of forty lucky apprentices trekked upstate, slept on the floor of a barn without food for a week, washed in ice-cold river water, and, here’s the kicker, SORTED GRAIN all day. They testified that the experience was at once calming and energizing, and established just the sort of zen focus necessary to, say, ride a bike in a museum, in the nude, in the middle of Manhattan for hours and days at a time. This, in so many melodramatic words, describes the reverence I have for dumpster-diving. Scrounging for records, books, photographs, and clothes is a zen art form. It’s cyclical: the goods are far and away useless and recycled, and your fingernails always end up impossibly filthy. Some love junk, and some don’t get the point. Not everyone has the stamina to sort the barley from the rice; it takes one devoted kook to get it done. That kook is Larry the Junkman, founder and owner of The Vortex in Bushwick and The Thing in Greenpoint. I caught up with him this weekend to hear why he thinks the remnants of somebody’s Spring cleaning rampage, sudden breakup, or Great Aunt Elna’s passing are as valuable as I do.
JM.com: How did you become “Larry the Junkman?”
Larry: When I started in the junk business, I knew immediately I was in it for the metaphor, as well as “The Maltese Falcon” I would find one day. I knew Hemingway had his bullfight, and I wanted to have something that I could write about that no one else had done. As far as I knew, nobody had examined the world of recycled possessions and the characters who dealt in this business – except for Sanford and Son – and that really never examined the inner life of collecting or the business. Quickly, I learned that there were characters in this world who were like legal pirates capturing treasures, and that they had stories to tell about the estates they found and the collectors they sold to. I was hooked.
April 18, 2010
Yesterday marked the third momentous Record Store Day, and for those scratching your heads trying to remember what a record store even is, it’s one of those long-standing places of business being destroyed by this internet thing (no, not those places). Many people have gotten touchy about the demise of local record stores and for three years running have reserved April 17th to do the unthinkable: going out to buy music they could easily get for free from their computer. Because sometimes to keep something you love, you have to do irrational things like getting married or respecting copyright laws.
Since many musicians grew up in such boutiques and, not to mention, appreciate the idea of people paying for their music, tons of big names help out with the festivities by issuing special vinyl records; this year is no exception, and there is a ton of great wax to collect. A few of the highlights include: a double LP of Pavement’s recent Quarantine the Past compilation that even has a different track listing (now Pavement psychos can argue which is better), a sea foam green vinyl of the Flaming Lips cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, a vinyl reissue of Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antarctica, the Hold Steady’s new LP Heaven is Whenever, a 12” of LCD Soundsystem’s new single “Pow Wow,” and get this, a 7” of Blur’s new single “Fool’s Day.”
All of this is pretty cool stuff, but Blur’s choice to premier “Fool’s Day” as a vinyl on Record Day is a hell of a gesture. This is the first song that the full band (including the brilliant Graham Coxon) has made in seven years, and it happens to not suck. A gritty little minor-chord chugger, it has that Blur charm of being simultaneously melancholy, a bit ragged, and damn catchy. Sure, the melody sounds a bit like the Cutting Crew’s “I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight,” but hearing Coxon kick out a sweet riff at the end will make any Blur fan happy. Sadly for us Yanks, the single is only being sold in record stores in the UK, so you will have to stick to the loads of other special records made available yesterday. But if really want to hear ‘Fool’s Day’ you could always find it on, well, the internet. Yeah… that’s a little awkward…. Happy Record Day everybody!
For a list of even more special releases here’s Pitchfork’s list.
by Geoff Anstey