Brick and Mortar and Love Premier

There are days that I drive by the empty ear X-tacy store on Bardstown Road and the sadness just overwhelms me. I know I am not alone…I heard from many of you when I first posted about the closing of the legendary record store (It’s really gone). It is with excitement and sadness that I approach the world premier of Brick and Mortar and Love. It is tomorrow night at the Louisville Science Center (Saturday April 7, 2012 at 7pm).

This documentary by Scott Shuffitt and this is the description according to the website:

Brick and Mortar and Love follows the story of ear X-tacy Records, the legendary record store in Louisville, Kentucky, as it struggles to survive in the changing music retail industry. In-depth interviews include owner John Timmons, staff at ear X-tacy, leaders in the record store industry and scores of independent record store owners from all over the US. These interviews look into the state of the independent record store, what services they provide and what is at stake if they disappear.

The tragic part is that ear X-tacy closed before people could see this film and be inspired to do more to ensure the future of the store. I am hoping that seeing some of those friendly ear X-tacy employee faces will lessen the hole that the closing of ear X-tacy left.

 

what’s up with local music?

Louisville has always had a strong local music scene.  We are (generally) supportive of musicians and have some great music events (like Forecastle – “where the world gathers to experience the best in Music, Art, and Activism” and Abbey Road on the River-“biggest Beatles Music Fest in the world!)  And we can’t ignore the HUGE influence of 91.91 WFPK, most listened to AAA station in the country that hosts of so many fabulous shows (Live Lunch, Waterfront Wednesdays, etc) and home of the top Music Director in the country, Kyle Meredith (who also produces/hosts The Weekly Feed, an hour long syndicate in 16 markets). So, we have it good. And local musicians benefit from the strong radio presence….they get airtime!!

But, we all know there is now a large hole in the local music community since the closing of ear X-tacy.  ear X-tacy was a place were local musicans could sell their cds on consignment. It was a place they could have their cd release and in-store performance. It was a place where they could have their cd featured on a listening station for all to sample. I have had numerous people ask me where to buy local music now. I don’t even know what to tell them. I know there are other music stores, but I just called a couple to see if they had Inclusions by Ben Sollee (I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries from friends on where to buy his stuff) and no one did. They were all nice and said they could order it, but it isn’t the same.

I feel the loss and I am only a listener. I am curious to hear what local musicians think and what they think the future looks like for music in Louisville. And apparently, I am not the only one! The Louisville Free Public Library has put together an interesting event, “Local Music: An Insider’s Story”.  It is the first in a series called THINK LOCALLY. Local musicians, Joan Shelley and Joe Manning, of King’s Daughters & Sons,  will give their perspectives and insights on the past and future of music in Louisville.  Join me on Wednesday night at 7pm at the LFPL Highlands Branch.

it’s really gone.

It’s gone. And I am totally devastated. Is it weird to have that kind of reaction to a store closing? Maybe. But, ear X-tacy was so much more than a store in Louisville for the past 26 years. It was a community of music loving people and now I feel like our home has vanished without warning. No time to prepare our hearts or say one last goodbye. My head understand that it is a reflection on the changing times in the music industry, but my heart is aching.

I could go on for days about what ear X-tacy meant in my life.  But what hurts now more than anything is that my kids won’t get to grow up with the embracing, supportive, local music store. Our family has experienced some amazing moments there. One that stands out strongly in my mind was when Josh Ritter played an in-store  on May 17, 2010.  I had to sign my eldest, who was in 1st grade at the time, out of school early to make it to the show on-time. It was one of those ‘good Mom vs. music Mom’ moments and I am so glad to say that music Mom won out! My youngest and strongest rocker was just over 2 years old at the time and strapped in the front pack, so that he wouldn’t rush the stage and take Josh down with hugs! We played Josh Ritter’s music on a regular basis at the house (still do!), so the kids all knew it and my little guy just kept saying, “lala”. He was a very late talker and when he said “lala”, it meant he wanted to listen to Josh. So, to see him perform in the intimate setting of ear X-tacy was mind-blowing for my little 2 year old! But, there is more. We stayed after and got to meet Josh. He was gracious, patient and unbelievable. He got down on his knees to meet each of the kiddos and talked directly to them. He gave them guitar pics. And high fives. My little rocker still talks about the high five! He signed our CD: “to a rock n roll family”. It was an experience my family will never forget.

When you walked into ear X-tacy, there was always such a welcoming feel. I am sure I often looked like a spectacle bring my foursome in, but some days I just needed some music to make it through and ear X-tacy was the answer. I was always greeted with a friendly smile and hello. In fact, if I miraculously entered by myself, I was usually asked where my crew was. They provided such a special place that never made me second guess bringing my kids to in-stores. It is because of them that my kids have been exposed to so many very talented bands in a live setting. Usually, kids aren’t welcome in the concert setting, but ear X-tacy opened a whole new world. And I will never be able to repay my gratitude. It was at the Abigail Washburn in-store that my little guy became enthralled with her super-sized banjo! He had never seen anything like it before!  Another one of our favorite in-stores was when Daniel Martin Moore and Dan Dorff performed at the Loop and we got a very up-close view of some outstanding music when the Dans stepped off stage and right in front of where we were sitting…kids were hooked!! (the redheads briefly shown are mine!)

ear X-tacy was so supportive to the local music scene. Sure, they got some great national artists in. I loved seeing Matisyahu and Dawes perform there earlier this year! But ear X-tacy was always there to help the local artists. It was a great family event when we got to see our cousins’ band, Adventure, play there. And even more fun when we walked into the Loop store shortly after it opened and found our cousin, Alex Clark‘s CD on display, with Adventure in the background.

I had recently asked Ben Sollee what ear X-tacy meant to him…this was before the closing, but his elegant words sum up how many people thought of ear X-tacy and are too good not to share:

“As an independent musician I spend a tremendous amount of time working with social media, blogs, online magazines, and every other kind of virtual community you can imagine. But there’s a lonely quality to those adventures. There’s still nothing like walking in to my favorite record store and seeing what’s on the shelves… seeing handmade displays constructed lovingly for an employee’s favorite artist, getting advise on new music, finding old recordings that no one else cared to listen to… it’s all tangible. It’s personal. It’s a place we’re a physical community gathers to share ideas and passions. It may not always be profitable to sell recorded music, but there will always be a place for a record store that can curate and share essential art in the communtiy.” – Ben Sollee

It is a little hard to watch this movie trailer for Brick and Mortar and Love, knowing that ear X-tacy is no longer…it is exactly what they were trying to prevent.

I, too, wish it weren’t time for ear X-tacy to die. RIP. You will be missed more than anyone realizes. You have been an influential factor in the lives of so many and I wish Louisville didn’t have to let go. I am sure I will get to the point where I can look back and be happy about my time and experiences at ear X-tacy, but right now, I am just too sad to think of anything other than the hole ear X-tacy’s departure is leaving in the community and future. I was counting on my little rocker growing up with ear X-tacy and fulfilling his often talked about dream of performing on their stage. It was one of the first things he asked about when I told him it was closed…”what about the stage? I want to play there. Will bands still play?” No, my sweet boy, they will not.  I hope somehow that the Louisville music scene can come together and move that stage so that it doesn’t get lost forever.

I’ll let Jim James, of My Morning Jacket, have the last word since I agree with it all. Jim and the other members of MMJ have always been very vocal with their love and support of ear X-tacy and he says it so well.  This was posted on MMJ’s website earlier today:

“there is a tear in my eye right now as i hear about the closing of one of my favorite places on earth- ear-xtacy. i send thanks and healing vibes to john and everyone who has worked so hard at the store over the years…the presence of that sacred place will be sorely missed. people-let this be a big wake up call to us…we need these place to gather as a community and share ideas about music and art and love and life and…for the love of god…it cant all take place online…or i fear that one day we will all wake up bleary-eyed and hung over from our technology binge and find the real world long gone…let us be inspired by places like “please and thank you,” “carmichaels,” “pops retails and consignment,” “heine brothers” and all the great independent ma and pa stores around the globe- leading us into a new era of what a creative business can be…we need to support these places and help create more…the mp3 has killed the idea of what a traditional record store used to be, but that should only be cause for us to re-invent and support things the computer can never kill…we need these real place…where you can still buy a record from a local band or a hard to find label or root thru stacks of used vinyl…or get a cup of coffee…or buy an old stereo system or synthesizer or a pair of jeans…or learn a new skill…or teach a new skill…and love your fellow human in person and face to face to face and all in the same place. lets brainstorm. lets build more of these places. lets stick together. lets support each other. lets figure it out.” -jim james