August 15, 2012

Me Vs. Music

Taking it to the streets? 

I recently watched a documentary about the loss of independent record stores and what it really means for the music-buying community. The documentary, “I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store,” focused on several record stores around the country and explored potential reasons for and consequences of their closure.

Record stores are places that are universally revered as meccas for music nerds and as havens for meeting like-minds. While watching this, I was, of course, deep in thought about the loss of ear X-tacy. I’m not going to pretend that I rushed to ear X-tacy in recent years to buy music. I felt in many ways that I’d outgrown hanging out at the record store. This is not to say I didn’t visit ear X-tacy at all in the final years. I did — just not as often as when I was a young’un.

I’m not writing this as a lament for all Louisville independent music sellers. I can’t ignore the great independent record shops that still exist in Louisville, like Underground Sounds, Better Days, Highland Records and Matt Anthony’s Record Shop. My lament is just that — a lament. It does not have to make sense. I miss ear X-tacy much like I miss the ease of my youth.

Losing ear X-tacy has had an effect on Louisville. The old store, now a Panera Bread, feels like a hole in the middle of the Highlands. For me, it was where I met many friends and came to know much of the local music I loved in the ’80s and ’90s. When it closed, a piece of my youth went with it. It was a place I could go when I felt down; I’d come out feeling a little more interested in life. It was a store that didn’t simply feed the interests of the quirky — it was a place for everyone. I think I visited the store in every Highlands location they had. In many ways, I grew up there.

In the recent weeks that have found Louisville bidding adieu to one of its most beloved musicians, one who was always a friendly face at the store, I’m struck by the sense of loss I never expected to feel when it closed.

After all, the first time I saw my husband’s face was while I was peeking through a CD listening rack. We didn’t actually start dating for another three years, but we maintained our mutual love of music, and ear X-tacy was a routine stop in our weekend outings. I learned to love music I would never have considered.

So when I watched “I Need That Record!,” all those years of memories flooded back and I felt a little sad. I understand having a dream and supporting the dreams of others. I understand why Mr. Timmons held on so tightly. I would have done the same.

One of the guys in the documentary closed his store, packed up his music into boxes, and sold them on the street. This brought to mind the old poster sales that U of L used to host. The poster folks would come with enormous binders full. Students flocked to the sale. I hate to think small, but what if ear X-tacy could still exist in some diminished capacity, in brief college sales or maybe even a small permanent store on a campus? It seems the college environment would be a welcoming place for a music shop. But this is a vague dream, the shadow of an idea not remotely realized into anything resembling a plan or model.

Of course, I’m sure students download from iTunes or purchase from Amazon. But what if?

I felt hopeful that the fellow in the movie didn’t give up, but took his love of music to the street. I think sometimes it is imperative to keep fighting, to put music in the faces of the people who buy it the most — young folks. I know some of them may not routinely visit the Highlands. Maybe it isn’t their thing. But I’m guessing good music is.

Erica Rucker is a freelance weirdo, writer and professional wedding/portrait photographer at eElaine Photography.