Nearly seven years ago, I met my wife (she's the beautiful one at center-left in the picture above) and my concepts of music -- among other things -- changed drastically. Before then, I kept my genre preferences firmly held within the rock tradition: classic rock, punk rock (admittedly "poppy" as far as punk goes), and alternative rock were the flavors that I enjoyed. (I shied away from metal, being a relatively passive person.) But when Sarah came along, she not only brought along the promise of lifelong happiness, but also a knowledge of indie music, folk artists, and a broad spectrum of more "underground," non-commercial sounds that eventually shaped my overall musical tastes. And with the indie genre came a new method of listening to music, a medium that at one point seemed dead, then became characteristically "independent" and counterculture, and now shows more promise than it has in the last forty years: vinyl.
It's difficult for me to say that vinyl is now back to being popular among the masses. Digital downloads are still the way to go, and subscription services have dramatically changed the landscape of audio intake. However, it's impossible for me to admit the alternative, that vinyl is still an underground, dying method of music transmission. It's certainly true that vinyl isn't back at the level it was when people first started getting their musical fix from molded plastic rubbed on by a tiny needle. But there's certainly a growing appreciation for the form that makes places like Grimey's successful.
Perhaps it's because of the growing culture appreciation for simplicity and minimalism. Or maybe it's a resurgence of the 1970s attitude of peace and freedom (all the more appropriate now that the NSA has shown its ugly face to the world) that has brought along its stylistic concerns, as well. Whatever the reason, vinyl joins the ranks of tank tops, mustaches, and fat-wheeled bicycles as stylistic elements of a certain growing segment of the US youth. I'll stay away from labeling, but it's certainly obvious that the music industry and their audiences have taken note of the new trend in record player owners and stores that keep those peach crates full of cardboard encased plastic. How else could one explain the record-setting sales of Jack White's most recent LP, Lazaretto? In case you missed the news, White's album sold more LPs in a week than any other LP that has been released since they started keeping track of things like that back in 1991.
That's all very good news for Grimey's, an amazing record store that just happens to be located in Music City, USA. Sure, maybe the location is one reason that the store seems so successful -- with throngs of people flipping through vertical record collections on a daily basis. But more importantly, I think it's the kind of personal appreciation that this town has for local businesses. I doubt that a big-box record store (which doesn't exist anymore, anyway) would have the same kind of dedicated following that Grimey's enjoys, simply because of the corporate sheen that comes with such establishments. Instead of that kind of gloss, Grimey's has a bit of -- well, grime. That's not to say that the surfaces are dirty -- although the bathroom could use a scrub. But the place is obviously well-loved and lived-in. The walls look like they should creak, and the floors often do. The shelves are wooden and smoothed with years and years of being run over by browsing hands. The ceiling is open and airy, like the drop-ceiling was taken down and they just never got around to replacing it. Or maybe it's just better for the acoustics that way, since the store also hosts local musicians and bands on occasion. All of these elements give off the distinction of use that is unattainable without years of appreciative customers.
But there's something even better about Grimey's: they know that they are a business, and obviously used that understanding to tack on a used CD and book store, and a coffee shop, a small extension of the equally appreciated local dig, The Frothy Monkey. These three elements work together so well because they all harken to a particular time, a time when tangible expressions of art were valued -- and valuable. And when sitting down with a cup of coffee to enjoy those expressions was an easy, enjoyable way to kill an afternoon. Now, we have smartphones and movies on demand, TVs that have more pixels than there are people on earth, and no need for real, physical interaction. But Grimey's pulls those things together into one place, giving us a living, working record of a better way to be. LPs take time to listen to -- there are no skips or rewinds -- and books require dedicated attention. Coffee, even, in its purest form, is meant to be savored.
So maybe that's why Grimey's makes sense: it pulls together the trifecta of patient appreciation -- the bane of immediacy. A majority of the culture still lives in the now, the fast, the happens-before-you-know-it. Luckily, though, for the sake of our culture and for Grimey's business model, there are still enough people out there to buy 40,000 copies of Jack White's new album and show the music industry that vinyl is still alive and well. In fact, I now know that when I met my wife and she showed me a love and appreciation for vinyl records, she wasn't showing me the way things had been, a past that was relegated to history and no more. Instead, I was getting a glimpse of the way things would be for a long, long time.
I can at least hope as much.