Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on April 5, 2012 · Page 52
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 52

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Thursday, April 5, 2012
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PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE  Thursda , 5, 2012  WWW.POST-GAZETTE.COM w-12 By Scott Mervis Pittsburgh Post-Gazette T hese aren’t the best of times for small businesspeople — we don’t need to tell you that — but if you Google something like “best industries for small business” you do come up with a number of viable ideas: casual dining, beer/wine sales, physical therapy, candy, beauty care, that kind of thing. Record store? There’s no suggestion of that. In fact, on a list of best prospects for small business opportunities, it’s probably down around a millionth. The reasons are obvious: CD sales have plummeted since 2004, digital sales just topped physical sales for the first time, and that’s nothing compared to what’s illegally downloaded off the Web. But … this is Pittsburgh. More specifically, this is Bloomfield, and there’s a storefront at 4526 Liberty Ave. that is, for all intents and purposes, hallowed ground for music geeks. It has been a destination for vinyl and CD junkies since the mid-’70s, when Jim Spitznagel opened it as Jim’s Records, and the tradition has continued for the past 18 years under the banner of Paul’s CDs. In September, a shudder went through the music community when rumors started circulating that Paul Olszewski was getting out. For people who regularly make that pilgrimage to Bloomfield, it immediately whipped up a terrifying image of a dollar store or a nail salon daring to occupy that space. It’s not like you would never be able to buy a CD on Matador or Sub Pop in Pittsburgh again. Flying in the face of consumer trends and economic feasibility, the city has more than its share of “record stores,” old and new, from the legendary Jerry’s to long-running Eide’s to the upstart Mind Cure to the chain of Exchanges. But the thought of not having to circle Liberty Avenue and its narrow side streets for a parking space, walk past the fragrant pizza shop and the store with the dusty Catholic icons, and possibly have to navigate around some kind of Italian parade so you can pick up the new Cloud Nothings on vinyl is almost unimaginable. Then one man, who had shown no previous inclination toward rash decisions, like trying to buy a bridge or a failing baseball team, stepped forth and said, “I’ll take it.” Hanging T T Jim’s Karl Hendricks, who turned 4526 into Sound Cat Records this week, was 14 the first time he walked into Jim’s Records. “My parents both worked in Oakland. I lived in McKeesport, and my mom said, ‘Hey, I saw this store in Bloomfield that I think you’d like.’ My parents brought me here the first time, and after that I started coming on the bus with my friends. That was about 1984.” He had been into Def Leppard and Quiet Riot and “stuff that kids growing up in McKeesport might be into,” he says, “but around that time, through reading Rolling Stone, that my mom subscribed to, I discovered more underground — they weren’t called indie bands at the time — but bands like Husker Du, The Minutemen and the Meat Puppets, and less underground bands like The Smiths and R.E.M.” Whatever you needed in that area, Jim’s had it. The store actually started on Federal Street on the North Side in 1972, moved to Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield in 1973 and then a few doors up into the current location a year later, replacing Michael’s Shoes, which had been there for 40 years. “I had no plan at that time,” says Mr. Spitznagel, who lives in Ithaca, N.Y., now and performs in an electronic duo called The Electric Golem. “Then a movement came along — punk — and I was the only one into it, store-wise. I was the only one ’cause I loved it.” In the early days of punk, distribution isn’t what it was today. When he heard about a pioneering art-punk band called Television playing at CBGB’s in New York, he went up to the club, met the band and said, “I own a store. Can I buy 10 copies from you?” He bought copies of Patti Smith’s proto-punk single, “Hey Joe/Piss Factory,” directly from her manager. Even as other stores caught on, Jim’s remained unique. You could walk in in March 1986 and not only find the new Husker Du album on Warner Bros., but get “Zen Arcade” on SST as well. You could get the Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead,” while also getting the British imports of earlier albums with an extra song or two. “I first went there when it was Jim’s and I was new to coming to Pittsburgh,” says Johnny Lerner, one of the longtime regulars at the store. “I remember the first thing I bought — Mudhoney ‘Superfuzz Bigmuff.’ It’s always been a great place for me to start the same Steve Albini argument or discussion about ‘Sway’ by the Stones that I’ve started a hundred times. The best thing about the store has always been the people.” Indeed, unlike shopping at one of the big chains or mall stores — say, the giant National Record Mart — it was a homey place where you could chat with Jim or the knowledgeable people hanging out there, and get turned onto new stuff. They’d even put it on for you. “It was like a big person candy store,” Mr. Spitznagel says. Mr. Hendricks started working at Jim’s as a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh in March of ’89. “He was a customer and he seamlessly became an employee,” the former owner says. One thing that set Mr. Hendricks apart from the average consumer was he soaked in all that music and then had the talent to spit some back out. In fact, he has to be one of the few record store owners who can proudly stock six of his own CDs. TH KHT He started writing songs in the summer of ’88, and by fall, when he was enrolling at Pitt, he had recorded a solo tape called “Jolly Doom,” that was described as “Bob Dylan meets Bob Mould.” In late ’89, he formed noise-rock ensemble Sludge- hammer with Jay Brain and Johnstown native Ian Williams, who would go on to play with math-rock heavyweights Don Caballero and now Battles. Mr. Hendricks, who leaned more toward more wry, heartbreaking love songs (with a good dose of noise), formed the Karl Hendricks Trio and turned it into one of the city’s finest musical exports. It debuted in 1991 with “Buick Electra” on the Peas Kor label and built a buzz in the indie press and via the ’93 College Music Journal seminar in New York that led to a signing with the prestigious label Merge for its fifth album, “For a While, It Was Funny.” The KHT became an acclaimed national act, touring with the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel, Superchunk and Smog. In ’92, the year he was working on “Misery and Wom- en,” things started looking up in that department. He was working at Jim’s on Aug. 2 when nursing student Megan Balog came in looking for a Pavement album. She had seen the band the night before in Philly, and it was her first day back living in Pittsburgh. She and Mr. Hendricks hit it off right away, and one of their first dates was seeing the legendary Sonic Youth/Boredoms show at Metropol. Their first daughter, Maeve, was born during those Merge years in 1995. As successful as he was on the indie scene, he says, “I think that very early on, I understood that playing music was not going to be my No. 1 priority — more like third or fourth.” There was fatherhood, of course. There was the store, Because KARL HENDRICKS started going to Jim’s Records when he was 14 and working there at 18. Now, the McKeesport native and acclaimed musician is turning Paul’s CDs into Sound Cat with the hope that an old- fashioned record store can still thrive in the digital age SEE , PAGE -20 Above, Jim Spitznagel, former owner of Jim’s Records in Bloomfield, changed careers to manage the Warhol Museum gift shop in 1993. Right, the Karl Hendricks Trio in 1996: Tom Hoffman, left, Len Jarabeck and Karl Hendricks with daughter Maeve. Sound Cat Records GRAND OpENING pARty When: 6-8 p.m. Friday. Featuring: Saxophonist Ben Opie and Will Simmons & The Nougat Boys (featuring Bob Jungkunz on percussion), plus snacks. RECORD StORE DA When: 9 a.m. April 21, with 5 p.m. in-store performance by Hidden Twin (Phil Boyd of the Modey Lemon solo). w-13 Lake Fong/Post-Gazette photos Karl Hendricks, top, bought the former Paul’s CDs in Bloomfield and turned it into Sound Cat Records. Customers browse the racks at the store. en,” things started looking up in that department. He was working at Jim’s on Aug. 2 when nursing student Megan Balog came in looking for a Pavement album. She had seen the band the night before in Philly, and it was her first day back living in Pittsburgh. She and Mr. Hendricks hit it off right away, and one of their first dates was seeing the legendary Sonic Youth/Boredoms show at Metropol. Their first daughter, Maeve, was born during those Merge years in 1995. As successful as he was on the indie scene, he says, “I think that very early on, I understood that playing music was not going to be my No. 1 priority — more like third or fourth.” There was fatherhood, of course. There was the store, Sound Cat Records doesn’t have long to wait for its first Record Store Day. The fifth annual celebration, which sends record store owners and collectors scrambling for rarities, will take place April 21. Among the other stores taking part locally will be The Attic (Millvale), Eide’s (Downtown), Dave’s Music Mine (South Side) and Mind Cure (Polish Hill). Going for the win this year will be Flaming Lips, releasing a whole new double LP set, “Thee Flaming Lips and Heavy Fwends,” featuring collaborations with the likes of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Bon Iver, Ke$ha, Nick Cave, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, Yoko Ono, Erykah Badu and Biz Markie. It will be pressed on multi-colored vinyl, with tracks including “I’m Working at NASA on Acid” and “Is David Bowie Dying?” Other Record Store Day highlights (which will be available in limited quantities and not at all stores): • The Grateful Dead’s limited edition LP of “Dark Star: Europe 72 Olympic Theater — Paris France 5/4/72,” containing the longest version of “Dark Star.” • David Bowie’s “Starman” single backed with a recording of the track from his Tops of Pops performance on a 7-inch picture disc. • Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball” track “Rocky Ground” and a live version of “The Promise” on 7-inch vinyl. • Wilco’s recent “The Whole Love” in a special “very” limited deluxe box set. • Arcade Fire’s 12-inch version of “Sprawl II” from “The Suburbs.” • The Civil Wars’ 7-inch vinyl of its cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” • Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ LP and CD “Live at the Legendary Sun Studios.” • Jimmy Fallon’s “Tebowie” and “Reading Rainbow.” • Iggy and The Stooges’ “Live at All Tomorrows Parties” 12-inch picture disc. • Paul Simon’s “Graceland” 25th anniversary edition on vinyl. • Janis Joplin’s “Pearl” reissued in mono with companion vinyl, Highlights from The Pearl Sessions, featuring several previously unreleased versions. • Mastodon and Feist 7-inch trading covers of Feist’s “Commotion” and Mastodon’s “Black Tongue.” • Genesis’ “Spot the Pigeon” EP on blue vinyl. • Vinyl reissues of Patti Smith’s “Horses,” Uncle Tupelo’s first three studio albums, Lou Reed’s “Transformer” and live album “Rock ’n’ Roll Animal.” • Devo’s “Live in Seattle 1981.” • Run DMC/Carolina Chocolate Drops’ “Side by Side” series covering Run-DMC’s “You Be Illin” on green vinyl. • Flogging Molly’s 7-inch vinyl single of “Drunken Lullabies” with B-side of “A Prayer for Me in Silence.” • Ryan Adams’ 7-inch of two Bob Mould covers, “Heartbreak a Stranger” and “Black Sheets of Rain,” recorded in Los Angeles last November. — Scott Mervis Record Store Day is two weeks away SEE , PAGE -20 Sound Cat Records GRand OpeninG aRty When: 6-8 p.m. Friday. Featuring: Saxophonist Ben Opie and Will Simmons & The Nougat Boys (featuring Bob Jungkunz on percussion), plus snacks. ReCORd StORe day When: 9 a.m. April 21, with 5 p.m. in-store performance by Hidden Twin (Phil Boyd of the Modey Lemon solo).

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