Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spinning records, nurturing dreams

"Progress" happens. New things come; old things go.

Kids quit going to record stores, and they start "file-sharing" or buying singles comprised of ones and zeros on
iTunes. Digital in, physical presence out.

But with all the things the electronic marketplace can do, and with all the convenience and immediacy it offers, there are some things -- important things -- that get lost in translation. One thing is magical, musical places like The Antiquarium record store on the edge of Omaha's Old Market.

Another thing is the kind, curmudgeonly, opinionated presence of someone like Dave Sink -- the grandfather of the Omaha indie scene and purveyor of great old LPs, CDs and punk 45s. I know. I left much of my money there, then brought many of those LPs , CDs and 45s here.

And for a while there, I probably saw Dave every single week. So did a bunch of young kids with big dreams -- like Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes fame.

That won't be happening anymore. Some years back, Dave retired, and then The Antiquarium record store moved around the corner after its longtime home was sold. And now Dave is dead.

ON THE Hear Nebraska website, Oberst (one of the kids I used to see around the record store) explains what iTunes will never be, not in a million years:
I don’t remember the first time I went to the Antiquarium or met Dave Sink. It all just kind of happened. I suppose I would have been 12 or so, just tagging along with my brothers and the older kids from the neighborhood. Whenever that was I know I could not have known then that that place would become the epicenter of discovery for my musical life (and life in general) and probably the single most sacred place of my adolescence. Dave was a rare bird. He had a way of making you feel good even as he insulted you. He was especially kind to misfits and oddballs. Hence him nearly always being surrounded in the shop by a small enclave of disaffected youth. Boys mostly, but girls too, who would sit hour after hour listening to him pontificate about punk rock, baseball, local politics, French literature, chess, philosophy, modern art or whatever was the topic of the day. The thing about Dave that gave him such a loyal following was not just the way he talked to us but also the way he listened. At a time in life when most all adults are to be seen as the enemy it was strange to meet one who was on your side. He treated us as peers, like our ideas and ambitions were worth something. He wasn’t always pleasant or polite, but he wasn’t a fake. And it is that quality that cuts through the angst and straight to the teenage heart.

He made me feel like my dreams and plans mattered, encouraging me to pursue them even as he talked trash on my latest recording or most recent show. It is true you had to be a bit of a masochist to be friends with Dave, but despite his sarcasm and argumentative nature he had a soft heart and generous spirit. He gave me a lot of good advice over the years, as well as my first real stereo and turntable. He said he couldn’t stand watching me waste my money on the inferior formats of CDs and cassettes.
NEITHER will radio be, not anymore, what Dave Sink and his little record store (down the stairs and to the basement of the old building on Harney Street) were to its city. Maybe radio once was . . . kind of. That was a long time ago -- a generation or more ago -- back before dull men in pricey suits began to erase all the "Dave" out of their now-sinking industry.

Antiquarium Records was a social network digital eons before
MySpace and Facebook. It got the word out when radio wouldn't, and this nascent Internet thing couldn't.

Kevin Coffey picks up the story in the
Omaha World-Herald:
Sink loved vinyl, underground and obscure music, baseball and talking to customers, often recommending something or flat-out criticizing their purchases.

He also started One Hour Records, which released music from local bands such as Mousetrap, Ritual Device and Simon Joyner, among others.

When Gary Dean Davis' band, Frontier Trust, wanted to put out a record, Sink was their man. Davis, owner of SPEED! Nebraska Records and a Catholic school principal, recalled getting the first pressing of the band's record and racing to the Antiquarium to play it.

"We didn't have a radio station, so the Antiquarium kind of became that because there were kids hanging down there," Davis said. "We'd play our record and they'd immediately come down to the counter and say, 'How can I get that?'"

Davis recalled him as a local music booster who made kids in bands feel like they were doing something legitimate.

Sink's death left many to wonder what Omaha's nationally-recognized music scene would be without him.

"Dave was neither subtle nor short of opinion," said Robb Nansel, president of Saddle Creek Records. "I shudder to think of what this city would look like if there had been no Dave and no Antiquarium. It's safe to say there would be one less record label and one less music venue calling Omaha home."
YOU KNOW those records by Frontier Trust and The Monroes (another Davis "tractor punk" band) you sometimes hear on 3 Chords & the Truth? Where the hell do you think I got many of them?

Where the hell do you think I heard about the Monroes?

We live in a cynical world, one that loves money, breeds alienation and waits for a hero . . . in that Godot-esque sort of way.

Heroes we have. They dwell in out-of-the-way places like smoky basements filled with musty vinyl. They're so close, yet so far away.

Kind of like our hopes and dreams.

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