;The irony was too perfect. An article in the July 16 New York Times headlined "The Graying of the Record Store" was a pot-meet-kettle sort of coincidence. A newspaper reporting that an industry is losing its customer base to an expanding media universe? Hmm.


;;The story reported the typical gloom-and-doom, downloads-are-the-death-of-music news that gets written over and over again. But as I was reading it, I started to feel like a Republican. Not your everyday Republican, but the frothing loon variety that considers the staff of the Times to be literally "traitors" because they report on the administration's unconstitutional activities. The kind who reads the paper with the express intent of sniffing out bias, when "bias" can usually be interpreted as "they presented facts that don't make me happy."


;Basically, the story was a reporter's attempt to turn the pending insolvency of what's probably his favorite Manhattan musical outlet (Norman's Sound and Vision) into a national whine of how indie record stores are dying on the vine. Store owner after store owner is quoted, rattling off depressing downturns in business, closures, etc. Instead of Napster being the culprit, now it's age. Apparently, if a record store has a customer at all, it's probably an old guy, because only old people are unhip enough not to spend all day plowing through iTunes and eMusic for their songs. And any business dependent upon oldsters for its income is a business doomed to fail.


;Buried deep within the piece, though, was one little quote from an old acquaintance of mine, Eric Levin of Criminal Records in Atlanta. Eric was baffled by all this apocalyptic talk; his store is doing very well, thank you very much, and if other stores aren't, he says it's because they're "dinosaurs" that are tenaciously clinging to an increasingly outdated definition of "record store."

;;After sputtering angrily at the cursory treatment his differing — and far more interesting — viewpoint received in this 1,400-word story, I realized how Republicans must feel every day … except in this case, the Times really did screw up. They missed the fact that independent record stores — at least those that emphasize smart selection and good service — are probably doing better than the big chains. Criminal augments its customer base by operating coffee shops next door in a reverse-Starbucks move. A recent Sunday visit to Amoeba Music in San Francisco found me jostling for space in the massive store among hundreds of voracious music fans. The South Carolina record store I worked at for years is having its best years ever thanks to a thriving eBay operation (and not, hopefully, to the fact that I'm gone). Park Ave CDs just doubled their retail space and is garnering national attention for their high-profile in-store performances, which get recorded by a crew from Full Sail. The only stores I see struggling are those that are clueless and stubborn, those that are irreparably dazed by the notion that they can't sit behind a counter all day and wait for "the kids." Downloading isn't killing all the record stores … only the bad ones.



;;Last Monday (July 17), Tampa scene fixture Mike O'Neill committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. With all the back-and-forth on I-4, a good number of Orlando bands have likely encountered O'Neill — either in the front row of a show or onstage with one of his bands (most recently, it was the Unrequited Loves). O'Neill was a huge champion of his city's scene, especially its garage rock bands, and a relentless motivator for local bands; he will be missed by many folks both in and beyond Tampa Bay. A memorial service will be held this Friday at New World Brewery in Ybor City with photos, spoken word and, of course, music, courtesy of the Four Shames, Flat Stanley and others.

;;Even less locally, the incredible Chicago trumpeter Malachi Thompson passed away July 16 from leukemia. An expansive and expressive player who was part of the AACM, Thompson was nearly as dedicated to music as he was to education and civil rights. Though, like many of the AACM-ers, his latter-day work found him dabbling in more traditionalist and large-group styles, his playing never slipped and his compositions only got more and more impressive. Thompson was 56.


;Notable note

;;Pete Best — the unluckiest Beatle — will have a meet-and-greet/autograph session at Hard Rock Cafe this Saturday (July 29). It starts at 1 p.m. and it's free to get in. Do yourself a favor: Try to come up with a question you don't think he's been asked a million times before.

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