For the past 10 years, Record Store Day seems to creep up on unsuspecting consumers. The day is especially important for diehard music fans looking to get rare vinyl (or not so rare vinyl or CDs) at a good price. Certainly, in Fort Wayne, there were plenty of deals (and a food truck at Wooden Nickel on North Anthony Boulevard) but there were also noteworthy live performances. In addition to music sales and performances, the other aspect of Record Store Day (at least in Fort Wayne), is the feeling of history or nostalgia that comes from being surrounded by music and performers with lengthy histories.
Sound and space: Wooden Nickel Records
Wooden Nickel Records on North Anthony Boulevard in Fort Wayne is not a flashy location. It sits in a row of light brown brick that includes a diner, a pet groomer, a discount retailer and an affordable auto insurance provider. It does not need flash to be necessary. Wooden Nickel is the cool kid on the block, aside from the cats up for adoption that sit in the window of the groomer.
Inside, the walls are white plaster, except for where there is music memorabilia. The memorabilia is everywhere, which makes the space look like a music collector’s dream. While heavy metal CDs are in a crate for $5, there are plenty of used vinyl records arranged alphabetically without thought to genre, which is another exciting aspect to the store. It is as though a musical treasure trove has opened up on the northeast side of town.
Performers like Pablo Cruise, Montrose, Mountain and lesser known groups are filed into their spaces. The heavy wooden bins are not moved to allow for ease of movement when shoppers and spectators fill the space on Record Store Day. Just over people’s heads, posters of Flo Morrissey and Alice Cooper sit next to a giant cardboard yellow submarine on the left-facing wall.
Even though Record Store Day activities had started in the morning, by mid-afternoon, crowds were still snaking heavily through the store. Adam Baker and the Heartache played an inspired, but moody set before John Minton took the stage with Kevin Jackson. With just the two of them, Minton on guitar and Jackson on harmonica, or as they called it “mouth organ,” the duo ripped through old blues in the style of Robert Johnson and Lightnin’ Hopkins. The sound transported the audience back to the days of the Great Depression and hoping trains. The soundscape was as inspiring as it was visceral. Minton and Jackson managed to sound as if they were at least a quartet. The picking and strumming that Minton did of his various guitars sounded like a train and audiences were rapt. Applause exploded all over the store at the conclusion of each tune. In between there was clapping along, and the recording of video.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was Minton’s performance of Blind Willie McTell’s “Broke Down Angel.” It was as perky as a blues song is likely to be. The nuanced guitar played against the long harmonica notes that Jackson breathed out with his whole body. Those in attendance learned a little about blues history and the playing history of the musicians who gave their time to perform. Record Store Day 2018 taught audiences that collecting music is more than just a potentially expensive habit – – it is a lesson in history and culture, too.