The best way to experience live music in an unadorned setting devoid of pretentiousness or pomp is in a music store.
The lighting is designed for folks browsing through bins of albums and CDs, it’s usually crowded, and the shows are in the middle of the day when most musicians are just starting to wake up.
For musicians an “in-store” is more exposure for their art, and for the stores it’s a chance to create a little buzz, attract customers, and have some fun.
“Needless to say, I don’t know if it’s like this for all musicians and all artists, but the thing about doing an in-store is that it’s very intimate,” said Sarah Donnelly, a Bowling Green-based alternative musician. “Obviously with a place like Culture Clash it is very small and I actually prefer seeing shows like that in small places.”
Donnelly was referring to the Secor Road record store where she has played several shows even though fans get to see “any little mistake, terrifying facial grimace, spit flying out of your mouth, dropping a pick.”
Pat O’Connor, the owner of Culture Clash, has been holding in-stores for decades, stretching back to his time running Boogie Records, the precursor of his current business at 4020 Secor Rd.
“It’s not a bar or a place with a multitude of distractions where you can do other things like play a video game or talk to friends. You’re pretty much here to see the band,” he said.
Among the artists he’s featured over the years are folk blues purists Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band (last summer), activist John Sinclair, the Black Angels, bluesman Honeyboy Edwards, All Time Low, Collective Soul, Heartless Bastards, Sponge, and local artists such as the Homeville Circle and Donnelly.
“It’s almost like the old troubadour thing or the busker who comes out and gets people to go to the show at night,” O’Connor said.
About a mile away is Ramalama Records, 3151 W. Central Ave., which also holds in-store shows and has the broken ceiling to prove it, according to owner Rob Kimple.
“I’ve had it to the point where there was a bunch of kids upstairs and they got a little rowdy and knocked a ceiling tile off the ceiling downstairs, just jumping up and down. The battle scar still sits there,” he said, noting that there is an egalitarian aspect to in-stores.
“We do it for local bands all the way up to established acts. Anyone can do it, which is one of the beautiful things about it.”
For example, one of his most popular was a few years ago when rock icon Todd Rundgren was in Toledo and he did a packed in-store at Ramalama. He said more than 250 people signed up to have records signed — Rundgren did not perform — and the star stayed long past his allotted time to ensure that everyone got a chance to meet him.
In-stores are pretty simple: the band plays for free in exchange for a chance to sell their music directly to fans, meet them, and encourage people to head out a few hours later to the concert they’re playing in Toledo.
“It’s the most intimate time you can have with a band,” O’Connor said. “Sometimes it’s acoustic, sometimes it’s full-blown and they’re basically just hanging out. A lot of times these guys kind of hang out and talk and get their ‘Hey dudes’ and it’s fantastic. It’s one of those things that’s real fun for everyone concerned.”
Kimple said in-stores are a good time for him.
“I get to see a show. It’s a win-win situation. We get to have bands come in and bring people out and it exposes people to the store and it’s just a lot of fun.”
In an era when clubs feature fewer local artists who play original music and radio stations have strict limits on styles of music they feature, Donnelly said in-stores are a great way for musicians to gain exposure and introduce their work to new audiences.
“From a marketing standpoint, record stores give an opportunity for the artist to provide those kind of intimate experiences that people may not be able to access much these days,” she said.
O’Connor said she’ll get a chance to prove her point because he’s planning to schedule an in-store with her soon.
Contact Rod Lockwood at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6159.