1988: After most national shows, the merch guys would offer the First Ave staff leftover tour shirts for cheap and I accumulated an impressive collection, including a vintage Danzig tee you can now buy at Target. Warren Zevon played the mainroom in the fall and I was wearing the evidence proudly when I went to Oarfolk Records (now Treehouse) on Lyndale the next day to buy the new Gear Daddies album.
The clerk (now owner), Mark Trehus, noticed the shirt. Holding a box with the words “Sub Pop” on the side, he said oldies were fine but he wanted to show me the future. Actually, he said he wanted to show me the “fucking future” and dumped two dozen copies of the Mudhoney Superfuzz Bigmuff EP onto the counter in front of me. “You’ve got to fucking hear this,” he said. “These guys are going to change fucking music forever.”
He placed the vinyl reverently on the turntable and the first song, “Need,” blasted through the speakers—the missing link between the Stooges, MC5, and…the future, I guess. He just stood there smiling with his eyes closed, his head nodding in agreement with himself, because He Knew.
I have no great love for grunge as a genre. While it initially signaled a seismic shift in popular culture, it was quickly repurposed by corporate pod people intent on selling rebellion to the suburbs. But I missed the beginning of punk. I missed the beginning of new wave. I missed the beginning of rap. But by god, I was there for grunge—I got the secret handshake that day.
Why would we need college radio when we have 89.3 The Current to validate hipsters by playing their CD collections back to them?
Today: Most of the record stores I visited regularly—Garage D’or, Rock-It, Northern Lights—are long gone. We tend to wax nostalgic about lost things, the way my mom gets all misty when she talks about using the outhouse when she was a kid. I doubt, however, she would relinquish the recent advancements in toilet technology she currently enjoys. I also doubt anyone laments losing the unholy hipster army that staffed Let It Be, a collection of condescending crackers incapable of differentiating between “making” music and “selling” it. And why would we need college radio when we have 89.3 The Current to validate hipsters by playing their CD collections back to them?
Things change—the Internet is now the biggest indie record store on the planet. But progress comes at a cost. The Cities’ music community lost its center and I lost my sense of discovery. Indie retailers were our cheerleaders and only a very few remain, lurking furtively behind the Pere Ubu albums at VFW record fairs. The dark lords of metal couldn’t save Earl Root from cancer, Tatters has no Platters, and Vince at Aardvark found himself surrounded by mercados and taquerias in Northeast Minneapolis, unable to survive on the razor-thin margins from my monthly MOJO purchase. Maybe we should put him in the Smithsonian, in the “Rendered Obsolete” display next to the beepers and the popcorn poppers.
P.S.: Talk about kismet—I was paging recently through a copy of an old Trouser Press magazine from November 1979 when I came across a letter to the editor written in response to Rolling Stone fop Kurt Loder’s review of Cities prepunks the Suicide Commandos (expurgated from original length):
Any ostentatious dilettante could easily have pounced upon Suicide Dance Concert in the fashion KUNT [sic] Loder did. The Suicide Commandos embodied everything I’ve ever loved about rock ’n’ roll. For some fatuous critic to pointlessly castigate a record of which only 1,000 were pressed—a record intended for those of us who danced with bittersweet, tear-filled abandon for that one, last pile-driving rocker—is a cold-blooded, cruel-hearted injustice. Fuck you, Kurt Loder!
-Mark Trehus / Minneapolis, Minnesota
The sign outside Treehouse says “The World’s Last Record Store,” and I believe it. He’s been fighting the good fight for over 30 years, people. Somebody go shake this guy’s hand. And buy something from him while you’re at it.
Legal restrictions compel Almostred (email@example.com) to write under an assumed name. His identity isn’t a big secret but you don’t know him anyway. He is survived by a daughter who doesn’t appreciate his esoteric musical sensibilities and a bank account residing with his ex-wife. His massive record collection is currently very hip with the young people.