I still have vivid memories of stopping by the flagship outpost of Nabil Ayers and Jason Hughes' Sonic Boom Records store on 36th Street (just down the street from their current location on Fremont Avenue). The place was a shoebox-size, bare-bones boutique lovingly stocked with releases from familiar local labels like Up! and eMpTy and singularly staffed by Hughes, who was writing out sales slips on carbon paper. Having watched more than a few arts-related independent businesses launch with high expectations and then die slow, painful deaths, I was supportive of their entrepreneurial spirit but more than a little nervous about their chances for survival. Nearly 10 years later, it's nice to know just how unfounded those fears were. Now comprised of three thriving locations and operating with markedly more sophisticated register systems in place, Sonic Boom isn't just a success; it's a local institution.
Last Thursday, Ayers, Hughes, and general manager Julie Butterfield celebrated the opening of their latest endeavor, the Sonic Boom General Store, located directly next door to the Fremont Avenue location in the space formerly occupied by Fremont News. Plenty of local notables were in attendance, including reps from local labels Suicide Squeeze, Sub Pop, and Mt. Fuji, along with Crocodile booking agents (and former Sonic Boom employees) Pete Greenberg and Eli Anderson and members of local bands Lillydale, Head Like a Kite, and the Long Winters. Along with serving as the spacious new location of the Vinyl Annex (previously located in a subterranean alcove beneath the Fremont store) and stocking a wide range of music periodicals (I still can't believe there's a magazine called Fretboard Journal), the store will be hosting the occasional book reading by authors from the fetishistic 33 1/3 series. The first will be held on Thursday, Feb. 8, with MSN music editor/Harvey Danger frontman Sean Nelson reading from his recently released analysis of Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark, and Yeti editor Mike McGonigal sharing excerpts from his breakdown of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.
In other local success stories, the energy at Sub Pop headquarters last week wasn't quite as raucous as, say, the locker room of the Indianapolis Colts, but it was pretty evident that everyone was riding high on the staggering sales figures that the Shins racked up in the first week of releasing Wincing the Night Away. As sagely predicted by our own Brian Barr in his cover story a few weeks ago, a variety of key factors coincided (most publicly, an appearance on Saturday Night Live) to help the band sell an astonishing 118,000 records and shoot them to the No. 2 position on the Billboard charts. This is impressive by itself, but becomes even more so when you consider the previous internal record set by a Sub Pop artist. "The biggest opening we had previously was with the last Shins record, Chutes Too Narrow," explains Sub Pop's national publicist Steve Manning. "And that figure was 15,000."
By now word has spread widely that Pretty Girls Make Graves have called it a day, citing the departure of drummer Nick deWitt, who is now focused on Night Canopy, the highly promising, atmos-pheric, pop-folk project he formed with Amy Blaschke last spring. Rumor has it that the last PGMG show will be at the Vera Project in May, but no firm date has been announced (keep your eye on our Reverb blog, where we'll announce date and ticket information as soon as we have it). You can check out Night Canopy at the Crocodile this Thursday, Feb. 8, along with the Cave Singers and Lightning Dust (the latest side project from the Black Mountain camp).
Band breakups are inevitable and band reunions all too predictable, but one I definitely never thought I'd see is the reunion of former Seattleite Gerald Collier with the musicians he worked with in the mid-'90s. Collier, a fiercely talented singer-songwriter (with a vitriolic temper to match) had a habit of firing bandmates with disturbing frequency back then, but it was the configuration of bassist Jeff Wood, guitarist Bill Bern-hard, and drummer John Hollis that arguably produced the most stunning versions of Collier's heartbreaking ballads and debauched rockers. Any lingering animosities have been put aside to reconvene and play shows in Seattle and Portland (specific dates TBA) in celebration of the aptly titled How Can There Be Another Day?, a release of B-sides and demos from that era.