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No fidelity (continued)


Like Damroth, Looney Tunes owner and founder Pat McGrath, whoís had a Boston store for 27 years and a secondary location in Cambridge for 16, carries a broad range of product and uses Internet sales as a way keeping the doors at both stores open. "I try to do everything ó CDs, tapes, and vinyl. Our CD sales have been down. But Iím making do other ways. Weíd be sunk if we didnít do vinyl. Vinyl is half or more of our business. It was my notion to get rid of it as soon as it stopped selling, but it just never has. To me, itís also part of what makes coming here an engaging experience. Itís all about finding stuff that you arenít looking for. Itís easy to find what you are looking for on-line. But itís much more difficult to find what youíre not looking for. Itís the journey thatís important, not the destination."

McGrath, a musician himself whoís probably best known for fronting the country band the Wheelers and Dealers, is also well aware of the role used-record stores play in the health of a music scene. "Everybody who works here is a musician. And thatís also part of what makes coming into the store an experience." And though he maintains a Web site thatís currently being revamped and has also used eBay as a way to sell more product, he remains fairly optimistic, even about the younger customers he sees in the store. "Berklee has a high-school-band day, and those kids come in and are wildly enthusiastic about music. Basically, our younger customers are just the brighter kids. Theyíre looking for something interesting, something vital, something that can change their life. I mean, there was a teenager in the other day buying Jelly Roll Morton records. And the next thing you know, his mom is in getting him a gift certificate so he can buy more. Thatís really what itís all about."

Itís just that sort of experience that, unfortunately, is no longer going to be part of Disc Diggers, which now consists of computers, scanners, a Web site thatís yet to be fully exploited, a store at eBay thatís been hugely successful, and no more living, breathing customers. "Just a few weeks ago, we had some kid in here buying a Mingus Big Band CD," Soria recalls. "I asked him if he was buying it for his dad and he said no, he was buying it for himself because he heard Mingus was cool. So I told him about a couple of books he should read about Mingus and some of the other CDs he should check out. And who knows what this kid is going to end up doing with his life. Maybe heíll be a doctor, maybe heíll be a jazz musician. Whatever. But maybe that Mingus record is going to make a difference to him in his life.

"Thatís what I loved about selling music. And that part of it is gone. I liked being Michael from Disc Diggers. I mean, one of our last customers the other night is this guy who comes in with his wife and kids. And Iíve been selling stuff to him forever. He and his girlfriend used to come in every Friday night. And then they got married. And then they had kids. And then theyíd be in here with a stroller. And now theyíre in here with a couple of kids. And they were the last customers I wrote up. I donít even know their names. But it doesnít matter because they were part of what this store was for years."

As a parting gesture, Disc Diggers made that last Saturday a gift that its customers would remember. The store was closed, but the action had moved down the street and around the corner to Johnny Dís, where a number of musicians who had ties to the store played to a room full of past and present employees and customers ó people who had been part of the Disc Diggers experience for two decades. Local singer-songwriter Rachel Cantu, whoíd just come off a tour opening for Tegan and Sara but who usually worked on Saturdays, played, as did Simon Ritt of the Darlings, a long-time Disc Diggers employee. Former Papas Fritas frontman Tony Goddess, who maintains a practice space in the basement beneath Disc Diggers, was also on the bill with a band called the Punk Monkeys, who practice downstairs as well. What will become of that space when Disc Diggers vacates its Davis Square location for a less expensive space elsewhere this summer is anyoneís guess. One of the storeís first employees, Chandler Travis, played with his Philharmonic. And topping off the bill was a Disc Diggers regular by the name of Al Kooper ó yeah, the same Al Kooper who played the organ hook on Dylanís original recording of "Like a Rolling Stone." When heíd stopped by the store a couple Wednesdays earlier and gotten the bad news about the closing, he simply offered to play.

For Soria, it was one last chance to talk music with the people heíd been selling music to all these years. "We had a bash. We packed the bar. The best part about it was, it was a way for the last vestige of employees here to thank people for coming in and supporting our store and supporting our lifestyle, which is based around music and art. There was a kid I talked to who it turned out was an engineer over at Q Division [a studio down the street from the store]. Heís one of those people whoís been coming in here for a couple years pretty regularly, poking around through the racks for stuff. I donít know where people like him are going to find that anymore. All I know is theyíre not going to find it at 401 Highland Ave anymore. And thatís really a shame."

page 3 

Issue Date: January 14 - 20, 2005
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