So this is a history blog- I know. What does Record Store Day 2014 have to do with history? Well…at Third Man Records we were making history. Maybe I’m stretching that a bit just so I can blog about the awesome time I had in Nashville this weekend but since Public History is tied hand in hand with big events and marketing- it’s totally appropriate. Believe it or not, there really were some historical elements to the weekend but I’ll try not to push that too much.
We arrived in Nashville Friday around noon after fourteen hours in the car from Ontario and headed straight to Third Man Records, Jack White’s record company, to check out the scene. A fairly large group of people were around checking things out but no line up yet. We took a quick peek inside the shop (which is basically a small Jack White museum) and left to do some shopping, knowing we’d be back soon for a night of camping out in line! Since last Record Store Day, not a lot had changed in the shop but for those of you who haven’t heard about it, it’s pretty cool. The whole shop is very small, about the size of a one-bedroom apartment’s kitchen, including the novelty lounge. It’s complete with Third Man Records merchandise, a photo booth, a juke box, wax mold machine, monkey band player and a “Record Your Own Record” Booth that has seen the likes of Brendan Benson, Jack White, Neil Young and yours truly, Gabrielle Bossy.
As a public historian, specifically one interested in music history, I’ve learned a lot from my experiences visiting Third Man Records over the past few years. First, in terms of presentation, Jack White thrives off of creative limitations. What I mean by this is that he places limits on himself in order to create great work that isn’t all over the place. For example, for each band he plays in and for the shop itself, he’s restricted himself to about two colors. You know, the White Stripes (red and white), his solo band (black and blue) and Third Man Records itself is pretty much all black and yellow (you’ll notice this in the photos). Additionally, White’s logos are on everything (note to self: create a logo). Being somebody who is all over the place and has a bit of difficulty reigning myself in on various projects, maybe limiting myself in some similar ways on my next museum project will really help my presentation! I’m excited about this possibility.
In addition to creative limitations, Third Man Records is great about interactivity- to the point that I wish I’d reflected on this prior to starting my final project for Interactive Exhibit Design. They are all about involving the fans of the record label in their process via Instagram, Twitter and online in the Vault (fan club) and White Swirl (the online forum). Even visiting, one can interact much more with the shop than a regular one. You can buy pins in a vending machine, create your own record in a matter of minutes and mail it to anybody anywhere (free of charge) right from the store. Additionally, you can get your own wax molding of Jack’s guitar and a few other great keepsakes from the shop. On Record Store Day, Third Man Records takes this to a whole new level!
Enter this year’s Third Man Records mission: to create the world’s fastest record! In past years Jack White and Third Man Records have put on concerts and debuted the booth- but this year promised to be special for the simple fact that we would all be part of history! A few weeks ago, two hundred concert tickets were opened for sale to Vault members only and my boyfriend and I were lucky enough to score a pair. Later that afternoon we realized how lucky we were when people started tweeting out offers to pay for flights down, stays in hotel etc and up to 1000 dollars just for a single ticket! Still, we couldn’t pass up the experience. The ticket not only promised a copy of the world’s fastest record, but also a pass to the recording (basically a Jack White concert) at Third Man Record’s infamous Blue Room, a Whirlwind Heat concert (and free record), breakfast, pizza and oh did I mention free beer? This again, taught me a very important lesson about any historical institution, be it a museum or any other. This year, I’ve studied a lot of work on how to pull in visitors who don’t commonly visit museums. Record Store Day 2014 reminded me that yes, this is important but it’s also important to value your regulars in order not to lose them! So while we might gripe that we see the same people at museums all the time, we should definitely cherish them because it wouldn’t be open without them and the spirit of the institution would be completely different.
Back to the story. Around four pm on Friday, we returned to Third Man Records and saw a handful of people already in line. Although we suspected this would happen eventually (last year it was around the block with thousands lined up) we didn’t think it would be quite so early since people lining up for the concert already had tickets- you’d get in no matter what and you’d get your free record. The Third Man Records dedication is a little stronger than that though! So, Ryan and I took our place as ninth and tenth in line and took up our spots in lawn chairs for the night! We met lots of really cool people and big music fans. Although this doesn’t sound like the ideal vacay for most, we’ve come to love staying up late, swapping concert stories, debating Young verses Dylan (faithful readers, you know me) and fighting exhaustion. I also got a bit of marking done!
Third Man Records really stepped up the game big time this year. At 7am Ultra Ticket Holders (and anybody who just wanted a look-see, but that’s as far as they’d get) were let inside the building joined to the shop. All others were left outside to line up for a copy of the World’s Fastest Record (hopefully). We waited in line, had some breakfast and finally at 830 we were let into the Blue Room where ABSOLUTELY NO CELL PHONES OR CAMERAS OR ELSE YOU’RE KICKED OUT is the rule, and we were able to score a spot right up against the stage. Please note though, there’s really no bad spot in the whole joint. Another hour and a half later, Jack White had taken the stage and after a quick warm up tune, the record was cutting his new song Lazaretto and a cover of Elvis’s Power of My Love. Immediately after those two songs were done, the recording was rushed to Nashville’s own United Record Pressings and a very quick three hours, fifty five minutes and 21 seconds later (the count started as soon as Jack started playing Lazaretto), Jack White was personally handing out the first copy to some eager fans while the Ultra Ticket Holders were inside listening to Whirlwind Heat. The record had been broken!!!! As the songs started their press at URP, Jack played ten more songs for some excited fans, featuring a lot of new work and some old favorites from the White Stripes and his solo work. We even caught two picks, including the one that Jack played the world’s fastest record with!! (Sorry bragging out of my system, but I had to mention it. It was such an amazing concert and was nice to get a momento from one of our best road trips and concerts yet). The concert featured a mixture of Jack’s back up bands (The Peacocks and the Buzzards) as well as a few new faces that killed it on stage. Lily Mae, Jack’s Peacock fiddler and backup vocalist, took more of a leading role in this show than usual, perhaps due to the absence of Ruby Amanfu, but she did not disappoint! It was a great show with awesome talent on stage. On a side note, there were also some great musicians off stage in the audience including Alison Mosshart of The Kills and Dead Weather (two bands you’d be absolutely crazy not to check out).
The set list included:
High Ball Stepper (Jack’s new song, warmup)
Lazaretto (Jack’s new song)
Power of My Love (the Elvis Presley cover)
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (White Stripes cover)
Freedom at 21 (off Jack’s last album, Blunderbuss)
Three Women (Jack’s new song)
Weep Themselves to Sleep (Blunderbuss)
Love Interuption (Blunderbuss)
Hello Operator (White Stripes cover and my personal favorite of the whole show because Jack had the crowd sing every single lyric for him- you know you’ve made it big when!)
One More Drink (Jack’s new song)
Hotel Yorba (White Stripes cover…okay this might tie for first)
Would You Fight for My Love (Jack’s new song)
Afterwards, we had pizza, free beer, listened to Whirlwind Heat (which is a great band whose record Jack produced and is sort of a mix between Rage Against the Machine, Beastie Boys and something else that is strange and wonderful). After leaving the Blue Room and exiting Third Man Records, the hype continued outside as thousands of fans were still lined up for their copy (and not one went home disappointed). The Rolling Record Store was selling Third Man merch and hosting teen bands Waxed and Jawws, both punky bands that blew it up! Mexican popsicles and candy marshmallows were for sale and everybody was having a great time! I have to say one of the most special parts of my day actually happened afterwards when I got to meet Lily Mae- the spunky fiddle player who was so nice and down to earth, thanking us for coming and being part of the show.
Overall, it was an amazing day spent with amazing people and Third Man Records in no way disappointed. Plus it was pretty cool to be a part of history. Till next time Nashville! Thanks for hosting two eager Canadians. xoxo.