Posted by Charlee Redman on 04/20 at 09:25 AM
When City Lights Records closed earlier this year, the State College music scene lost a valuable resource. For years, local residents had gone to the independent store to buy vinyl, CDs, and memorabilia and maybe strike up a conversation with Greg Gabbard, the man who became the face of the business. It was a place where old and new music met and concerts and albums were promoted. It was the musical epicenter for local artists.
But starting this summer, there will be a new venue for independent music residing in City Lights’ former basement location at 316 E. College Avenue. The Music Underground and the Kill Screen Kafé will fill the gaping void left by the old store by selling records, turntables, refurbished stereo parts, as well as renting music equipment and offering repair services.
The Music Underground (an apt name for an indie record store below street-level) will hopefully serve the needs of the musical community who don’t necessarily want to download everything from iTunes or Limewire. Something in the concrete materiality of vinyl and CDs can’t really be replaced by digital files hidden away on a computer hard drive. It could also be a blessing for musicians in the downtown area, providing another option for those whose instruments might need a little tune up.
Not only will the venue be a record store - it’s going to be a vintage arcade with a small collection of pinball machines and video games (Atari and Pac-Man, anyone?). The Kill Screen Kafé will have its own additional entrance on Calder Way and will whip up coffee, specialty beverages, and snacks for hungry gamers.
Chronic Town (224 W. College Ave.) is holding a “sneak peek” for the venue, which won’t open until this summer. On Saturday April 17th from 1pm-7pm, used and new vinyl will be on sale to the accompaniment of live DJs. Admission is free and you’ll even get to see “special appearances by local notable music aficionados,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
In the age of downloading and large-scale corporations selling thousands of records by Top 40 artists every day, independent record stores are fading into the woodwork. With them goes a valuable resource for musicians and listeners alike, a vestige of “the past” that we associate with bygone decades and an older generation. But these record stores transcend the petty boundaries of time - they’re a vital part of the community for sharing music (and music is the universal language, after all).
It’s difficult for any music store to stay afloat these days, but hopefully The Music Underground and the Kill Screen Kafé will be unique enough to succeed as businesses and occupy the empty niche in the local scene. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Author: Charlee Redman
Bio: Charlee Redman is currently a sophomore studying English and French at Penn State. She enjoys reading, writing, listening to music, making ambient noise with the local band The Roaring Kittens, walking, and drinking lots of coffee. Although she likes many styles of music, some of her favorites are folk, indie, classical, and electronic. Her favorite bands at the moment are The National, Iron & Wine, Of Montreal, and Radiohead.
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