15 April 2009

Record Store Week, Day 4: Horizon Records, Greenville, SC

If you're just tuning in, all this week at SIO, I'm profiling some independent record stores that have had an impact on my brief tenure on this bright blue marble. I am NOT ranking these record stores, merely providing anecdotes and/or vignettes of what these specific records stores mean in the context of a decade-plus of throwing money at patchouli-smelling, cooler-than-you hipster types.

Yesterday, I devoted the post to Earshot, one of the two fantastic independent record stores in my sorta-hometown of Greenville, SC. Today, Day 4 of Record Store Week, is all about the other, equally-as-awesome independent record store, Horizon Records.

First, one should know that Horizon Records can NOT be compared to Earshot in anyway. It's like comparing a great beer to a great wine: both satisfy the same need only in different ways. The two stores sell records, CDs, books, DVDs, and other assortment of musicalia. Their similarities end there. Each store serves a specific purpose for a specific and discerning crowd and the fact that these two stores have coexisted for over a decade in the same conservative city in the Upstate of South Carolina (really, one of the most unususal places for two great independent records stores, don't ya think?) is nothing short of phenomenal. I got nothing but love for both of them. G-vegas, baby! Fo-eva!...sorry...


Horizon Records has been owned and operated for nearly 35 years by Mr. Gene Berger (aka, The Cranky Dub Master). He is, undoutedly, one of the coolest guys to pass your time conversing with. His musical knowledge is awe-inducing, and he's turned me on to more than seven or eight artists that are now regular staples in my repetoire including Chuck Prophet, Rogue Wave, Southern Culture On the Skids, Mingus, etc. Gene is synonymous with Horizon Records and in an age of shifting CEOs and business turnovers, that is saying something.

One of Horizon Records' main attractions, however, is the numerous FREE in-store performances that the store hosts on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. I died a little inside a few months ago when The Silver Jews showed up to play a free in-store and I no longer lived a mere 15 minutes away. (In case you missed it The Silver Jews have retired from music as of Feb 2009.) And I missed the Rogue Wave in-store because I was lazy and it was a hot summer day and I had no air conditioner in my car. But I have seen everyone from The Avett Brothers (me and six other people saw that--this was very much before they were the megastars they are now) to Bela Fleck, to Charlie Louvin, to Aimee Mann. All for free. And in a comfortable setting, with beer and coffee. And, tellingly, every artist that has ever walked through the door at Horizon Records has always said the same thing: "You all are lucky to have a store like this because there aren't many of these left."

Horizon Records moved into a swanky new building about four or five years ago. It's all hardwood floors and exposed ceilings now, but I remember when they were stationed in a smaller trailer-esque building on the (now) kind of crappy part of Greenville. My first trip there I picked up a used copy of Minor Threat, Complete Discography and a record by The Cars (Candy-O, I think). Later that year I paid $6 for a copy of George Harrison, All Things Must Pass and as I exited the store I literally remember thinking, "Why did I ever go to Best Buy to buy music?" I don't know why it suddenly hit me that day, but I do remember it as my "great awakening" to the need and role of the independent record store in a free-market society and the role the consumer plays. So, in more than one sense, Horizon Records changed my perception of what a record store is, let alone what it can and should be. But I'm sure I'm not the first person to say that about them, nor will I be the last.


(The record cover wasn't in color when I bought it, ya know.)

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