October 25, 2013

Seattle’s Music Mecca

Pearl Jam Record Shopping


by John Ohannesian

Georgetown, Seattle, Washington. A small business and residential area in a vast sea of industrial buildings and trucks, railroad tracks and freeways south of downtown Seattle, just a few hundred yards north of Boeing Field (King County International Airport) and directly under the jet landing flight path. Georgetown is home to a community of diverse talents, including Boeing engineers and fine artists, beer brewers, bartenders and a motorcycle club. Smack dab in the center of it all is Georgetown Records in the Julius Horton Building on the corner of Airport Way South and South Vale Street.

This record store specializes in non-specialization. Martin Imbach wants customers to be surprised by his stock; not see records they have seen all too often before. The store has a large selection of international music and a multinational selection of prog, garage, punk and electronica as well as classic rock and Northwest bands like the Wailers, Sonics, Kingsmen and The Ventures. Also jazz and country. There is a large selection of nearly unheard of punk 45s and a well-stocked 50-cent bin for the discerning and impecunious shopper. The only new music is from local bands and vinyl from small or local labels such as nearby, Light in the Attic. The store has a collection of antique gear on display, including an older, industrial record lathe.

Georgetown is also home to, or the hangout of, some of the famous Seattle bands. Mike McCready, guitarist for Pearl Jam, has been known to check out records in the New Arrivals bin. Members of Soundgarden, Tad and even the Psychedelic Furs have shown up.

The music store shares a front door, business space and employees with Seattle publishers’ Fantagraphics bookstore and gallery. The bookstore shows the world’s best cartoonists and has frequent signing events with such notables as Tony Millionaire (Maakies), Jaime and Beto Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Gahan Wilson (Playboy and National Lampoon among many others) and Seattle’s own Peter Bagge (Hate). One early crossover show consisted of Grammy winning guitarist Bill Frisell and world-renowned cartoonist Jim Woodring. While Bill played, Jim showed slides of his unearthly art. Other artists such as The Walkabouts, Mark Pickerel (Screaming Trees), Zak Sally (Low) and Peter Bagge’s band, Can You Imagine?, have performed — often in conjunction with an art show. Both stores are also deeply involved with the Georgetown Carnival each year, hosting a stage in front of the store and sharing facilities for the event.

In 1915, when the building was put up, the record store space was a bank; later it was part of a machine shop and then a custom Harley shop. When the space became available in 2004, a group of like-minded souls realized it was the best location in the area and really one of the best in Seattle. At first, they were not sure what to do with the space, but wanting to secure it for themselves, they heartily agreed when bassist Jen Parker suggested they open a record store. Fueled by relatively cheap rent, a supportive landlord and continuing contributions by the founders, it has persevered until it has finally become a bit profitable — at least enough to insure its continuation. Now there is one full time employee (Martin), a few part-timers and friendly, occasional helpers.

Russ Battaglia, the original founder and owner of Fallout Records lends his expertise, too. Fallout Records was a legendary store on Capitol Hill that joined the skate, comics and music culture. His contribution to the Seattle scene is crucial and directly related to the atmosphere of the space inhabited by Georgetown Records and Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery. He shares his knowledge in both stores.

Georgetown itself was host to the recent Sub Pop 25th Anniversary Jubilee on Saturday, July 13th, 2013. Over 30,000 people jammed the streets and listened to shows by over a dozen bands on three stages. The bands included Mudhoney, Built To Spill, The Brothers of the Sonic Cloth (Tad Doyle), Shabazz Palaces and J. Mascis. Amazing photographs by Charles Peterson and Lance Mercer were displayed at the Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery. The record store displayed a rich treasure trove of vintage Sub Pop vinyl. Fantagraphics Bookstore and Gallery, wonderfully managed and curated by impresario and regional legend Larry Reid, put up a show of early Sub Pop magazines, tapes, records and ephemera.


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