It’s rarely fun to say goodbye, especially to one of the most beloved New York City record stores. Other Music was a treasure, a beautiful place of music discovery and truly an influential place in the New York music scene. Last week was the final week of operations for the legendary store, and this past Tuesday was a farewell party held at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. The lineup was a definitive “Who’s Who” of New York’s music scene and a true example of why Other Music was such an important place to so many New Yorkers.
The evening was hosted by comedian Janeane Garofalo, who introduced most of the evening’s artists. The first act was John Zorn & John Medeski’s Simulacrum, who were deliciously jammy with heavy guitar riffs, drum solos and wicked organ playing. Psychic Ills were next and continued the jammy trend with four songs. Matana Roberts was third up, and played a song on saxophone she had written for the record store, which was the first place who sold her music.
Bill Callahan, who had two other shows that night, played a great, short set of deep cuts, including a performance of “Dress Sexy At My Funeral” that got the audience laughing. Next up was New York/New Jersey indie scene veterans Yo La Tengo, starting out with a great cover of The Rolling Stones “The Last Time”, fitting for the occasion. Other Music co-owner Josh Madell played a song on drums with Yo La Tengo.
However, Madell was not the only guest to join Yo La Tengo. After their 15 minutes were up, lead singer Ira Kaplan said “hold on, we convinced them to give us another 15”, and out came Yoko Ono. Just the mere presence of Yoko Ono had the Bowery Ballroom fill with thunderous applause. Throughout her performance with Yo La Tengo, the crowd would burst into genuine, spontaneous moments of appreciation to which Ono replied “I love you” and “thank you so much”. It was a truly magical moment, and you could see that on Josh Madell’s face as he watched from the back of the stage.
Julianna Barwick followed Yoko Ono with her own strange, beautiful, and spacey music. She dedicated a song to her friend Thomas Fekete of Surfer Blood, who passed away recently, and read words written by his wife. She was followed by Sharon Van Etten, who played a perfect set for the evening and told a great story about her dad trying to score some promo merch from Other Music.
Next up was Frankie Cosmos, who managed to play half of their recent Next Thing in the allotted 15 minutes. They’re such a great live band with tons of energy. Greta Kline seemed honored to be there, describing the evening as “sick”. If you follow Frankie Cosmos and other associated acts, you’ll know that is a good thing.
Helado Negro followed Frankie Cosmos and absolutely owned it. He offered a change of pace, and it was great, backed by an amazing band including guitarists and a horn section. Menahan Street Band played right after and continued the funkiness.
Other Music co-owner Josh Madell then took the stage to thank everyone for their business over the years, and he thanked everyone who ever worked for Other Music and invited them on stage. A ton of former employees joined him, including other co-owner Chris Vanderloo. It was a great moment to celebrate the little record store that outlasted Tower Records, who operated just down the block from them.
The final act of the evening was The Tallest Man On Earth. Now, he’s not exactly part of the New York scene like most of the other performers, but he told a story about how the first time he ever saw his own record in the US was at Other Music. Just another example of how important this place was. To conclude his set, he asked Sharon Van Etten to join him for one last song. It was a truly beautiful moment.
Other Music was my go-to Manhattan record store. Whenever someone asked “hey, what’s a good record store in the city” when they visited, Other Music was always my first pick. The staff was knowledgeable and they always had some weird, interesting stuff that you wouldn’t be able to find many other places in the country, let alone the city. Now, with streaming music discovery and competition all over the city, it’s tough to keep something like what they had going, and that is a shame. However, it outlived some of its toughest rivals, and this week’s concert is not one anyone in attendance will forget. Other Music Forever.
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