The East 4th Street record store Other Music unplugged the stereo and closed its doors for good this month, ending a 20 year run as one of Manhattan's most eclectic and beloved hubs of music. The store's final day of business—last Saturday—drew a massive crowd of customers hoping to pick up a few records and say goodbye. But store owner Josh Madell and the rest of his staff made plans for one final jam.
"We just wanted to celebrate. There's so much emotion and so much sadness for us and all these people that supported the store, and put so much heart and creative energy into making it some kind of a place," Madell said.
Hundreds of people crowded into the shop last night to watch the experimental band 75 Dollar Bill play one final in-store performance in the room, now only adorned with empty shelves and piles of boxes. As the band played, others combed through some remaining vinyl out on the sidewalk, where the last of Other Music's once-massive used section were being sold off for a dollar a record.
Jeremy Novak, 46, had picked out a stack of over 30 vinyl LPs Tuesday—his last purchase as a twenty year customer there. Novak, a Morningside Heights resident, recalls being "totally crushed" after hearing that it was going out of business. "This was one of the last music nerve endings left in lower Manhattan," he said.
Other Music was opened in 1996 by a crew of former Kim's Video clerks looking to make their own mark on New York's music scene. It was a bold move at the time, with retail giant Tower Records just up the street.
"It was such a strike for the underground back then," Novak recalled on Tuesday. He considers the store's owners personal friends, and Other Music has supported his own band throughout the years. When the store's walls stocked unfamiliar albums, Novak would buy them with little hesitation, trusting the staff's taste and the store's culture of inclusion. He can't even guess at how many wax singles, LPs, and compilations he's bought and sold at the store over the years.
After 75 Dollar Bill's performance, Other Music's iconic orange and blue banner was plucked from the wall as the room filled with dozens of guitarists, horn players, and drummers. It was the beginning of the send-off's main event: a New Orleans-style "second line" funeral through the streets, from the storefront to the doors of the Bowery Ballroom, where a star-studded (and sold out) farewell concert was about to begin.
"We're a band that loves to play on the street anyway," Rick Brown, 75 Dollar Bill's percussionist said. "When they had this idea for the parade, we immediately said 'We're in!'"
"It seemed like a second line funeral where you're really celebrating life, rather than mourning death, was the way to do it," Madell said as he walked amongst saxophone, trumpet, and bass drum players, caught in a crowd that numbered over a hundred and stopped traffic at multiple intersections.
"We just felt like, well there's all these people who want to contribute and be a part of something, let's just do it on the street."