Tag Archives: records

Transitorily Yours

May 31, 2017 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Straub

Since we all know millennials are prone to nostalgia and the whole “Netflix’n’chill” bit, I recently watched the series The Get Down.

In the Netflix production, a couple of kids work their way through the economically famished world of New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Set amongst the cultural landscape that later was identified as the roots of hip-hop, the show is a brilliant representation of historical fiction. But unless you have a deep understanding of what was going on in that time period, you may have only picked up on half of the storyline. The stones that were dropped in America’s cultural pond during this era are still rippling all around us today. So let’s dive deeper into a few things.

In episode 3 of The Get Down, there was the citywide blackout. That actually happened. It was in the steamy summer of 1977 during the time of serial killer Son of Sam, when Times Square was filled with prostitutes and drug dealers—when the city was in the midst of bankruptcy and at any time, dozens of buildings were burning in the Bronx.

In the midst of this calamity, one night a flash of lighting caused all of NYC to erupt into darkness. Citizens switched on their reptilian brains and proceeded to vandalize and plunder. Interestingly enough, this is the very situation hip-hop needed.

Why? Before the blackout, only a handful of hip-hop DJs­—such as Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Jazzy Jay—resided in the Bronx. Mixers, turntables, and sound systems were cost-prohibitive. After the blackout, hundreds of new DJs and battle crews popped up across all five boroughs.

This unforeseen tipping point allowed hip-hop to spread throughout the city, and later to become a worldwide phenomenon.

Here’s another cue: In one episode, Jaden Smith’s character “Dizzee” discovered an underground disco club that was brimming with drag queens and Quaaludes.

TV critic Lisa Liebman speculated this scene was portraying David Mancuso’s The Loft and/or Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage.

Heard of these real-life nightclubs? Probably not. That’s because when we think of disco, we often think of Studio 54.

But the only reason why Studio 54 is relevant is because all the rich, famous, and mostly straight white folks went there. It’s the Paris Hilton of legendary nightclubs—famous for being famous. The “real” happened at spots like Nicky Siano’s Gallery, as well as the aforementioned Paradise Garage and Loft.

From alterations, to sound systems, to the founding of the first record pool, to turning unknown records into mega hits in a time when DJs determined what was played on the radio (as opposed to vice versa today), the legacy of these venues created the blueprint for modern nightclubs.

Heavily frequented by the gay, black, and Latino populations, these spots were pioneers of inclusivity. This was a time when being gay meant you often had to project a false image to your family, co-workers, and community.

Could you imagine what it would feel like to hide your identity on a daily basis? Imagine what it would feel like to be an LGBTQ person walking into a club for the first time, seeing like-minded people dancing with wild abandon, and then suddenly realizing you weren’t alone, and you could, perhaps, for the first time in your life, freely express yourself.

For more than a decade, my studies of this time period have been a big source of inspiration for the work I’ve done as a DJ, promoter, and club owner. While this era was set amongst dire economic poverty, it was incredibly rich with cultural breakthroughs—disco, hip hop, emceeing, breakdancing, graffiti, street art, Basquiat, Keith Haring, CBGB, post-punk, and the post-Stonewall sexual liberation movement.

Depending on who you ask, NYC was either a complete shit hole, or it was a totally unique creative and cultural utopia yet to be matched.

When taking that dichotomy into consideration, a larger lesson comes into focus about the role of the human condition. Simply put, struggle breeds the need to find an outlet. When society presents us with a problem, we often turn to culture for the solution. Creativity becomes a form of adaptation and escapism from the bleakness. This process is a beautiful call-and-response that pushes us beyond mediocrity, urging us to collectively create lasting legacies.

So now that we’ve re-contextualized a few things, I suggest you go even deeper and get on YouTube to watch VH1’s documentary NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell. Not only will it flip your perspective on life, but also give new dimension and relevance to The Get Down.

To share your life perspectives—or whatever—with Brent Crampton and Encounter, email millennials@omahapublications.com.

To share your life perspectives—or whatever—with Brent Crampton and Encounter, email millennials@omahapublications.com.

This column was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

Drastic Plastic

February 12, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Originally opened at 24th and N streets back in 1982, Drastic Plastic was one of the first retailers to push major boundaries within the Omaha social sphere. The punk-rock shop sold skateboards, Dr. Martens, and punk records when mainstream culture consisted of top 40 hits and leg warmers.

Now located in The Old Market District on 12th and Howard streets, Drastic Plastic has been making waves for over three decades under the direction of owner Mike Howard and, more recently, store manager Neil Azevedo.

Azevedo was originally just a regular customer before joining Drastic in 2007. A record store that promoted alternative culture was somewhat of a godsend for Midwest high-school students like Azevedo who were seeking something else.

“Whenever I started coming to the store, I did it because at that time, punk rock and post-punk music was underground music. As a teenager, it was a way for me to understand who I was and push the bounds of what I could be,” Azevedo says.

Since becoming store manager, Azevedo has helped keep Drastic Plastic current, shifting some of the store’s focus to subsidiary ventures like Drastic Plastic Collectibles. The line specializes in toy manufacturing—more specifically rock- and horror-based bobble heads.

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Starting with the classics (e.g., characters from Night of the Living Dead, Fulci’s Zombie, and the one and only Iggy Pop), Drastic Plastic Collectibles is in full swing. Soon to grace shelves are Debbie Harry, Jimi Hendrix, and Marc Bolan of T. Rex.

Although dabbling in toy manufacturing, Drastic is still all about the music. Christine Fink is the coordinator for Drastic Plastic Records, a vinyl reissue label in the Impact Merchandising offices on 24th and St. Mary’s. With her hands in everything from marketing and production to graphic design and filling orders, Fink strives to keep some of the more obscure and overlooked bands and artists alive.

“A lot of these albums are so important to so many people, and a lot of them sort of just fell by the wayside, or they haven’t been reissued in a long time,” Fink says. “Because this music and this culture transformed so many people, we felt it was important to not only reissue these albums but do it in such a way that they are collector’s items.”

Focusing heavily on packaging and presentation, Fink hopes that these reissued records can also serve as art pieces for those who collect them.

“We try to make things as high of quality as possible. We are willing to spend a little bit of money in order to make things as perfect as they can be,” Azevedo says. “Our goal is not even to make money. Our goal for the store itself is just to break even, pay our rent, and buy as much vinyl as we possibly can.”