Duane Davis enters the bunched disc abundance advanced of Wax Trax on Wednesday, October 31, 2018. The abundance has two locations on 13th Artery — one serves as a bunched disc area and the added vinyl almanac albums. Wax Trax, a Denver landmark, has been operating for added than 40 years. Owners Duane Davis and Dave Stidman bought the abundance 40 years ago and larboard abaft careers as amusing workers. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
It’s a rain-spattered Saturday afternoon, and while Denver’s Wax Trax Annal isn’t absolutely quiet — a agent appraisement discs at the advanced adverse is whistling forth to the mariachi refrains of Calexico over the stereo — the bend almanac abundance is about bare of people.
A abandoned client flips through 45s against the back, yet the rows of waist-high bins awash with shrink-wrapped CDs that ample the aggregate of the shop’s floorspace draw bare attention. Aback a adolescent woman does airing in, it’s to buy an Operation Ivy application for her jacket.
Walk two doors down, though, to Wax Trax’s vinyl annex, and it’s a altered arena altogether. A dozen bodies cross the aciculate angles of the overstuffed shop, pawing through annal new and used, sliding 12-inch discs out of their sleeves to browse for scuffs and scratches. Some access the adverse with baby endless to purchase. The aperture creaks accessible and bankrupt as a few leave, and added appear in.
What goes about absolutely has appear about for Dave Stidman and Duane Davis, a brace of above amusing workers who bought Wax Trax 40 years ago this week, at a time aback vinyl durably disqualified the music-retail roost — and now is already afresh befitting their Capitol Hill abundance alive.
“We accept a lot of apathy activity for us,” says Davis, with a grin, of his and Stidman’s adeptness to acclimate the storms, online and otherwise, that accept aged absolute almanac food aback the backward 1990s.
Now, as Stidman and Davis bless their milestone, a new documentary is spotlighting the Denver agent adventure of Chicago’s Wax Trax! Records, the retail abundance and genre-defining almanac characterization that helped popularize industrial-flavored acts KMFDM, Ministry, Advanced 242, My Activity With the Thrill Kill Kult and added in the 1980s and aboriginal ’90s.
“Industrial Accident: The Adventure of Wax Trax! Records” screens Friday and Saturday nights at the Denver Blur Festival.
The blur traces the aisle of Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher, an aboveboard gay brace at a time that wasn’t the norm, who opened Wax Trax’s aboriginal Denver area in 1975, awash it to Stidman and Davis three years afterwards and confused to Chicago. There, they operated the analogously alleged retail abundance and almanac characterization into the ’90s. (Look to the active assertion point — Wax Trax vs. Wax Trax! — to acquaint the aberration amid the Denver and Chicago iterations.)
“You apparently don’t charge accession like me to acquaint you that Duane and Dave accept created an amazing bequest of their own,” Julia Nash, Jim Nash’s babe and administrator of “Industrial Accident,” wrote in an email. “The actuality that they accept been able to advance in Denver for 40 years is not alone a attestation to them, but additionally speaks to how solid the counterculture association charcoal in Denver.”
And it’s a accolade to Wax Trax’s bounded roots that the Denver premiere is article special; in accession to the filmmakers, the console afterwards Friday night’s screening will affection Dead Kennedys fable — and Boulder built-in — Jello Biafra, Groovie Mann of Thrill Kill Kult and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, who chose Denver to accomplish his aboriginal actualization announcement the blur because of his own abysmal Colorado ties.
Jourgensen, now 60, accelerating from Frisco’s Summit High School in 1976, stumbled through a bit of academy in Greeley and Boulder, and accustomed his baptism-by-punk via an aboriginal Ramones achievement at Denver’s long-gone Ebbets Field nightclub.
“I didn’t apperceive if I was a redneck or a jailbait rocker yet,” Jourgensen says of that night in 1977. “I mean, I’d been cutting basin in Silverthorne beforehand that day. But I came abroad convinced. I anticipation it was the coolest affair I’d anytime seen. That was the defining moment of my activity and my career, appropriate there at Ebbets Field.”
At that aforementioned show: Wax Trax’s Flesher and Nash, forth with a adolescent Eric Boucher, who hadn’t yet adopted his date persona of Jello Biafra. Jourgensen didn’t apperceive any of them yet, and never visited the Denver Wax Trax abundance beneath its aboriginal ownership. (He says he “tries to accomplish a pilgrimage” to the accepted abundance whenever he’s in boondocks with Ministry, which, incidentally, plays the Fillmore Auditorium on Nov. 24.)
Biafra, though, was acquainted of the aboriginal store, which Nash and Flesher opened at 1409 Ogden St. beneath the still-to-be-tweaked name Wax Tracks. He’d apparent an ad for the boutique in Boulder’s Colorado Daily bi-weekly that featured an angel of a Yardbirds record.
“I thought, ‘Well, this isn’t addition abundance pumping Firefall and Scientology-fueled applesauce crap. This could be good,’ ” Biafra recalls.
When he started acquaintance the Ogden Artery store, though, Biafra begin article added agitative than the Yardbirds: a advantageous alternative of vinyl singles alien from the U.K.’s beginning jailbait scene. Plus the boutique accurate Denver’s underground music scene, accouterment to bounded musicians and allowance put on alive shows.
Biafra says Wax Trax may accept been the aboriginal U.S. aperture to backpack the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” single, and it’s area he heard The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat” for the aboriginal time.
“Oh my God, this is good,” Biafra recalls cerebration as the 45 spun in the store. “What is this?”
In 1978, Nash and Flesher confused Wax Trax to the bend of East 13th Avenue and Washington Street, area it charcoal to this day, its windows blurred edge-to-edge by taped-up flyers and concert posters. A few months later, action that Chicago would action greater opportunity, they awash the Denver abundance to Davis and Stidman, a brace of almanac collectors who, at the time, were accomplishing amusing assignment for Jefferson County. (“Dave talked to me because I was the alone being who knew who the 13th Floor Elevators were,” Davis says.)
They paid about $20,000 for the almanac shop, Davis believes.
“They capital to advertise to somebody who would backpack on the attitude that they’d started, and they agreed that we could be those people,” Stidman says. Davis adds: “When they awash us the business, they were affairs us the store’s reputation. What we bought was the name.”
That accord came with aloof $100 in inventory, so Stidman and Davis formed to body the abundance aback up. Admitting their own tastes had centered on the ’50s and ’60s bedrock they grew up on, they, like Flesher and Nash, were aflame by what they were audition advancing out of England. They scoured the account British music affidavit — the New Musical Express, Melody Maker and Sounds — for ideas, and began acclimation punk, post-punk and new beachcomber titles.
It helped, too, that Denver’s Rainbow Music Hall was bringing somewhat edgier bands like Talking Heads, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joe Jackson, Pretenders and The Cure to Denver.
“We were the abode bodies already associated with those bands, so their labels started to pay attention,” Davis says. “One of the capacity in our success was that focus on absolute music, and, in particular, acceptation music from England. We became a communications center, an advice center, for this affectionate of music, and the bodies that were absorbed in it.”
Visiting Wax Trax at that time, on pre-gentrified Capitol Hill, was a abundant dicier proposition. Davis and Stidman bethink bullet-pierced windows, abandoned storefronts and characters angry baseborn appurtenances beyond the way. Again there were the skinheads, who addled bodies on the artery — and in the store.
The blocks about Wax Trax were abounding with dives like the 3.2 bar Malfunction Junction, liquor food and a boutique absolutely alleged Bad TV Repair. Shootings were a accomplished lot added routine.
“Capitol Hill was a lot tougher then,” Stidman says.
Marilyn Megenity, buyer of Denver’s Mercury Cafe, affectionately recalls aback her area was a Wax Trax in the ’80s, and brought in jailbait and acts like Hüsker Dü, Black Flag and Bad Brains.
“We had so abundant fun because music promoters were not absolutely hip to the abundant music in the ’80s,” she says. “All kinds of bands and agents were cold-calling me to see if they could do a show. If I didn’t apperceive who the bandage was, I aloof alleged Wax Trax beyond the artery and I’d say, ‘Should I book this band?’ And they’d say, ‘Oh my God, yes.’ ”
In the pre-internet 1980s and aboriginal ’90s, absolute almanac food absolutely did serve a association function, alms altar to agreeing admirers and a abode to apprentice about and altercate the music they weren’t seeing on MTV or audition on bartering FM. This was a time aback acutely basal advice — like, say, the absolution date of the aing Minutemen anthology — wasn’t aloof a bang away.
The artificial dividers in Wax Trax’s bins, still address handwritten lists of the agnate artists’ discographies, abide a attestation to that, alike as shoppers can now aloof hit up Discogs on their phones.
“In some ways, we’re aloof a almanac store,” Davis says. “But aback then, we were allotment of what helped bodies ascertain who they capital to be.”
Wax Trax’s bartering heyday in the early-to-mid-’90s saw Stidman and Davis operating three altered storefronts in their architecture on the south ancillary of 13th and another, Beyond the Trax, on the arctic ancillary of the street. On top of that, Wax Trax’s Boulder beginning for a abrupt time consisted of two abstracted food on University Hill.
By the backward ’90s, though, banking fortunes began to about-face for Wax Trax, like so abounding alternation and indie stores, aboriginal as big-box retailers like Best Buy attenuate music shops by alms below-cost CDs as loss-leaders to get barter in their doors in hopes of affairs them refrigerators and home computers.
Then came Napster. The access in online filesharing wrought by that apostate arrangement and breed Kazaa and LimeWire kept added and added of Wax Trax’s CD shoppers at bay.
The owners began accumulation their Denver locations, ultimately binding into the two accepted storefronts, and they bankrupt boutique in Boulder. “That afraid us,” Davis says of the accommodation to leave Boulder. “If you can’t accept a almanac abundance in the average of the hip allotment of a academy boondocks and not be authoritative money, that’s bad.”
By 2003, Davis and Stidman — who wisely absitively in the mid-’80s to buy the single-story brick architecture that houses Wax Trax — had to borrow money aloof to awning their acreage tax bill.
“Down, down, down,” Stidman says of Wax Trax’s retail angle at the time. “There was a point we accomplished the architecture was account added than what we were accomplishing actuality as a business.”
Their inertia, though, would save them. “Dave and I are such apathetic movers, by the time we absitively this ability be it, the vinyl awakening was aloof starting to get going,” Davis says.
Stidman adds: “We were consistently aing to the bone. Accumulate putting money aback into the business. That’s the secret. That, and affairs this building.”
Vinyl has been a buoy for food like Wax Trax and, while sales are growing nationally, the architecture still represents a abate allotment of the music-industry pie than CDs. But for those who buy vinyl — a accumulation that’s defied stereotypes by growing to accommodate younger, and alike added female, collectors in contempo years — Wax Trax charcoal a haven.
“This is aloof a amazing abode for Denver,” says Bob Sorrentino, a Westminster almanac beneficiary who checks the 45 boxes and vinyl bins at Wax Trax about already week. “I’m walking out abandoned handed today, but that’s not usually the case.”
While shipments of CDs to almanac food fell 6 percent in 2017 to $1.1 billion, according to anniversary abstracts from the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl rose 10 percent to $395 million. Overall, concrete music sales fell 4 percent in 2017 to $1.5 billion, still alone a atom of the $7 billion in digital-music revenue.
Vinyl’s acceleration charcoal askew by the absolute CD market, alike if that architecture is believed to be in its afterlife spiral. Labels alien 15.6 actor vinyl annal aftermost year — but added than bristles times as abounding CDs.
At Wax Trax, vinyl now accounts for 85 percent to 90 percent of the store’s gross sales. That’s larboard Davis and Stidman activity annular and annular about what to do with their CD-filled, but customer-light, flagship store. Move the new vinyl out of the addendum into that space? Or is that too confusing, aback acclimated vinyl would still be two doors down? Aloof accumulate the cachet quo in the accident of an absurd CD revival?
They can’t decide. It’s a accepted allurement that the two, now in their aboriginal 70s, abatement into. And, they believe, it’s a big allotment of why Wax Trax is still in business. They say they’ll accumulate activity “as continued as this lasts.”
“Dave and I will get calm and say, ‘Let’s alter our artefact line,’ ” Davis says, “and we’ll aloof blemish our active and say, ‘Let’s aloof buy some added records.’ ”
If you go
What: “Industrial Accident: The Adventure of Wax Trax! Records” at the Denver Blur FestivalWhen: 6:45 p.m. Friday and 9 p.m. SaturdayWhere: Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave., DenverEtc.: Console afterward the Friday night screening will affection administrator Julia Nash, biographer Mark Skillicorn and musicians Al Jourgensen (Ministry), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) and Groovie Mann (My Activity With the Thrill Kill KultInfo: denverfilm.org
What: Jello Biafra’s Incredibly Strange Dance PartyWhen: 9 p.m. Friday and SaturdayWhere: Lion’s Lair, 2022 E. Colfax Ave., DenverInfo: lionslairco.com
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