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Closing time
In Your Ear is the latest casualty of the changing biz
BY BOB GULLA

It had to happen eventually. As has been reported here in the past, record stores — long one of the great bastions of worthwhile time-wasting and fantastic discoveries — have been dropping like flies, both here and around the country. Well, it is with regret that I pass on news of the demise of my favorite record vendor in the whole damn state, In Your Ear, after 19 long years on Thayer Street in Providence.

Longtime friend of the music scene, owner Chris Zingg, hand-delivered the news last week, citing numerous reasons for shuttering. "The quality of shopping on Thayer Street has gone downhill," he says. "There’s no parking. The mall, with plenty of available parking, has siphoned off a good deal of the street’s business, and the traffic just isn’t coming in like it used to."

Zingg adds that sales are off 40 percent over the last five years — students now comprise only half of the sales they did just three years ago — while rent and real estate taxes continue to escalate. "These conditions make it impossible for us to continue," says Zingg. "I wish it weren’t so, but there’s no way for these things to add up to good business. Other businesses on Thayer Street are also on life support for some of the same reasons."

The city of Providence and its local music scene will surely miss a quality seller like In Your Ear. For almost two decades it has been one of the cornerstones of the East Side record market (along with Tom’s Tracks) and a welcome haven for collectors. The staff — a virtual who’s who of the local scene over the years — has always been knowledgeable, and even courteous.

But when the cornerstone of an edifice crumbles, the structure loses stability. And the fact is, the retail record business has been on shaky legs for a few years now. So much so that Rhode Island is in danger of losing its entire network of retail outlets, save the chains.

Make no mistake about it: we’re entering into a new era of music distribution, one that hasn’t yet been resolved. But one thing is for sure, there’s no place in the formula for great stores like In Your Ear, and that’s an unbelievable shame.

In Your Ear’s Going Out of Business Sale begins on Saturday, April 10, with 25 percent off everything in stock.

THE SEVEN DEADLY SYNTHS. Sonic Transmutation: Manifesto for the Life and Performance of Electronic Instruments is the title of the wild and cool show being put on at RISD on Thursday and Friday (the 8th and the 9th). Curated by Kevin Bewersdorf and sponsored by the RISD Office of Student Life, the gallery show (Thursday) and concert (Friday) will feature 11 musicians from across the country who best represent a growing musical phenomenon you may not be aware of. "Electronic instrument building is an art involving the careful fabrication of unstable and unpredictable instruments — electro-organic tools that are both visually wondrous and sonically diverse." (Their words, not mine.) All the musicians will be performing in response to a manifesto on electronic music written by Bewersdorf. The concert is run according to the guidelines of this manifesto: only instruments built by the performer may be used. Included in the show are some of the premiere pseudo-synthesizer builders in the country. Peter Blasser is a Chicago-based musician who just received the Daniel Langlois Foundation Grant for Art and Technology to build a series of electronic instruments called "shinths." Many of Blasser’s instruments involve low-voltage currents that travel through the performer’s body and out to an amplifier via a spoon held in the mouth. Jessica Rylan is a Boston-based sound artist and analog designer whose work with modular synthesizers and sound installation has been shown at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Harvard, and the Berwick Research Institute. Michael Johnsen is a reclusive instrument designer from Pittsburgh with virtually no contact to the outside world — he has been called "the greatest living synth builder" and rarely emerges to display his arcane and complex modules. John Fashion Flesh is a Detroit "mangler" of sound who recently completed his role as "re-producer" on the new album Oskar Tennis Champion by Scottish electro-guru Momus. Flesh has also starred on albums by Cornelius, Los Fancy Free, and James Kochalka Superstar. He’ll debut his new instrument, the "Gestaposizer," made exclusively for the RISD gig. So you get the picture, right? The show features a dozen other avant-electronic artists/ builders/performers, so keep an open mind and you’ll probably get a big payoff.

The concert starts at the RISD Auditorium on Friday, April 9 at 8 p.m. Admission is free with a RISD ID, and $5 without one.

BEST UNSIGNED BAND CONTEST. SuicideGirls (www.suicide girls.com), the wildly popular sex-positive DIY arts community, announced its collaboration with Playboy.com to search for the best unsigned band. Now through June 1, aspiring acts not affiliated with a record label can log onto Playboy.com to enter the contest for the opportunity to prove they’re the country’s best-kept secret. The winner will receive their choice of $2500 in studio time or cash or the Playboy "Hottie" Gibson guitar. The best band will also be featured in an article on Playboy.com and will open a show for the popular SuicideGirls Burlesque Act. The winner will be chosen by a panel of celebrity judges. Entrants must be a band or solo artist, 18 years or older. Winners will be announced in the summer. Additional rules and guidelines can be found at Playboy.com.

WANDERING EYE. The Ultra-Fine Reducers play every Friday night this month at Turtle Soup on Broadway in Providence. The band features Eric Fontana on vox and electric guitar, Thomas Brinkley (Herbal Nation) on bass, and Mike Levesque (David Bowie, Scarce) on drums.

This Friday at the Century Lounge, Su Casa headlines an excellent bill, with Chris Daltry and the ’Mericans, the Bob Kendall Band, and Joel (Stringbuilder) Thibodeau all weighing in with sets. Su Casa began at Eagle Square and hung in the mills for a while, but their sound is more backcountry than urban industrial. Check it out.

Grandevolution plays on Friday at Cats in Pawtucket, with Spinning Images, the Deadites, and Evertone. Grandevolution is working on a new disc, which by all reports is going well. Keep it here for more details, or go to www.grandevolution.com.

The Jazz Bastards celebrate the release of their new CD at the Ocean Mist on Saturday (the 10th). The record has been nominated for Best Local Album in this year’s Best Music Poll, so the show should be pretty special. Guests include the Rank Strangers, a bluegrass gaggle outta Pittsburgh.

Nick Curran & the Nitelifes will play at the Catfish Grill in Warwick on Saturday. The Blind Pig artist has a really tight band, with Preston Hubbard (Roomful of Blues and Fabulous Thunderbirds) on stand-up bass. Curran has been nominated for a Handy Award for Best New Artist Debut for 2004! Also on Saturday, Sasquatch and the Sick-a-Billys will be swallowing the stage whole at Jake’s in Providence. Jason James shares the bill. Admission is free.

On Tuesday (the 13th), the world-renowned piano virtuoso Kathleen Supové will present a concert of contemporary music featuring works by Elaine Kaplinsky, Geoffrey Gibbs, John Adams, Daniel Roumain, and Randall Woolf. Vibe of the Venue, an organization of local composers devoted to bringing modern and experimental music to Rhode Island, is presenting its final concert of the season, which begins at 8 p.m. at Rhode Island College’s Forman Theatre. General admission is $12 ($8 for students). Call 456-8144.

Thick Records in Chicago sends one of its best bands to the Living Room on Monday (the 12th), when the Methadones play with pop-punk legends J Church. The Methadones have toured with Anti-Flag when they were supporting an earlier release, but due to unforeseen circumstances their new album, Career Objectives, didn’t see the same effort. The Methadones’ lead singer Dan Shaffer comes from good pedigree; he’s the former singer for Screeching Weasel. Show ’em that we in Providence know punk, awright?


Issue Date: April 9 - 15, 2004
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