Inspired by both my recent post about Lunch For Your Ears and yesterday's sad news about the impending demise of Bleecker Bob's, I got in a discussion with a couple of friends of mine about the status of a few other spots, and my old comrade Jon invoked Downtown Music Gallery.
You may remember I penned a little post about DMG in 2008. As I mentioned in that post, I first encountered the shop at its former location on East 5th Street, adjacent to one of my favorite bars, The Scratcher. After several years in that spot, Downtown Music Gallery moved over to the Bowery for a little while. But, as intoned in that post from 2008, it was forced out of that address as well (only to be replaced by a Subway sandwich joint). I couldn't remember if they were moving to Brooklyn or Chinatown (the latter, as it turned out), but I feared the worst.... that they were moving and not opening up anywhere else, as is so often the case.
In the past five years since Downtown Music Gallery left the Bowery, there have been a slew of other music shop-closings, to the point where the once-thriving disc/record shop circuit has been reduced to only a paltry few shops (I'd say "handful," but that seems too generous). I remember once leisurely trying to find Downtown Music Gallery's new location (I knew it was somewhere in Chinatown) but without any specifics, my chances of stumbling upon it were laughably slim. After discussing its current status with my friend Jon, I decided to properly seek it out this afternoon.
Downtown in the truest sense of the word, DMG is now really, really down there, and in the remotest of possible neighborhoods. Let's put it this way: Nobody is going to Downtown Music Gallery by accident. You've got to know where it is, `cos you ain't going to simply stumble upon it.
After divining its precise address (Monroe Street, east of the already-quite-east East Broadway), I dialed up my recently procured copy of the entirely needless 2012 mix/master edition of Blue Lines by Massive Attack on my iPod (perfect for a gloomy, rainy day) and set out down the Bowery.
Past Delancey Street, past the Manhattan Bridge, past Confucius Plaza, I hung a left on Catherine Street, and then walked several more unlikely-looking blocks until I came to Monroe and hung a left. It's a cliche to point this out, but it really does feel like an entirely different city down there. About halfway up the block, I spied Downtown Music Gallery's familiar signage, but it would have been easy to miss.
Tucked down a narrow and perilous flight of metal stairs, DMG really makes you earn it. I wasn't sure if the place was even open, but sure enough, when I walked in, I was greeted by DMG's familiar stacks and stacks of wildly esoteric discs and the telling sound of squealing, honking, saxophone-abusing free jazz.
The stock on offer is still what I'd consider to be intimidatingly eclectic. In a nutshell, don't check into Downtown Music Gallery if you're looking for the latest vapid bullshit by Beyonce or Maroon 5. Downtown Music Gallery prides itself on music for the adventurous ear.
I went over to the counter and Bruce from the previous incarnations of the store was still dutifully holding court behind the cramped counter. I introduced myself and we chatted for quite a while. I was sort of hoping they'd have a copy of the long-out-print edition of Filth/Body-to-Body, Job-to-Job by SWANS, but no dice. But after making the giant trek down there, I felt obligated to pick something up, so I snagged a copy of Seventy Eight Plus by fittingly skronky NYC No Wave band Mars and the 1981 debut by John Lurie's Lounge Lizards. I bid farewell to Bruce, told him I'd be back and climbed back up the thin, narrow passage to emerge back into the rainy Chinatown afternoon and walk back home.