How do Portlanders react when a beloved landmark closes? They come out in droves.
Friday night marked Music Millennium Northwest's
going-out-of-business party, and the store was swamped. Some Portlanders came for the 40% discount on CDs, buying up as much as they could. But for the store's owner Terry Currier
—and hundreds of people who filled the aisles of the NW 23rd location--the night was all about remembering.
“Let's hear it for local music!” yelled Currier, as local space-pop band Stars of Track and Field
took the same stage where countless local and big-name bands have played free, all-ages shows since the store opened 30 years ago. For a few hours, Music Millennium felt more like Dante's than a record store: People stood shoulder to shoulder in a sticky, humid room. And SOTAF's trance-like music matched the audience's solemn mood.
One audience member and local music legend cried as she watched the band. It was Storm Large
, lead singer of Storm and the Balls
and contestant on last year's reality TV show “Rockstar: Supernova.” She had a sentimental attachment to Music Millennium Northwest's stage: It was the first in Portland she ever performed on.
“It's like the death of a friend,” said Large, about the store closing. She also sympathized with Currier's loss. “Terry is such a great supporter. He's a music freak without being a shoe-gazing snob.”
True, Currier was sad to see his store his go—he reminisced about the local bands that played his stage when they lacked the big-time notoriety needed to play bars and larger venues. Of the 300 live music events
Music Millennium held each year, “one-third to one-half were local bands,” according to Currier.
But the store owner was also grateful for all the employees his store had seen. Huge posters hung near the stores' registers, reminding paying customers of all the Portlanders who'd sold them music. This sign reminded me of my own time working recently-defunct record store chain Tower Records.
I told Currier that what I loved about working in a record store was earning customers trust: Regular shoppers knew they could come to me for recommendations and I'd be honest about what music I thought they should buy. Currier agreed, saying that record stores used to be “like community centers,” where store clerks and customers could exchange ideas.
Large also lamented the demise of the brick-and-mortar record store. “They're going the way of Beta Max or Atari or turntables,” she said. As she talked about her memories of Music Millennium, I absent-mindedly returned to my record clerk ways, straightening the racks of disheveled CDs and trying to alphabetize the titles. Large laughed at me, and we hugged. She reminded me that there will always be music fans, no matter what Music Millennium's fate.
“Musicians have nothing to live for,” she said, “if we don't have people who think [music] is cool.”
See a clip of Stars of Track and Field's performance last night below.