Located in a section of the old Fowler's Market space in Brightleaf Shopping Center, Offbeat Music is a cozy space. Due to these slight space limitations, it won't have the wall-to-wall vinyl of record hound meccas like the gone-but-not-forgotten Radio Free Records. But McKenna thinks it can fill a similar niche for those avoiding the major label dominance of chain stores, and he should know. He's a record store veteran, having been a manager for Millenium Music and its predecessor, CD Superstore. Some of the store's employees are also former Millenium-ites. Offbeat features listening stations with rotating themes. Currently, there is a Brazilian music station and one focused on Merge Records' catalog.
An important facet of an independent music store is the ability to encourage and support local musicians, something McKenna is aggressively pursuing. Their location just off the center of Brightleaf could mean having performances nearby, he says. "Our store is on the courtyard, so we may be able to have events there." Offbeat Music will be a home for the work of local artists, too, providing the centralized location for exposure to Triangle music fans. Says McKenna, "We actively want to get people to bring in their music." The store is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sundays 12 to 6. Phone is 688-7022.
DJs along Tobacco Road
In both Durham and Chapel Hill, there are more chances than ever to shake your thing to a variety of different DJ nights. Here are a few of the most recent additions.
Over in Chapel Hill, Fridays mean Brooklyn Nights at The Library on East Franklin Street, with Kid AG tossing out the hip-hop, dancehall and funk. Triple Ts with DJ Mothersbrothers, which started at Local 506 but will move to its new home at Nightlight on Thursday, Sept. 2, is a sort of alternate reality '70s and '80s night featuring a mix of punk, early dance music and leftfield disco. Guest DJs have included Viva of Jett Rink and local DJ Uzi (and, in full disclosure--once, this writer). In the Bull City, Federal, located at 914 W. Main St., hosts two DJ nights a week. Wednesdays it's Topsoil Live, with host Steve Gardner reprising his roots music show from WXDU, and on Thursdays Marco Hammond spins the old vinyl featuring soul, funk, Latin and reggae.
A new Durham electronic label, Urban Renewal Records, just released their first CD, a collection of two-step, garage and breakbeat sets entitled Transatlantic Bass: The Mutated Sound of American Breakbeat and Garage. With 16 tracks by artists from places like Dallas, Chicago and Toronto, the comp is described as "a mission statement for Urban Renewal and a testament to a new breed of international producers who are integrating British urban music with their local social geography."
The British genre garage has received significant attention due to artists like Mike Skinner (aka The Streets), Dizzee Rascal and Wiley. Transatlantic Bass emerged from a computer-savvy community, born on a listserv, and produced via Internet and digital production. Label owner Cooper Bethea, a Durham DJ who also mixed the CD, elaborates, "At my suggestion, a bunch of the DJs and producers on this list put together the 'Transatlantic' showcase at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, which is now in its fourth year and features U.S. DJs playing alongside some of the U.K. big names. We've been sponsored by XLR8R magazine each year." Bethea DJs locally at "Big City," a two-step garage night he coordinates at Ringside in Durham. They're taking September off while Bethea does some out of town gigs, but will return in October. Check the Urban Renewal Records Web site for more on the record and the label. www.urbanrenewalrecords.com.