Column 220: Record Show stories; Elvis Perkins and Dearland tonight (and today); Little Brazil at Slowdown Jr…
Who knows what the Polecat record discussed in the column below is really worth. What I do know is that eBay makes it easier to find out. It’s also ruining it for treasure hunting at shows like the one held last Sunday. Used to be you could go to a record show (or an antique store or a garage sale…) and find a hidden treasure if you dug long enough. Those days are long gone — that’s the downside to eBay. The upside is that you can find just about anything you’ve ever wanted online… but for a price.
Column 220: Skinning a Polecat
A record collector’s story
It was some time last week that I got a call from a pal who makes money on the side as a record dealer, asking if I knew anything about a 7-inch by a band called Polecat.
I recognized the name immediately. Polecat was a band from Lincoln in the early ’90s that consisted of Ted Stevens, Boz Hicks and Oliver Blaha. Stevens, as regular readers of this column know, went on to form chamber-pop group Lullaby for the Working Class, and today plays guitar in Cursive. Hicks went on to become a member of Her Flyaway Manner, and today is in Domestica, a trio featuring ex-Mercy Rule rockers Jon Taylor and Heidi Ore.
But was there more to the story of that red-vinyl single, titled “2500 ft of our love,” and the role it played in the history of the Omaha music scene?
My broker pal said he was headed to a record show Sunday with the Polecat single, unless, of course, it made more sense to sell it on eBay, where the item could ignite a bidding war. There are stories about how copies of Conor Oberst’s cassette-only early recording, titled Water, have fetched hundreds of dollars on eBay. Could the Polecat single be as valuable? It seemed doubtful, but I said I’d ask around.
Funny how the Internet has made the world so much smaller. Imagine trying to track down an old friend from 16 years ago without using the World Wide Web. It would involve lots of phone calls and maybe even hiring a Jim Rockford-style PI. Today, all you have to do is Google.
Moments after getting off the phone with the broker-friend, I logged onto Facebook, and lo and behold, also online but Dan Schlissel, proprietor of ’90s-era Lincoln-based Ism Records (which became Ismist). Back in the day, Schlissel was involved with record distribution, including handing that Polecat single. Sure, he remembered it. So what’s it worth? Schlissel, who now runs the amazingly successful comedy label Stand Up! Records (whose roster includes Grammy winner Lewis Black), said he’d seen the single sell for more than $20 on eBay.
I called the dealer back, and with that info he decided to go ahead and bring the record to the show and see what happens. But that wasn’t the end of the research. Later that evening I went down to Slowdown for the Crystal Antlers show, and who was there but former Polecat drummer Boz Hicks (and for once, he wasn’t working behind the bar).
Between bands, Boz told stories of Polecat from days gone by. He thought the single was released at about the same time that local label Lumberjack Records (which had released that Water cassette) was forced to change its name because a distributor already had the rights to the name “Lumberjack.” Turns out that song titles on that Polecat single were “Chinese Water Torture” and (wait for it…) “Saddle Creek.” Hicks has a couple copies of the single himself, and thought it could fetch far more than $20 if the record’s back story were well-established to potential buyers.
The next morning I headed down to the record show thinking I might just buy that damn single myself. After all, it was a piece of local music history.
The show — organized by Tim Behrens, the guy behind Kanesville Used Records in Council Bluffs (and the undisputed local king of used vinyl) — was located in the Firefighters Union Hall at 60th and Grover. If you were looking for proof that vinyl is making a comeback, all you had do was look at the crowds jammed between the rows and rows of tables stacked with boxes of CDs, T-shirts, posters, music memorabilia, but most of all, record albums.
Behrens, who’s been dealing records for 30 years, said the show did well. “It was a full house of dealers and there were lots of new faces,” he said. He credited a renewed interest in vinyl by fans who want something more substantial than a computer file or a jewel case holding a piece of silver plastic. “Plus, used records are cheaper than new,” he said. “Selling used stuff doesn’t seem to be affected by the state of the economy.”
As I thumbed through the bins, time seemed to stand still, or even slip slightly backwards. Here were all the lousy records I’d bought back in high school by bands I’d long forgotten — Fastway, April Wine, The Alarm, The Firm, Asia — along with an endless supply of Beatles records. And just like whenever I go thrift-store shopping, a wave of exhausted malaise rolled over me like an overdose of dusty nostalgia.
I hustled over to my broker friend’s table that was set up in the middle of the hall. “Where is it?” I asked. Too late, it’s gone. Sold only moments earlier. The lucky buyer was Jordan Delmundo, who bought the single, along with another piece of vinyl, for a total price of $20.
He pulled it out of its plastic bag and let me take a look. Despite a small crease at the top of the sleeve, it probably looked the way it did when it was first sold 16 years ago. “You know what you have there?” I asked Delmundo. He did. He knew it might have be worth more than $20 — or maybe less — but he had no intention of finding out.
I didn’t go home empty handed. I added to my Factory Records collection, purchasing FAC 123 (“The Perfect Kiss”) and FAC 293R (“World in Motion Remix”) — 12-inch records by New Order. Ah, but I would have rather gone home with a Polecat record.
* * *
Elvis Perkins in Dearland is in town today and tonight — I highly recommend you catch him. The main attraction is the show at The Waiting Room with Other Lives and Bear Country. Tickets are still available for a mere $10. But if you’re a cheap-ass and don’t have a job, you can always swing by Homer’s in the Old Market this afternoon at 4 p.m. and catch them doing an in-store with opening band Other Lives. While you’re there, you may want to pick up Perkins’ latest album on XL Recordings, which currently sits at No. 163 on the Billboard charts.
Also tonight, Little Brazil has been added to a show at Slowdown Jr. headlined by Australian band Youth Group and also featuring The Sleepover. $8, 9 p.m.
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