Sometimes, all a musician needs is a pick. And a town like Durango, one with a growing and fertile music scene that features dozens of bands of different genres; a couple of different nonprofit music schools; a handful of venues; annual classical, Celtic and bluegrass festivals; and regular concerts in the parks; and a college with a stellar music department should have places that can provide that musician with that needed pick. Or guitar, banjo, bass or mandolin strings. Or a reed. Or a wind instrument, or hell, a slide whistle.
Any town with a stellar music scene most likely is backed by a music store, a place that offers the aforementioned gear, while also serving as a gathering place, musical brain trust and influential ground where bands may form and start doing the early legwork to get off the ground. The kind of place that would have a bulletin board with a crudely written flyer that reads: “Looking to start a band. Influences are Husker Du and Green on Red” or “Country band looking for bass player. Fans of Florida Georgia Line Need Not Apply.”
Durango at one point boasted numerous unique music stores. These were places that offered high-end acoustic instruments that catered to the productive and prolific folk and bluegrass scene, to stores that provided a handful of instruments while also presenting home stereo equipment and sound system installation services. Another offered thousands of items in its inventory along with a variety of instrument and vocal lessons, while yet another had inventory while also offering a space for musicians to come together once a week solely to jam.
“People find a deep connection and a release and solace in playing music,” said Jim Gillaspy, former owner of one of the now-removed stores and current owner of Jimmy’s Music. “There’s only a handful of things humans did thousands and thousands of years ago: We ate, pooped, reproduced, danced and beat on drums. Art is a huge part of our soul and of our being. So it’s a dire need to have music, and it’s a dire need to support that music with all the goodies.”
Jimmy’s Music is currently Durango’s only music store and is currently in the process of moving to a larger space on Main Avenue just south of the offices of The Durango Herald. It seems the novelty and ease of purchasing things online may be starting to slightly dip, as people appreciate the kinship of a person-to-person purchase and the human association between buyer and seller.
“In a music store, one of my obligations is to make a certain connection. As a kid, you might go into a candy store and be in awe and create a memorable memory,” Gillaspy said. “A music store is one of those things; you remember the day you bought your first guitar. You have experiences in a music store that mean something. And it’s a pretty neat thing to be in that space, to maybe even curate what that space is.”
Just like going to a show of a nationally touring band and arriving early enough to see the local opener and buying that opener’s merch, your support nurtures the musical community. Few internet sales come with the camaraderie that can include conversation about types of instruments, being turned onto a new band or record, or being clued in on a local performance. It’s all part of structuring a scene.
“Local music shops are in a better position to form real relationships with musicians and give valuable service and honest advice,” said long-time local musician Pat Dressen. “It feels good to support a local shop. The money circulates in town. Hell, that person behind the counter might be in the audience at your next show.”
Now, what about a place to buy records?
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at [email protected]