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Photo: Martin Benjamin

Keep on rocking on main street

Divinyl Revolution keeps the record store tradition alive in Saratoga Springs

 

By David king

In a way, Brittany Nasser saved the world—or at least a very small, specific part of it. When her boss at Last Vestige Record Shop told her in 2009 that he would be closing the Saratoga Springs location where she had been employed for six years, she felt lost, abandoned, and crestfallen. “I felt like I had been dumped. I cried,” says Nasser. But her boss asked her, “Why don’t you open your own store?”

She quickly put her despair aside and got proactive; Saratoga’s only record shop was not going without a fight.

She put on a fundraiser featuring loads of local and out-of-town bands and took donations over Facebook. It seemed like a crazy idea at the time, as record stores have been disappearing faster than multiculturalism at a teabagger rally. But there was more at stake for Nasser than providing musicphile writers like myself a place to shop for T. Rex vinyl.

Nasser wanted to save a part of Saratoga that she has seen slipping away ever since she was a kid. And thus Divinyl Revolution was born.

Today, a disturbingly bright Monday, Nasser tends to a phone call from a very “talkative” customer. They chat about the record players she has in stock as tourists dressed in khaki shorts and pastels mosey in and out of the store. They pick over the CDs, marvel at the vinyl (sometimes debating whether they can find their selections online), and peruse her vintage clothing section. When she is off the phone, Nasser is filing away CDs, making sure each album is in the correct order. Some customers linger longer than others; their hesitance about leaving suggests that maybe their bright polo shirts might once have been Pixies and Clash tour shirts. They inspect each record obsessively, looking for something very specific. “Sometimes their significant others have to come drag them out,” Nasser says.

As I peruse the racks I find a copy of the new Crystal Castles album for $4. “WTF?” I think to myself, “This is too cheap!” I buy it even though it’s on my IPod. “People don’t want to leave their houses if they can find it for less online, so I price it to sell,” says Nasser. “Some people don’t like that I can’t pay a ton for their new CDs, but most understand I have to make a profit.”

Nasser grew up in Ballston Spa, but always came to Saratoga for something to do. “All we had in Ballston Spa was a pizza place when I was kid,” she says. “So we would come up to Saratoga. We were not bad kids. We would hang out in the park until the police kicked us out. But where are the kids now?”

Nasser says that she feels she is keeping a part of the city’s youthful heart alive. The kids need something to do, something to connect to, and that is what Divinyl Revolution is for.

And a lot of businesses on the street are happy to have her, because her store attracts a demographic that might not otherwise be on the street. “People like that I’m here because it gets other people to come into town,” she says. “It’s like a breath of fresh air for the city—even though it is a little musty in here,” she jokes. “It isn’t like every other store in Saratoga.”

“The fact that we have the Gap and Eddie Bauer on Main Street feels a little wrong,” says Nasser. “I mean, to each their own, but what happened to mom and pop being on Main Street and the chains being in the malls? I mean, I’m not going to open a shop in the mall. That is what FYE is for.”

But don’t cry for Nasser. The funny thing is, as she points out, chain stores like the Borders down the street from her are stocking fewer and fewer CDs, and they have no vinyl. The desire for vinyl is picking up nationally, and Nasser is satiating the public’s wants. Through the Divinyl Revolution Facebook page, Nasser announces what vinyl she has in—this week the new Arcade Fire album, and a Joy Division box set—and people respond with requests and inquiries about what is in stock. She says she sees more of the locals in during the fall and winter months, but has a steady group of tourists in the summer.

Something seems to have a grip on Nasser. She is pumped up, perhaps inspired by remembering life as a music-loving teen on Saratoga’s streets. She walks outside into the bright summer day. She shields her eyes. “You need youth to keep the city growing. The city should be fun for local kids.” She’s looking for the packs of teens that sometimes wander the city bearing skateboards, patches on jean jackets, Mohawks, chains and tattoos. “Let’s look outside and see if there are any kids. She strains to see. We’ve got a veteran on the bench. That’s it. Where are the local kids?”

Back inside, I inquire about a framed Joy Division picture she has over her register space. “I found that in an old copy of Rolling Stone, it was an advertisement for Closer, and I knew I had to save it. I love Joy Division.”

A woman whose choice of dress would give absolutely no indication that she had ever heard “Love Will Tear Us Apart” says to her companion, “Oh, that’s from Joy Division. It was an advertisement for their album.” Nasser smiles; she is among friends.

A little later a man walks in with his young son. The boy picks up an album from the jazz section. “What is he playing?” the boy asks jubilantly. “That is a clarinet,” the man says. “That is not a clarinet!” the boy exclaims insistently.

Across the street there are a couple of crusty punks walking their dog. A kid with dreads sits playing guitar on the bench where the veteran was sitting just a few minutes before; a kid skateboards past with his headphones blaring some absurdly distorted guitars.

“Thank you, Brittany Nasser,” I think to myself. “Thank you.”

 

Saratoga Calendar

 

Concerts

SARATOGA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs, 587-3330). Tue: Kiss, The Academy Is . . ., the Envy.

UPBEAT ON THE ROOF (Rooftop patio, Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, 580-8080). Fri: Lyle Divinsky.

 

Clubs

9 MAPLE AVENUE (9 Maple Ave., Saratoga Springs, 583-CLUB). Fri: Tim Olsen Quartet. Sat: Ted MacKenzie Quartet.

CAFFE LENA (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs, 583-0022). Thu: open mic. Fri: Chandler Travis Philharmonette.

CANTINA (430 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, 587-5577). Thu: Tequila Mockingbirds.

THE ICEHOUSE (70 Putnam St., Saratoga Springs, 261-1766). Thu: Jocamo. Fri: Green. Sat: the Remainders.

THE LOCAL PUB AND TEAHOUSE (142 Grand Ave., Saratoga Springs, 587-7256). Sun: Traditional Irish Players (1 PM).

ONE CAROLINE STREET (1 Caroline St., Saratoga Springs, 587-2026). Thu: Skidmore Jazz. Mon: Chris Carey. Tue: jazz piano. Wed: Masters of Nostalgia.

PUTNAM DEN (63A Putnam St., Saratoga Springs, 584-8066). Thu: reggae dance party. Fri: Rustic Overtones. Sat: Peter Prince and Moon Boot Lover. Sun: Half Step. Wed: Vinnie Amico and friends.

 

Comedy

Comedy Works Saratoga, 12 Ballston Ave., Saratoga Springs. 8/6-7, 7 PM. Eddie Clark with Mike Speirs. $20. 275-6897.

 

Classical

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 8/12, 8 PM: Philadelphia Orchestra’s farewell to maestro Charles Dutoit concert. Violinist Chantal Juillet will be featured on Korngold’s violin concerto. Also works by Respighi, Shostakovich, Debussy. $18-$72.50. 8/13, 8 PM: Philadelphia Orchestra perform with jugglers and contortionists in Cirque de la Symphonie. $23-$77.50. 8/14, 8 PM: Pianist André Watts joins the PO for Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, plus works by Barber, Tchaikovsky. $18-$72.50. 8/18, 8 PM: Violinist Sarah Chang joins the PO on Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, plus works by Mozart, Brahms. $18-$72.50. 587-3330.

Spa Little Theater, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs. 8/15, 2:15 PM: Pianist André Watts will be featured solo, and with Sophia Shao (cello) and Ricardo Moreno (clarinet). Works by Liszt, Chopin, Schubert, Brahms. $36.50, $41.50. 8/17, 8 PM: The Ebène Quartet. Works by Mozart, Beethoven, Bartók. $36.50, $41.50. 587-3330.

 

Museums & Galleries

Feast Gallery, 142 Grand Ave., Saratoga Springs. (718) 344-6310. Adirondack View. Through 8/31.

House of Creative Soul, 38 Van Dam St., Saratoga Springs. 226-0010. 1st Anniversary Show. Through 10/2.

National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, 99 S. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-2225. Postage Paid : Dance Around the World. Also, In a Labyrinth: The Dance of Butoh. Also, Ballet Russes Centennial Exhibit. Also, The C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame. Plus, the children’s wing. Through Fall 2010.

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, 191 Union Ave., Saratoga Springs. 584-0400. Treasures of the Vault: 60 Years and Growing. Through 8/31. Hall of Fame Heroes. Ongoing.

New York State Military Museum, 61 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs. 581-5100. Picturing Battle: Memories of War, Art of Thurlstrup, U.S. Army Signal Corps and Steve Jordan. Ongoing. Also, Dewitt Clinton Falls: Uniform of the New York National Guard. Ongoing.

Saratoga Automobile Museum, 110 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs. 587-1935 ext. 20. New York racing exhibit. Ongoing.

Saratoga County Arts Council, Arts Center Gallery, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 584-4132. Saratoga Inside Out: A Juried Exhibition. Through 9/25.

Spring Street Gallery, 110 Spring St., Saratoga Springs. 587-6433. David Arsenault: In the Mood. Through 8/31.

Tang Teaching Museum and Gallery, Skidmore College, 815 N. Broadway, Saratoga Springs. 580-8080. Opener 20 Paula Hayes: Understory. Through 4/1/11. Also, Suzanne Bocenegra: I Write the Songs. Through 2/2/11. Also, Opener 19: Los Carpinteros. Through 8/31. Also, For You. Through 8/22.

 

Sports/Outdoor

Saratoga Polo, Whitney Field, Saratoga Springs. 8/13-15: The Ylvisaker Cup. 584-8108 or saratogapolo.com.

Saratoga Race Course

The 2010 Saratoga meet runs through Sept. 6. The track is dark on Tuesdays.

Location: Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, 584-6200.

Admission: $3 Grandstand ($5 Travers Day), $5 Clubhouse ($10 Travers Day).

First Race Post Time: 1 PM daily except Aug. 28 at 11:35 AM, Sept. 3 at 2:30 PM.

Major Stakes Races include: The Alabama (Aug. 21), The Travers (Aug. 28).

 

Saratoga Shots

By Martin Benjamin

Mary Lou Whitney in the winner's circle after awarding the trophy for the winner of the Whitney Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course, Aug. 7.

 


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