When local brick-and-mortar record store Permanent Records celebrated its five-year anniversary in 2011, the Reader‘s Miles Raymer laid out the forces that had been arrayed against cofounders Lance Barresi and Liz Tooley when they opened the Ukrainian Village shop in October 2006: not only were physical record stores dropping like flies, but Reckless Records seemed to have Chicago’s small market cornered. But Barresi and Tooley, who’d just moved here from Missouri, didn’t just persevere but thrived—and since then they’ve launched two more Permanent locations in Los Angeles, where they’ve lived since 2011.
Besides selling hard-to-find LPs for savvy (or just nerdy) rock collectors, Permanent also hosts frequent in-store performances—in the past few years its intimate space has filled up for sets by the likes of Ryley Walker, CCR Headcleaner, Twin Peaks, and Screaming Females. Permanent’s in-house label has released more records by artists from Chicago than from anywhere else, including new albums from contemporary rock bands (Cave, Running) and archival releases from forgotten acts (VCSR, Chicago Triangle, the Exit). One of those bands was Basic Cable, which featured Reader music-listings coordinator Luca Cimarusti—Permanent released their only full-length, I’m Good to Drive, in 2013.
Permanent turns ten years old this month, and as Gossip Wolf has already mentioned, the shop celebrates with a free show at the Empty Bottle on Monday, October 24. The lineup reflects the bonds of community that Permanent has helped cement: for example, Whitney Johnson, aka Matchess, is releasing a trilogy of albums through Trouble in Mind, the esteemed local label cofounded by onetime Permanent employee Bill Roe (he left the shop in late 2014). I called Permanent Records’ Chicago store manager, Dave McCune, to talk about the shop’s history, its place in the local music community, and what this occasion means to him.
Leor Galil: What does the tenth anniversary of Permanent Records mean to you?
Dave McCune: It’s kinda mind-blowing. When Lance and Liz started the shop, there were a lot of stores in the decline. They just had this huge vision for things. I’ve been here for over seven and a half of those years and have been coming in since they opened—I lived over here—so I got to watch the evolution of the shop from both sides of the counter. It’s really exciting and invigorating for somebody—like, this is my life and this is how I make my living, and it’s also something deeply personal. It kinda makes things feel really solidified. I’m confident we can do another ten years. It’s very exciting and even humbling in some ways.
Before you started working there, what brought you to the shop? What made you keep going back?
It was basically the overall vibe. The first time I walked in here was actually the same month that the store had opened, and I immediately was gripped. Lance had opened the shop right when I came in, and immediately I felt welcome. And then, just—the tasteful variety of the records in the store. I could always find something I was looking for, and it’s pretty far-reaching, which is cool. It’s always had some sort of communal vibe to it—like, a family vibe, even though it is a business. There’s a nice balance between those two things. It was hard to not want to come back.
I took over managing the store when they moved to LA, and that’s now about five and a half years ago. It’s been a matter of being in line with what they had in mind; it was very similar to how I personally felt. As far as used records goes, I’ve gone so heavy and deep into that, just traveling around the midwest and doing house calls and stuff. It’s just as exciting buying hard-to-find records and cool road gems and everything, keeping the shop flowing with great records, even though they’re not going into my personal collection.
Permanent has multiple locations, there’s the in-house label, and you guys throw shows. What’s the community that you’ve helped build around Permanent? What’s its place in the greater Chicago community?
Permanent has always been heavily involved with the local music scene. Everybody here has always gone to shows, and there’s events we’ll have at the store that aren’t all that dissimilar to that kind of thing. It feels like you’re at the ground level—over the years, just watching different bands expand and grow in different ways, and come and go. That’s been pretty exciting.
How has Permanent been contributing to the growth that’s been happening in Ukrainian Village the past ten years?
When the shop opened, this part of Chicago Avenue specifically was in some sort of transition, ’cause there weren’t a lot of storefronts or anything. There aren’t any other record stores right here—there’s a bunch nearby, which is kinda cool. It creates a nice little cluster of places to go that each offer a little something different. There’s plenty of bars, restaurants, boutique shops with clothing, and other odds and ends, but there’s nobody else doing this right here exactly how we’re doing it. I think that just kinda creates its own unique vibe, while contributing to what’s going on around here.
Tell me a bit about the tenth-anniversary celebration. How long have you been working on putting this together? What did you want to do to make it different from all the previous anniversary celebrations?
We usually have some sort of anniversary show or event every year. This was an opportunity to reflect on all the many different things that have evolved and gone down over the years. We wanted to have something kinda tied to Permanent. We support, like, smaller local things that are really exciting—like Running. Permanent put out their first LP, and the show happens to fall on their seven-year anniversary of playing their first show ever. That band is not only good friends of the shop, but they’ve always been tied to the shop.
What plans do you have for the future of Permanent? What are you thinking about in terms of what’s next for the shop?
As far as I’m concerned, I just want to have the best curation of records around town. I want people to always have a reason to come in here and be excited about music, regardless of what they’re listening to. To be a place to find rare records that you’re looking for—or, you know, expanding your interests and tastes beyond what they currently are. And continuing to be present in the Chicago community.