Every so often we ask you to show us something. This week it’s Sportsman’s Club’s reel-to-reel tape player.
“For the record,” Scott McNiece says, “threading and maintaining a reel-to-reel machine is not that difficult, once you get the hang of it.” McNiece has certainly gotten the hang of the vintage technology since he founded Uncanned Music, a music programming service and audio consultancy for the hospitality industry. Over the last three years, Uncanned has set up digital music programs at nearly 20 bars and restaurants, including Bavette’s Bar & Boeuf, the Drifter, Formento’s, Mott Street, Trenchermen, and Xoco. But at Au Cheval and Sportsman’s Club, McNiece went old-school, installing reel-to-reel tape decks. In doing so, he also assumed the task of teaching staff members the idiosyncrasies of playing music off strips of magnetic tape. This was an adjustment for employees accustomed to setting an iPod to shuffle and not giving another thought to the soundtrack of their shifts. “The places that have succeeded with implementing the [reel-to-reel] programs,” McNiece says, “are the ones that understand the necessity of going the extra mile to make service special.”
To that end, for the past year Sportsman’s Club has been hosting monthly Wheel to Reel nights. During the “live analog mixtape production” sessions, the bar’s 1978 Akai GX-635D reel-to-reel deck records a DJ’s three-hour vinyl set to tape. That recording can then be played whenever a DJ isn’t in the house.
The selectors have been mostly bar and restaurant industry folk who also happen to be record hounds. Sean Krainik, whose company Lime House Building and Design has done work for the likes of Analogue, Mfk, and the Promontory, will be behind the decks for the one-year anniversary event on Monday, March 30.