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VOL. 128 | NO. 231 | Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Birthday Bash

Shangri-La Records celebrates 25 years with big concert

By Andy Meek

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The concert that Memphis music legends the Grifters are playing Saturday, Nov. 30, at Minglewood Hall’s 1884 Lounge holds significance beyond the chance to see the indie rockers one more time this year.

The bash also honors the 25th anniversary of Shangri-La Records, Memphis’ longest-running independent record shop, one so suffused with history that Rolling Stone magazine in 2012 noted “these walls have seen it all” in tagging Shangri-La one of the best record shops in the country.

Anthony Embry from Southaven browses the vinyl at Shangri-La Records. Memphis’ longest-running independent record shop is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Shangri-La has been at it since the late 1980s, the digitization of music notwithstanding, a proud throwback to the days of browsing racks and buying records that music lovers can actually hold in their hands. And at Shangri-La, there are thousands of such records.

Which is why the upcoming Minglewood show, plus some other planned performances and store events, is a celebration of the fact that Shangri-La, much to the appreciation of a certain kind of Memphis music fan, is still very much alive.

“We’re pretty much – we are what we are,” said Shangri-La owner Jared McStay. “We’re a record store. That’s what we’ve always focused on. We still sell tons of CDs, but we never got away from focusing on vinyl. A long time ago I guess we decided we’re not going to last unless we focus on what we’re good at, and that’s vinyl.

“We’re now seeing a younger generation come through the store that maybe wasn’t coming in five years ago. It’s exciting. It makes me feel like we weathered a storm. Who knows how long it’ll last, but it’s still a viable business. We’re doing well, and I can’t complain.”

It helps that the shop has picked up mentions from the likes of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, not to mention Rolling Stone. A New York Times reporter in 2010 noted the resilience of record shops in Memphis like Shangri-La at a time when such institutions were on the decline elsewhere. Rolling Stone reported that the shop is now “a local landmark, stuffed to the rafters with vinyl, CDs, DVDs and memorabilia.”

Members of the public also show up to sell their items at the shop. A couple of times a year, Shangri-La opens up its parking lot for a record swap. For $10, anybody who wants to can set up a table and sell anything from their record collection.

It’s basically a big garage sale, except with records.

“This whole thing this weekend also is about us saying we’ve got so many great customers,” McStay said. “That, more than anything, is the reason we’ve survived. We’ve tried to cater to them, and maybe that’s why they keep coming.”

The Grifters’ show – which includes an appearance by the band Ex-Cult – is part of a big weekend for Shangri-La. McStay noted that the Grifters are celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of the band’s own records, so it made sense to tie it all together and have “one big party.”

Also, Shangri-La is holding a three-day sale starting Friday, Nov. 29. All items will be 25 percent off, and, as an added bonus, there will be free live music Nov. 30 from J.D. Reager and Dead Soldiers.

“I’ve been shopping at Shangri-La since I was 12 or so, and I bought many of my first LPs and CDs here,” said Reager, who also works at the store. “It’s an honor to be a part of the long history of interesting people who have stood behind the counter here.”

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