Music News & Reviews

Pops Resale is more than a store; it's a stage

Chris Currens and Rebecca White perform a mid-afternoon set at Pop's Resale on March 12, 2011. For several years, Pops Resale at 1423 Leestown Road in Lexington, Ky., has featured bands and, more recently, poetry readings on Saturday afternoons.  Photo by Rich Copley | Lexington Herald-Leader
Chris Currens and Rebecca White perform a mid-afternoon set at Pop's Resale on March 12, 2011. For several years, Pops Resale at 1423 Leestown Road in Lexington, Ky., has featured bands and, more recently, poetry readings on Saturday afternoons. Photo by Rich Copley | Lexington Herald-Leader Lexington Herald-Leader

It's a Saturday afternoon in the extensive vinyl section at Pops Resale Shop on Leestown Road, and as in any record shop, music is playing.

But this rendition of Fleetwood Mac's Gold Dust Woman sounds distinctly live. The guitar and voice are crystal clear, and it does not belong to Stevie Nicks. Rather, it's Central Kentucky musician Rebecca White playing one of Lexington's most unlikely music venues.

For the past five years, Pops secondhand store has presented a regular lineup of concerts by area and touring artists. On Saturday, the shop is celebrating its 15th birthday with a big show featuring The Royal Batfangs, Sundown Service, Spooky Qs, J. Marinelli and His Angry Young 1-Man, Slate Dump, O Leandario Chucrobillyman and DJ Otis Badass.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," proprietor Dan "Pop" Shorr says, walking along an aisle between the store's bins of more than 80,000 vinyl records. "I'm never going to get rich doing this, so it's great if we can have fun."

Shorr says he and his wife, Sharon Shorr, opened Pops in 1996, when he decided to make a career change. He had been in the car audio business but could see that industry was in decline because more car manufacturers were installing high-quality sound systems of their own.

They opened Pops Resale Shop at the height of the CD era, but going against the dominant music media of the time, Shorr dipped into his own collection of 5,000 records and put out a few bins of vinyl.

"It immediately became obvious that records were a pretty viable product for us to sell," Shorr says.

People began approaching Shorr about selling parts or all of their record collections. When a Cincinnati dealer sold him 20,000 albums, it was time to create a full-fledged record department.

Now, Shorr claims to have more than 200,000 albums in stock, more than half of which are not on the sales floor. He says he hopes to catalog the inventory and create floor space for all of it in the next few years.

He also stocks a small selection of CDs, including titles by local artists. But, as in the general music market, Pops' CD sales have plummeted during the past few years. By going retro, Pop's wound up where it is today.

"If people want music today, they either buy vinyl or download the three or four songs they want," Shorr says.

Having a thriving music business set the stage for Pops concerts.

"When we first opened, we thought of having people play here," says Shorr, whose previous work primarily in electronics has always kept him involved with music. "But we didn't really have a customer base then to support it."

About five years ago, though, things changed. Shorr started talking to customers who were too young to go to bars but wanted a place for their bands to play or to go hear live music.

About the same time, Rupp Arena was auctioning off some of its stage equipment. Shorr bought some risers from a friend who had purchased them at the auction. That and a PA system put him in the live music business.

Over the years, Shorr has modified the operation. Bands playing Pops are greeted by bins of gear including cables, extension cords and guitar accessories.

One of the biggest modifications he made was after a heavy metal band played.

"They brought in their Marshall stacks," Shorr said, referring to a powerful variety of guitar amplifiers, "and kept blowing the circuits. So I had an electrician come in and put in a dedicated circuit for the stage."

He says he usually tries to talk to bands after shows to hear what sorts of things they might have found lacking in the set-up. For instance, after the SpookyQ's played one show, they talked about feeling cramped on the stage, which sits next to clothing racks and behind an extensive hat display. Shorr bought two more risers. Shortly after that, an eight-piece group played, and "they looked very comfortable," he said.

White, the Gold Dust Woman singer, said, "It's a great room to play."

Teaming with her was singer and guitarist Chris Currens, who said he liked having a place to play outside the bar scene.

"You don't have to scream over the drinking crowd," said Currens, whose set with White in mid-March leaned toward 1980s and '90s rock.

In its years as a performance venue, Pops has hosted a little bit of everything stylistically, including the recent addition of poetry to the lineup. And it's helped launch a few careers, Shorr said, citing the CunninLynguists hip-hop trio as a band that played Pops early on.

Shorr says he is looking at new things to do with the stage, like a singer-songwriter afternoon of all-original material June 18.

Customers might hear some songs that eventually end up in Pops' vinyl bins.

"I buy all my records here," Currens says. "It's classic Lexington."

And it's become one-stop shopping for tunes.

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