"I think it sucks," says the always-candid Craig Koon in reference to the final days of Sound Exchange. According to Koon, the store that served as Ground Zero for the local punk rock scene was negotiating to remain at 21st and Guadalupe until a new tenant was found, which Koon figured would be around April. However, owner Mark Alman says the store had been operating on a month-to-month lease for approximately the past two years, which he simply chose not to renew for personal reasons. "It's not an easy choice," says Alman. Therefore, the 22-year-old store will fade into history at the end of January, darkening the door of a place instrumental to the careers of the Big Boys, Dicks, Poison 13, Motards, and about a thousand other bands. Koon, who quit last weekend after 11 years, says his immediate plans are "staying home with my kid and putting everything I own on eBay." Meanwhile, the increasingly threadbare Sound Exchange is liquidating as much inventory as possible while ceding the mantle of Austin's premier underground music outlet to Thirty Three Degrees and Donkey Records. Also alive and well is Alien Records.
It's always somewhat shocking when an esteemed club or record store shuts its doors, especially when said establishment obviously values music over profit margins, and both the Mercury and Sound Exchange deserve longer eulogies than can be given here. However, the truth is that even in today's lousy economic climate Austin remains one of the best music towns in America, with more bands than anyone can see in one lifetime and plenty of places to see (and buy) them. Times of national stress and turmoil often spur artists and musicians to new creative heights, so a mini-Renaissance could be just around the bend. But if things do get worse, I'll be there to tell you about it. See you next week.