Hopefully it doesn’t step on anyone’s toes for me to say that when I read that The White Stripes would not longer make music as a band I was neither surprised nor disappointed. Every band comes to its time to close up shop and focus on new projects; great bands know when to quit before getting too burned out and uninspired. The White Stripes was a band that created a number great albums and changed the way a lot of people felt about rock music in contemporary times. For that, I herald Jack and Meg White, they truly brought something refreshing to the table and in a relatively short timespan, have made memorable marks in music history and pop culture.
The part where I am not disappointed comes from seeing Jack White’s shift in focus to his label, Third Man Records. I have a lot of respect for great artists who find a way to take what they’ve learned and use it to make a difference. And I’m not just talking about signing their friends or making a foundation to raise money in their hometowns. White seems to have his finger on the pulse, nabbing artists from all over the globe ranging in different styles, genres, and even ages (catch legend Wanda Jackson in Bloomington next weekend). Even though the label has been established since 2001, it was the emergence of a physical location in 2009 that marked the label’s ascent into the public eye.
With its studio, record store, and full-service production office, it seemed the label was on top of innovation, but what really turned heads this year was the announcement of the Third Man Rolling Record Store, a traveling record store, among other things. The van is also equipped with turntables, microphones, and sound board and PA to run live performances out of it. Who says the days of selling physical albums are done? Not if Third Man has anything to say about it.
This week, the “store” made its debut in Austin during SXSW, complete with a surprise performance by Jack White and new label signee (according to the video, the single-album contract was signed this week with a black marker) Seasick Steve. Had I been at SXSW, I definitely would have loved to catch this moment; to see this rolling masterpiece, see a live solo Jack White performance, and to see this Seasick Steve live would have been quite a treat. I’d never heard of Seasick Steve before watching this video, but within seconds, I already loved him. He’s aged, but with it comes a sincere love of making rusted, rural blues music. Watching him perform, anyone can see that this man just loves to play and sing. Armed with just his 3-string guitar, a stomp-box, and a faulty amp, Seasick Steve seemed to have won the hearts of all who took the time to watch. It’s performers like that continue to put things into perspective for me, and remind me why I love music.