Super Monkey Recording Company is a dream realized for Chris Groblewski
Chris Groblewski dreams big. On April 22, National Record Store Day, he'll officially open Super Monkey Recording Company in the Allentown section of Pittsburgh. The record store, which will feature new vinyl releases and some musical equipment, will join Groblewski's other interests that include a record label and promotion company, and a share in a studio, Tonic, in McKeesport.
Question: What are you going to offer at the opening on April 22?
Answer: I'm placing an order for thousands of dollars of new vinyl. I'll have a copy of “Celebration Day” by Led Zeppelin, which was recorded live at the O2 Arena (in London in 2007) that I'm going to raffle off. I'm going to order stuff that's never been printed before on vinyl. If you want “Led Zeppelin IV,” you can go to Jerry's Records in Squirrel Hill. But if you want the new “Celebration Day,” I'll get you that. I'm going to carve a niche with new vinyl.
Q: What's going to be available at the store in addition to vinyl?
A: I'm going to sell all the bands' merchandise (on the Super Monkey label) that you would be able to get at shows. I'm going to sell tickets to shows I'm doing. I'm going to be doing 20 to 30 shows each year, pairing them up with bands on my label. I'm also going to sell strings and cables and microphones, a little bit of everything.
Q: Why open a record store in Allentown?
A: I wanted an office to hold meetings for the label (Super Monkey Recording Company). I thought it would be cool to have a storefront for the label, maybe not to the extent of the Subpop store at the Tacoma airport (Sea-Tac Airport), but something like that. I came across the Allentown-Hilltop Alliance that was interested in giving grants to small businesses that were interested in moving into the neighborhood. They wanted a record store in the neighborhood and thought the record label was really cool and unique to Pittsburgh.
Q: What are your impressions of Allentown so far?
A: There are still a lot of things that need to be fixed up in the neighborhood, and that will come with people investing time and money. I like it here. It's convenient to everything. You have one of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh, Alla Famiglia, here. Dollar Bank just moved in across the street, and Black Forge Coffee is around the corner. Down the street there's Stuart Day Guitars. He makes really expensive guitars, about six to 10 per year. It's really cool having him in the neighborhood. There are little things popping up left and right in the neighborhood.
Q: What kind of bands and music do you want to promote? Are you going to be working with rock bands exclusively?
A: Not necessarily. I like great music, period. But I tend to gravitate to things that I like. I liked the Dirty Charms (a band on the Super Monkey label) the first time I saw them. I have Brett Staggs on the label, he's a great songwriter, and there's a metal band, Solarburn, that I produced, an instrumental band that plays progressive metal. It's like watching a symphony. They don't have a singer, but that's what they do. And a new band, Stone Wicked Souls and my new band, Aqua Rocket, with Rocky Lamonde from the Dirty Charms and drummer Matt Muckle and Danny Gochnour from the Houserockers on lead guitar.
Shows of Note
The Way Down Wanderers, April 13, Calliope Roots Cellar at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Shadyside
Based in Peoria, Ill., the quartet borrows from and mixes folk, bluegrass, country and a few other genres. But it's lead singer Austin Thompson who draws most of the attention, and not only for his dreadlocks. Thompson has one of those keening, piercing voices that shouldn't work, but does in the context of the band's rambling songs. 412-361-0873 or pfpca.org
Jason Ricci, April 15, Moondog's Blawnox
Ricci provides much needed new blood in the blues genre, and a bit of diversity. He's one of the few openly gay blues musicians, a stellar harmonica player and vocalist who bucks more than a few trends. Ricci has appeared and/or recorded with Johnny Winter, Ana Popovic and Walter Trout. His most recent album, “Dirty Memory,” is a collaboration with singer-songwriter J. J. Appleton. 412-828-2040 or moondogs.us
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.