Thursday, March 31, 2022

In Memoriam/Music Heals

Hey there – I’m Patrick Brown the owner of Twist & Shout (and it still feels weird for me to being saying that!). As you have probably read, I bought the store from Paul & Jill Epstein in early March. The day after I took over, we learned that local jazz legend Ron Miles – who has long been a friend of the store and one of the nicest guys I’ve had the pleasure of talking music with here – passed away at age 58. And then, in another sad turn of events, one of our beloved employees, manager Kevin McGrellis, suffered a seizure and heart failure that lead to his passing at age 31. Certainly this was not the happy beginning to my store that I’d envisioned.

Last week, I had the pleasure of once again attending the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. Big Ears is a multi-genre festival that presents innovative music in all genres, and it just so happened that Ron had been scheduled to perform there this year as he had in the past. It’s also a festival that featured a number of musicians Kevin loved – or would have loved had he attended and gotten to see them. And shortly after settling in to the city I realized that there was yet another facet of the festival; this year there was a focus on New Orleans and Haitian/Caribbean musics, something that another recently departed friend of the store, Pete Fassoulis, lived and breathed.

With all this, I began the festival more than a little heavy of heart, starting things only minutes after arriving in the center of town by seeing Patti Smith, a musician who’s never shied away from dealing with death in her music and writing, and her words about her own departed friends and family resonated with me as I thought about my friend Kevin. And I couldn’t help but think about the fact that the festival would also bring me to see the quartet of Bill Frisell, Brian Blade, Thomas Morgan, and Jason Moran, who recorded with Ron on his terrific Rainbow Sign album and would be playing a set exclusively dedicated to his music, and Myra Melford, whose group Snowy Egret included Ron on trumpet (replaced at the festival by Cuong Vu) and who dedicated her set to him (the spirit of Ron hovered over the whole festival, really); additionally, I’d be hearing the New Orleans music Pete loved throughout the weekend nearly everywhere I walked during the days – pouring out of Boyd’s Jig & Reel in the Old City part of downtown, in parades, and on outdoor stages designed to get everyone partying.

But something switched the next morning when I went to check out 75 Dollar Bill, a band I’d read a decent amount about but had not heard. As I listened to this 9-piece “Little Big Band” perform their lengthy, groove-laden music - there were several percussionists and two bassists who played polyrhythms over which guitarist/founder Che Chen, two violinists, or multi-reed player Cheryl Kingan could solo in any direction - I locked into the grooves with the band, enjoying their interplay and musicianship into which they would periodically interject beautiful, melodic themes that rose up out of the ensemble, and a grin broke out on my face every time. I simply could not resist the pure joy and uplift of the music. It made me recognize that each of these people – Kevin, Ron, and Pete – had all derived such happiness from music that I couldn’t stay in the funk I had started things in, even if it meant laughing at something with tears in my eyes because it hit me so emotionally right.

And it’s that spirit that took me through the quartet tribute to Ron’s music, through Myra Melford’s group, through the Krewe du Kanaval dance party and hearing Preservation Hall Jazz Band outside the restaurant they were playing in, through Patti’s full band set the second night, through Annette Peacock’s harrowing set (Kevin woulda loved it, but you can bet that Pete wouldn’t!), and through to the John Zorn ensembles that closed out the festival for me. It was the spirit of the music, and the spirit of joy. The music was a healing balm for me in a sad time. It is what brought all of us together as people – brought me together with everyone else in these rooms digging on the same music I was enjoying, brought me together with the friends I used to see once a year who traveled to Knoxville for the first time since 2019 (and who I didn’t get enough time to hang with because there was always more music to go hear!), brings us all together here every day.

Music heals, friendship heals. Keep them both prominent in your life, always.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Legendary Denver record store changes hands after 33 years


The time has come. After 33 years of running Twist And Shout, Jill and I have decided it is time to retire. This decision did not come easily, and we do not take our responsibility to our customers and employees lightly. We have understood for a while that our ability to retire had to dovetail with a plan to keep Twist And Shout going far into the future. We believe that the store has become part of Denver life, and if it were to disappear that a huge hole in the cultural and musical life of our city would appear.

In the early months of the pandemic as Jill and I walked around deserted streets we talked a lot about what our stepping down might look like. At the same time, our manager of 30 years, Patrick Brown, stepped up in a life-saving and heroic way. He let us know immediately that he, and a small group of employees would keep the store going. They collected mail, kept the lights on and helped grow our small mail order business into a substantial service. As we slowly came back to life, Patrick’s dedication to the store and energy for the job never waned. Simply put, he has been the employee of a lifetime.

2020 was such a challenge for all of us. We worked so hard to bring the store back, keep the community together, create new ways of doing an old business. And we succeeded! 2021 was our best year in a couple of decades. In spite of lock downs, mask mandates, supply-chain issues and Covid outbreaks we have come back stronger than ever. The store is a bigger refuge for music, musicians and music lovers than it’s ever been. Thanks folks - really. We did this together.

When I approached Patrick about taking over the store, not only did he immediately say yes, he assured me that nothing would change. The employees, product mix, special events, policies and overall vibe of our beloved Twist And Shout will remain the same. Patrick will bring 30 years of institutional knowledge to his management as well as the beating heart of true music scholar. He’s every bit the nut that I am for this stuff, but he is 11 years younger than me and his energy will carry the store way into the future. I’m excited for the store and have no trepidation about this move. Thank you, Patrick. We did this together.

As for me… It’s time. I’ve been in Twist And Shout for more than half my life. I’ve given everything I have to it. I love it so much. I’m so proud of it. I love you, our customers beyond what you could imagine. You, the third generation kid whose grandfather brought you in the first time - I see you. You, who came to all those in-store performances - I see you. First person in line for Record Store Day - I see you. Girl who bought her first record at the store when she was 12 and is now bringing her 12 -year-old in to buy a turntable - I see you. Deadheads who I waved to at so many shows over the years -I see you. I see all of you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I’m not going anywhere. I want to continue living in a city with a great record store. So, I say with full heart for the final time.

See You In The Aisles,
Paul Epstein