Music Industry

Chicago's Numero Group Is Opening A Pop-Up Record Store on Roosevelt Row

Whether they’re already familiar with Numero Group’s catalog, music aficionados owe it to themselves to stop by monOrchid Gallery this Wednesday, October 12, to visit the label's one-day-only pop-up record store in Phoenix.

Active for more than 10 years, Numero Group has a massive catalog that often resembles an anthropological dig more than a record label. Much of the music the label has unearthed has nearly been lost to the ages, and Numero's efforts toward archiving and historical preservation are something fit for the Smithsonian Institution.

This year, Numero Group opened up a factory outlet store in their hometown of Chicago, where you can find all of their in-print releases and many exclusive, limited edition products. After a successful grand opening, the brains behind the project decided to take their store on the road, with Phoenix being one the eight stops on their route. In addition to the pop-up store at monOrchid, they‘re making a party of it, spending an extra day in Phoenix spinning records at Crescent Ballroom on Tuesday, October 11.

While many current reissue labels pride themselves on mystery, often touting an elusive artist’s unknown whereabouts or the fact that only several copies of a particular album are known to exist, Numero takes a more transparent and thoughtful angle. They make painstaking efforts to work directly with the original artists, producers, managers, or record labels associated with the music they’re canonizing. Liner notes to their albums read like small books, sometimes even going to the length of being printed in hardbound editions. They spare no expense in telling an artist's stories in true documentarian fashion, which makes reading about the music as much of an experience as listening to it.
It may seem like a small point but the aesthetic continuity in Numero’s packaging, echoing the spirit of 1960s and '70s labels such as Impulse! and Flying Dutchman. That’s partly why the company is doing it and certainly part of the label’s appeal. The exhaustive research and passion make Numero an easy label for music connoisseurs to rally behind, and collecting their products can easily become addictive.

Numero Group's 11th release, Eccentric Soul: Mighty Mike Lenaburg, is a compilation that should resonate closely with Phoenicians. If you don’t find 1960s- and '70s-era Phoenix synonymous with deep soul music, you’re not wrong. Producer, manager, booker, and KOOL FM disc jockey Mike Lenaburg had high hopes for nurturing a Phoenix soul scene on par with that of Detroit or Chicago. He managed and promoted some of the most enduring South Phoenix funk and soul bands; however, outside that circle, his efforts largely went unnoticed. Prior to Numero’s direct work with Lenaburg, many of his records were unreleased, and the few singles that did come out were just whispers among record collectors with deep pocket books.

It’s also worth noting that Numero’s compilation of acoustic guitar music, Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli, contains a track by longtime Phoenix resident and director at The Roberto Venn School of Luthiery William Eaton. It is the only authorized reissue of his 1978 homemade debut LP, and a unique track on the compilation.

While Numero began by documenting primarily R&B, funk, soul, and gospel, focusing on specific regional scenes and record labels, it also never painted itself into a stylistic corner. In 2008, it released a comprehensive overview of the obscure Missouri-based Titan label. It's a collection of 1980s power-pop, presented in a deluxe four-LP box set. In more recent years, Numero Group has dug into the '90s, reissuing the works of bands like Codeine, Unwound, and Blonde Redhead. Unless you were compulsively buying music and reading zines at the time, it’s easy to overlook that, for a brief moment, these were some of the biggest bands in underground music. Though it may seem like a big leap from '60s soul, the need for this music to be canonized and preserved is equally important.

Recently, their five-LP White Zombie box set, accompanied by a hardbound coffee table book, raised some eyebrows. However, Numero’s documentation precedes the Beavis and Butt-Head era of major label fame, instead focusing on their roots as a completely singular, art-damaged, 1980s New York noise rock band. This package showcases a side of the band that even their most die-hard fans are foggy on and paints a clearer picture of the long career White Zombie already had prior to their polished '90s fame.

Their pop-up store isn’t making too many stops across the country, and it will be a rare treat to see nearly the entire catalog in one place, in addition to some limited-edition runs made especially for their road trip. Seems like a good idea to dance your ass off at Crescent Ballroom on Tuesday night, take note of your favorite tracks, and pick them up for your own collection on Wednesday at monOrchid.

Numero Group's Pre-Pop-Up-Party at Crescent Ballroom is scheduled for Tuesday, October 11. The pop-up store will occur at monOrchid on Wednesday, October 12, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.
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