Somewhere in America, Jeff Miller's ears are burning. The towering vocalist of defunct Bay Area hardcore act Bad Posture, which used to hang with the likes of Dead Kennedys and Flipper during punk's early-'80s glory days, is getting dissed something fierce by local record store owner Michael Pawlicki.
The 49-year-old sifts through a dusty stack of used vinyl on a rainy night in early December while sorting and pricing records that will be sold at The Ghost of Eastside Records, his newly opened pop-up shop in Tempe. Pawlicki comes across G.D.M.F.S.O.B., the only LP released by Bad Posture before they disbanded in 1983, and announces his find to his friend Ted Grossman, who's helping him evaluate and appraise records.
"Seventy-five bucks for Bad Posture, buddy," Pawlicki says, scratching out the price listed by another record store and putting a new one in its place.
"I don't even know who that is," Grossman replies.
"It's an old San Francisco hardcore band; the singer was like 6-foot-7," Pawlicki says. "And that was their most notable attribute."
It's the sort of enlivened discourse you'd hear all the time at Pawlicki's old store, Eastside Records, an iconic and popular part of the local music scene for more than two decades before it closed exactly a year ago. The cramped and dingy record emporium, which was located near University Drive and Ash Avenue, was run by Pawlicki and co-owners Ben Wood and Steve Gastellum and served as a favorite destination for vinyl collectors, music geeks, and audiophiles of the Valley to crate-dig for obscura, catch energetic punk shows, or just gab about music.
Pawlicki is hoping that The Ghost of Eastside Records, a pop-up reincarnation of its predecessor to be open only for six months or so, will channel the spirit of the old joint. That means tons of cool old records for sale and chaotic gigs by bands wherever they can find space to put their amps and instruments.
If only he can get things ready for the opening, which is four days hence. This rainy night comes in the midst of a week from hell. He's got a mere 72 hours to finish unpacking, sorting, pricing, and placing hundreds of vinyl platters in the bins before officially welcoming in the public. (A few friends, such as Grossman, have been lucky enough to get a sneak preview, as well as set aside a few choice records to purchase).
"I'll be working almost constantly between now and then, except if I'm taking [my dog] out, going to the gym for two hours, or getting my fucking hair cut — because I've got dozens and dozens of boxes worth of shit to sort through and try to get into here," he says. "We really won't be ready at all like I wanted to be, but if it wasn't Christmastime right now, I'd wait another week or two. I'm just going to have to wing it."
And he's still got a long way to go, as the cardboard boxes crammed with records are stacked throughout the space in Tempe's Danelle Plaza. Pawlicki decided to reopen a record store (albeit briefly) after spending this past summer traveling up and down both coasts, visiting "a zillion stores," and accumulating a wealth of old records. Such finds were added to the already expansive collection of vinyl left after Eastside's closure, as well as the stock he purchased from Ancient Radio, a recently closed gallery/record boutique in Tucson.
"I knew I was going to be somewhere," he says. "I acquired so much shit. I wanted to move, and I still may very well go somewhere. Everything's up in the air still."
He also missed seeing the people who came into Eastside, he acknowledges. Thing will be a little bit different from before, Pawlicki says, as he evaluates a copy of Lou Reed's 1975 album Metal Machine Music. For one, records won't be arranged by so many categories and genres.
"I'm not making a section for oi! this time. We've already joked about how we're not splitting punk rock into 71 different subcategories or just separating it all from rock. It'll all just be under rock," Pawlicki says. "I found another fucking box of reggae buried under everything that I've gotta look through, and [I found] this really good box of R&B, too. My storage area is a fucking disaster of 9 million records."
"Keep that R&B out for me, man," says Grossman, a bartender who was a regular and employee (the two were seemingly interchangeable) at the old Eastside.
"I'd like too, but I can't find it," Pawlicki says. "It probably got buried under like a million other things."
A less-exhaustive system of arranging and displaying records isn't the only thing that will differentiate The Ghost of Eastside Records from its predecessor. The new incarnation won't have any windows or a proper storefront. It's essentially located in a large, square-shaped cinderblock storeroom at Danelle Plaza, the shopping center near Southern and Mill avenues that also houses the Yucca Tap Room. Patrons and vinyl fiends will have to make a short stroll down a hallway to find the place, and Pawlicki's planning on setting up tall, sandwich-board signs outside to help people beat a path to his door.
"We've already had a lot of bands call about playing shows here two or three days a week. The kids from Avon Ladies and all those bands pretty much have an open invitation to play whenever they want and get a lot of people down here," he says. "We're going to be seeing a lot of those kids anyway. Jess from Pigeon Religion, who books a lot of shows, already told me there's some shows he wants to do with touring bands."
If only he can finish getting the place ready for all those visitors.
"Things are changing constantly in here; somebody was building bins two days ago. We wanted to rebuild a bunch of fancy bins and do a lot of shit like that, but it takes too much time," Pawlicki says. "I'll be bringing in different shit constantly. I have enough stuff to refill this place many times over. We'll be making this place fancier and sillier as time goes on. It will be altered constantly to get things the way I want, which will probably take until April or May."
That's around the same time that Pawlicki has announced that he will close The Ghost of Eastside Records and finally leave the Valley, primarily because he loathes the stifling summertime heat. Then again, there's a chance he might stick around for good.
"Possibly. I don't want to run my mouth too much. This is not, obviously, an ideal retail space. It's a weird room, but the weirdness could work for a little while. I wouldn't want to stay in a room that's hidden away like this for a really long time," Pawlicki says. "I don't think I can do another summer here, and I definitely wouldn't want to do a summer in this hotbox. I think it's time for me to, realistically, not live here in the summer on a permanent basis."
Until he finally makes up his mind, however, he's looking forward to reuniting with old friends and selling a shitload of records.
"Everyone's going to be back for Christmas. We're gonna have everyone down here for a bunch of beer and invite people down. Maybe get two or three bands to play," he says. "I've got more records than I know what to do with."