This year marks the 20th anniversary of Bull Moose. I’m not sure of the actual date the first store in Brunswick opened, but since mentions of the anniversary have become more frequent, both at Bull Moose’s site and in the media, I figured the time was right for me to post some memories of my favorite music/movies/video games/etc. store.
I’m pretty sure that my first visit to a Bull Moose was in the spring of 1998. Some friends and I left Waldoboro to drive into South Portland to do some shopping in the mall area. On our way through Brunswick someone decided we should stop to visit a record store I had never heard of before; the only music store in town I was familiar with was the chain store at Cook’s Corner. I remember walking in and being impressed with both the huge selection of music, but also with all of the other merchandise, as well as the cool music playing and interesting stickers and posters covering the walls and windows. This wasn’t slick or corporate, it was like visiting a cool friend’s basement rec room. I knew that in a few months, when I started attending Bowdoin, that I would be spending a lot of time at this quirky shop right down the road (it wasn’t until a few years later that I learned the founder of Bull Moose was a Bowdoin grad; I began to love the store even more).
I don’t have the receipt of my purchases that day, but I do know one of the discs I walked out the door with was Old and In the Way’s self-titled release. I was getting into the Grateful Dead over the past year and had recently been introduced to Jerry Garcia’s diverse side projects. This bluegrass effort seemed like a promising album and eleven years later, I still consider it one of my favorites. Besides the CD I purchased, I do have one other memento from that day. I signed up for my frequent buyers card during that visit, and I still have the same card in my wallet. It’s been in my pocket longer than any other card I carry, and I’ve had to repair it with packing tape to keep it from breaking in half, but it is still the one card that I don’t leave home without.
I’ve had a lot of great experiences at the various Bull Moose stores, here are some of my favorites:
Walking down the stairs and into the Old Port location to find myself in the middle of a very low key El Vez live performance.
Being called out by name when I accidentally left my frequent buyer card behind at the counter. Sure, maybe the only reason the girl working new my name was because she had just scanned my card, but I’d like to think it was because I was visiting the Brunswick store an average of two to four times a month.
Buying a copy of Johnny Cash‘s Unearthed box set (in pristine condition) from the used section and being complimented for my good taste in music while also being chided for buying it before any of the staff had a chance to set it aside for themselves.
I was in the Brunswick store late on a Saturday night when I was kicked out because the store was closing. I was having somewhat of a tough time at college at that point, and this was one in a long number of Saturday nights I hadn’t done anything exciting. I had decided to go cheer myself up with a music purchase. The store was about to close and I didn’t want to leave empty handed, so I grabbed the Talking Heads Remain in Light disc. I had never heard the album, and only knew that it was supposed to be good (Phish had covered it in its entirety and that was enough of a recommendation for me at the time). The guy working who was kicking me out told me I had made an awesome choice as he rung me up. Unbeknownst to him, that little compliment made my day. That disc also turned me into a devoted Talking Heads fan. I now own all of their albums, all purchased from various Bull Moose locations. [For years, the first thing I would do when I went to Bull Moose was check the used section for any Talking Heads CDs I didn't own; about three years ago I finally found a copy of Little Creatures, the elusive holdout in my collection.]
As I implied above, in college I was a pretty big Phish fan. The band was playing two nights at the Cumberland County Civic Center in December of 1999 and I wanted tickets for both nights. I had quite the scare when I went to buy my tickets at Bull Moose. I don’t know if the cashier hit a wrong button, but when I first tried to get them, he told me the show had just sold out (the people in front of me in line all got tickets). Luckily for me, he tried again and was able to secure my tickets for the shows.
In one of many musical discoveries, I remember being at the Scarborough store with my then girlfriend, now wife, and hearing some impressive rockabilly/bluegrass/awesome music over the loudspeakers. After about 15 minutes of listening while browsing, we had to find out what we were listening to. It was Langhorne Slim‘s When the Sun’s Gone Down album, a copy of which we promptly bought (and have been fans of ever since). [Which reminds me, I need to come in and get his latest release!]
While not happening in the store, nor exclusive to a single event, I need to list this decidedly Bull Moose occurrence. If you are like me, and love to spread your love of Bull Moose, I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience. I love watching the reactions of friends and family members when they unwrap a gift to discover a dreadful looking CD, only to open the case and realize what they are actually holding is a Bull Moose gift certificate. [Also, I have to celebrate that Bull Moose still offers gift certificates in "bad cd" form; it's so much more fun to give or receive than a gift card.]
All of these moments stand out enough in my mind for me to recount them here, but I think the small, insignificant experiences that blend together are the ones that I remember most fondly. I don’t know many times my friends and I have walked into a store and spent literally hours browsing, trying to decide which or the thousands of great discs we should spend out money on. At this point in my life, my collection is too large to remember where each CD came from, but I know a number originated as a discovery in the used section. Usually when I find a great disc for a pre-owned price I think about how lucky I am, but once in a while I feel sorry for the person who had to give up such great music. I can’t think of another store that makes something as mundane as shopping into such a wonderful experience for me.
I’m really glad that Bull Moose is still with us (the full 20 years for some of you, 11 for me). We hear a lot about how the recording industry is changing and that it is impossible for independent music stores to survive. At this time of the year, when we think about all the things we are grateful for, I am very thankful that Bull Moose has proven to be successful in spite of what is occurring in the words of music and movies as well as in the face of such difficult economic times. I hope it is around for a long time to come. I can’t imagine buying my music, movies, or video games any place else.
Lastly, a collection of some of the words of wisdom printed on my old receipts:
- steely dan makes me weep.
- experience the awe of the moist gumball
- beck really wants you to dance
- harry potter books not sold here
- ask chad why he’s called “chadmatoes.”
- harry connick mowatt jr.
- …hang on to the sasss…
- dinosaurs once roamed here—never forget
- I was negative 2 in 1985
- how many times can you watch zombies?
- my lips feel like warm cheese
- pathetic attempt to sound indie
- it’s not a glow-stick, it’s a slim jim!
- what about the voice of geddy lee?