Party celebrates aboveground’s 16 years of staying above water

Elisha Wiesner from The Kahoots, one of dozens of musicians who performed. — Photo by Andrew Valenti

Despite the fact that the Vineyard experienced its first snowstorm of the winter on Saturday, Jan. 21, a couple of hundred people showed up at aboveground records in Edgartown throughout the day for a music marathon that included continuous performances by dozens of solo acts and bands.

The store, owned by Michael Barnes, hosted a 12-hour “Back 2 the Future” celebration to commemorate 16 years of providing a music outlet, as well as a gathering spot, for music fans of every ilk. aboveground is in the process of scaling back to half its present size and has been cleared out for construction, which presented the ideal opportunity to host a party before closing for a six-week renovation hiatus.

At 12 noon, people started gathering at the small storefront at the Triangle in Edgartown – musicians and their friends hauling equipment through driving snow, music fans of all ages settling in along the walls of the temporarily emptied space and on the floor to enjoy a variety of musical performances that ranged from solo folk artists to loud, metal-tinged rock and roll.

And, as the snow piled up, more and more people braved the weather to support musician friends or check out new talent. Some of the day’s participants, such as Nina Violet, Willy Mason, and Kahoots, have played multiple times at the record store and have become familiar to Vineyard audiences. Others were enjoying a rare opportunity to play in public.

The arrival of a number of couches and a spread of food that included baked ham, chili, chicken wings, brownies, and chips made for a cozy living room atmosphere.

Only three of the 23 scheduled acts didn’t make the celebration but a number of drop-in musicians more than made up for the cancellations, bringing the total to more than 30 performances. Twenty-year-old Mariah Carroll and her father Scott Carroll were among the add ons. Ms. Carroll – guitar and vocals – and her father on guitar performed two original tunes, marking their first public performance together.

Supporters of the independent record store who missed the celebration were able to listen in – from as far away as Wisconsin – on WVVY community radio. WVVY’s Rob Myers and Elisha Weisner streamed the music on air all day.

The Facebook event invitation encouraged fans to “Come celebrate the past 16 years of aboveground records, and the future, whatever it may bring.” Although Mr. Barnes is compressing the store’s space (he will be renting out the other half of the building, which he owns) he is committed to keep on going. “I’ve always said as they as long as the store doesn’t lose money I’ll stay open,” Mr. Barnes commented.

Mr. Barnes has hosted around 200 live performances at aboveground. Since it first opened, the store has been a hangout for music lovers, who often stop in weekly just to catch up on new music, enjoy the vibe, and, maybe buy something. Of those who participated in last weekend’s celebration, both performers and volunteers, Mr. Barnes says, “It was all people who I’ve always seen as team aboveground. Everybody who was involved has played a role in aboveground – either frequented the store or been very supportive of it.

“I think the only time I ever thought about closing was because my heart wasn’t into it. My biggest fear is not having the passion for it anymore.”

However, he added with optimism, “Yesterday was as good as it’s ever gotten. I can’t say enough about how everybody came together. It was inspiring. Saturday was reinforcement of why I will keep it going.”