You used to intimidate me, I'm not gonna lie. Back when I was a tragically unhip college student, slowly learning the ropes of indie rock from my older boyfriend (who I distinctly remember lining up outside your doors to buy Kid A while I sat in his apartment studying), I was a bit wary of walking into you alone. We broke up and there was some time where I was insulated from the eastside, but learning about alt.country from my drinking buddy and Pitchfork from my co-worker.
When I bought my record player in 2002, my co-worker took me back through your doors and I purchased a used copy of More Songs About Buildings and Food by The Talking Heads from you. I didn't buy anything new on vinyl because I was a bit nervous about choosing poorly.
At some point over the past seven years I stopped being nervous. I found my own groove in Milwaukee's eastside and discovered places to hear music. From clubs like Onopa/Stonefly and Mad Planet to radio stations like WMSE and Radio Milwaukee to the incredible Pabst Theater group to music festivals in Milwaukee and Chicago to local online fanzines, I morphed into a timid listener to an active music consumer. One of my fondest music purchase memories is buying Funeral the day the vinyl came out and delicately holding it as I biked home.
Of course I'd love to say that I was independently wealthy and spent all my money buying hard copies of music at Atomic Records. Alas, that's not the case. Please forgive me for getting music online and borrowing from friends. I didn't know it was going to kill you. I know my visits to you were pretty sporadic, increasing in the past year or so when I could pop in and buy tickets for Pabst shows from you as well. Seemed like things were going okay. I wish I could've done more.
It was pretty surreal walking through your doors on Saturday (with my aforementioned alt.country drinking buddy and his equally musically knowledgable wife) and knowing it would be the last time. I'm sorry I knocked over my tea on your floor. I'm sorry I couldn't buy every amazing 45, LP, CD and poster I spotted amongst your treasures. I'm sorry if I didn't fully represent your customer base when I gave a soundbite to the woman from WUWM interviewing people (yes, I did have a Culture Club album on the top of my stack -- it was only $2!). I'm sorry I couldn't single handedly save the independent record industry.
One of my biggest regrets is that I never got to see an in-store at Atomic. It sucks that it takes your closing to make me realize that I need to seize upon more of the cool underground things going on in this town and not waste half my years fretting about if I'm hip enough to go to them. It sucks that I realized that a little too late about you.
You'll be missed.