Twenty years ago I was a freshman at UNC Chapel Hill with no earthly idea that one of my favorite labels was about to open, Merge Records. In fact, it wasn’t until my senior year that I knew who Superchunk was and had just became aware of another label that had opened in town, Mammoth Records. My tastes swung more towards the poppier choices made by the Mammoth folks (Blake Babies, Dillon Fence, Joe Henry) at the time. But, caught on to Superchunk, Polvo, Erectus Monotone, et al a few years later, so I cannot tell you stories about being there on day one.
But Mammoth is no more and Merge is have a great 20th anniversary – they about to begin a 4 day festival in Chapel Hill, NC starting on July 22nd and running through the 26th with concerts, film screening and even a kick ball game.
Here is a link describing their 4 days of fun and merriment called XX Merge – love the fact that, except for Sunday nights show at Memorial Hall, the artists are listed with no note as to which night they are playing as “XX Merge is primarily a birthday party. We hope you will come celebrate with us & know that whatever night you attend, you will hear some great music. If you are most interested in seeing a particular band, we understand that XX Merge might not be the ideal event for you. We would love to see you there, but if you decide not to attend, we hope you get to see your favorite bands soon at their own show.”
Also, here is a link to a great interview on NPR’s “All Songs Considered” featuring an interview with Mac and Laura in a piece called “American Independence: 20 Years of Merge Records.”
I have been enjoying their monthly compilation called Score (which is now sold out) – in the vein of one of the best compilation series, Rarum on the ECM label, where the artist picked their favorite recordings on the label, Merge asked a series of ‘outsiders’ / fans to curate their favorite 20 tracks. I almost hate opening the wax cookie bag the 2 CDs come in every month, but I just have to and a nice surprise was a little thank you card in the first shipment signed by Mac and Laura (I have #139 / 1250). If you missed out on this subscription – you can still get a free download of Superchunk covering Sebadoh’s “I Believe In Fate.”
Also, they have issued a book (reminded me a lot of the Volume 9 releases from the 1990’s) of all their covers, which is a part of the Score series, but I hope they release it for others to enjoy the Blue Note – esque feeling you get looking through their excellent cover art history.
Happy 20th, wish I was there!