THE LAST AMERICAN SOUL FOOD STAND
As soon as you step foot inside of the threshold, a feeling of calm overwhelms you. “Ahhhhhhhh…” A sign above the door reads, “Moods Music” but it should read “You Are Home… at last.” Aromatherapy incense and candles immediately tickle your senses as you enter the sanctum. Suddenly, you feel like a hippie, as soothing soul or dance music plays as you take your next steps into the vortex of sonic peace, love and creativity. Colorful artwork and vivid collages are pasted on nearly every inch of the walls and ceilings, while endless CD’s cascade, blocking any available light from the windows. The experience floods your cerebral cortex and renders you helpless, like the effects of the poppy girls in The Wiz. Hell no. You’re not in Kansas anymore.
Moods Music is a boutique record shop and variety store located in Atlanta, Georgia. There, nestled in the Little 5 Points area just east of the city, you can find a wide array of music. A gem and staple for true music lovers everywhere, customers come to expect anything from new and vintage hip hop, jazz, funk, soul, alternative, electronic, dance and eclectic sounds as well as rare, hard to find collectors items that are available on compact disc or vinyl. Not to mention, the vast and unique selection of DVD’s, magazines, books, postcards, incense, essential oils, candles, apparel, accessories, jewelry and quite possibly some good ole’ fashion conversation.
Upon entering the zen like den, Dave Soul, a disarmingly charming brother standing about 6 feet tall, greets you. Dave is very compliant, like a bellman at a 5 Star hotel that immediately greets you and grabs your bags as soon as you step out of the car. He is your faithful guide through these intrepid waters and oceans of music. “Hey, how are you doing today?” Says Dave, in that deep 70’s Don Cornelius toned voice. “If there’s anything in particular I can help you with, let me know.” If he knows you, he’ll usually place some CD or vinyl items in your hand, without you even asking. It’s common to hear him say things like, “This is what you need right here.” “I know you don’t have this yet.” Or even, “We’re all out of those, and it’s out of print, but I can try to order it for you.”
Wait. Lets back it up a bit. Before we embark on the legend of Dave Soul, let us begin with the origins of Moods. Prior to the inception of Moods Music, there were precursors. Small, iconic mom and pop shops that specialized in urban music are few and far between in this great nation. Personally, I recall spots like Vogel’s in Elizabeth, and Beat Street, downtown Brooklyn. In Atlanta, there was Red Beans & Rice, then curated by John Crooms, “Everybody’s Favorite Photographer”, and Earwax, which opened in 1993 and closed it’s doors in 2008.
Darryl Harris, owner of Moods Music arrived in Atlanta, GA in 1991 from Irvington, New Jersey by way of North Carolina. “When I first moved here, I listened to WCLK, and at the time, they had a show called “Groove Gumbo” hosted by Ken Rye. They had a vibe that I loved. Being the music lover that I was at such an early age, I just remember being fascinated by music. Moms bought me that first stereo when I was 8 or 9, and once I got it, I drove her ass crazy! I mean, this was a full-fledged stereo! She would bang on the door yelling ‘If you don’t turn that shit down!’” Darryl laughs. “ I just always loved music. I would even play her vinyl when she wasn’t home.”
Darryl claims that the concept began while he was constantly seeking music of a particular vibe that he couldn’t find. As a seasoned collector, he would not accept that. Working in tech support at Hewlett Packard, he found himself so unfulfilled that he began pedaling music at the job. “I wasn’t into what I was doing. I was there because I needed a paycheck. I did various other customer service jobs, but music was my first love.” Nine years later, Moods Music sprung in 2000.
“Hey, it’s been 14 years. I have no regrets because taking that leap of faith away from corporate America probably was the best thing I ever did. To be able to wake up and go somewhere to do what you love? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Over the years, I’m just happy that the people accepted what I was trying to bring to them. I get so much pride and joy out of making somebody’s day, musically. That really means a lot to me. People come in here feeling a certain way. They say “Doctor, what you got for me? I need a fix”(for music). To be able to fill that void for them is everything.”
Consequently, Darryl met Dave in the store right after Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. Dave, a New Orleans resident by way of Chicago, had recently relocated to Atlanta. Immediately, Dave was impressed with Darryl’s small but quality set up of music and Darryl was equally impressed with Dave’s musical knowledge. Over time they forged a friendship and while Dave was trying to re-establish him self and get on his feet, Darryl offered him a job at Moods. That may have been the second best decision Darryl has ever made. Dave holds down the fort on a daily basis, and represents himself as the manager and ambassador of the shop.
“I’m blessed to have Dave.” Says Darryl. Just then, a young lady interrupts. “I’m sorry. I love your store. Do you mind if I take pictures?” Darryl and I both smiled at the irony.
Indeed similar to a museum, the décor and vibe will have you stuck, speechless and in awe. Customers and on-lookers constantly parade through the doors, even if just for a moment to peruse the layout and absorb the flavor.
“I can remember the first CD I bought from here. It was the Soul Lounge. I was a customer and a fan first.” Recalls Dave.
“You can find a lot of mainstream music anywhere. This ain’t your average shop. I knew that right away. We don’t have every record in the world. But it’s about quality not quantity.” Dave and I agreed that although boutique record shops are a rare and dying breed, mostly in part due to the implementation of digital technology, there is a resurgence of vinyl culture presently taking form.
For Dave, this is more than a job. He feels responsible for the people’s access and knowledge of good music. Dave is a music connoisseur and DJ who has also worked at Odyssey Records in New Orleans, a similar neighborhood record shop for soul, jazz and blues. And although Moods carries a wide variety of music, soul is the predominant vibration felt throughout the store.
“The music we provide for the people speaks to your soul. It’s nourishment. It’s like good food. It sticks to your ribs. It’s a difference between a home cooked meal that’s prepared with love and care and time, and a fast-food meal that you can zap in a microwave. You eat it and it’ll run right through you. In a hour or two, you’re hungry again.”
Dave does a tremendous service at Moods by not only providing the customer with musical knowledge, but insight into various artist history and philosophy. A tastemaker and curator, he guides, probes and navigates you to your destination through sincere critique, conversation and questions.
Moods Music is an organic staple in the Atlanta community just as much as a Farmer’s Market, and is slowly becoming a worldwide institution for music lovers everywhere, thanks to the Internet. Even the likes of musician and Roots Co-founder, Amir “Questlove” Thompson uses Moods as his go to for rare and hard to find tunes, according to Dave.
“Questlove came in here one day, looked around puzzled, then asked do we take credit cards and if we ship. I answered yes, the next thing I know, he got to grabbing and stacking music on the counter, and I was saying Damn! When is this dude going to stop?” Dave laughs.
“So I had to ring all this stuff up, and the whole time he’s on his phone tweeting, “This is my favorite record shop. It reminds me of when I used to go record hunting with my Dad.”
Dave continues, “That means a lot for a world traveler who has been to record stores in London, Japan, Mars and Pluto. That says a lot. That shows me that what we do here matters.”
Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved
TAON is a division of 245 Media
Moods Music frequently hosts album release and listening parties as well as sponsor events. For more information, visit Moodsmusic.net
Dave Soul has been producing his radio show WDTK Revolution Radio since February 2011. Check out Dynamite Dave Soul and WDTK Revolution Radio Podcast at podomatic.com/wdtk.