During its 16-year history, Aboveground Records has been a haven for finding all manner of music, new and old, popular and obscure. The store has also been one of the best places on the Island to hear live music.

“The concept around [our concerts] was to bring the bands that didn’t have a place in other venues, artists that maybe didn’t fit in the downtown Edgartown or Oak Bluffs scene,” owner Mike Barnes said the other day at his store. “It’s the little bit noisier, a little more dangerous sound.”

The first band to play Aboveground Records was the now well-known Island band Kahoots. The scene flourished to the point where the store had to expand its space to include the neighboring condominium, hosting up to three shows a month.

Mike Barnes dog Baris
Mike Barnes, owner of Aboveground Records, and Baris, lead singer of the Woofers. — Ivy Ashe

“A lot of people were coming out and behaving themselves,” Mr. Barnes said of the experience. “I mean we’d have the store packed full of people and it could have been one of those things where everyone’s wrecking the place but everyone was really quiet and very respectful. All these young kids really paying attention to what was going on.”

Musician and frequent Aboveground customer Jason Nichols said on more than one occasion he would come in to the store and point to a record to have Mr. Barnes say, “Oh, yeah. They played here.”

This weekend there will be a party at the store to celebrate Team Aboveground, as Mr. Barnes calls everyone, from employees to customers to musicians, who have played a part in Aboveground Records’ success. The store is downsizing its space to save money, which will make it more difficult to hold shows in the future.

Up to 50 different musicians are set to perform on two stages beginning at noon on Saturday and continuing into the evening. Or as Mr. Barnes put it, “We’re going to go as late as we need to or until someone of authority tells us to be done. There will be rock.”

Community radio station WVVY 93.7 is broadcasting the celebration live from the store all day.

Nothing will be for sale on Saturday, either. The event is about the music and people the store has brought together over the years.

aboveground records storefront
Small store, big influence. — Ivy Ashe

“Let’s take the commerce out of it for a minute and really just be laid back,” said Mr. Barnes. “This is a no stress, no pressure environment. Let’s all enjoy it while we have it.”

The proposed downsizing will halve the current space.

“This is adapt to survive,” Mr. Barnes said. “The record store has been in two separate condo units and now I can cut it in half and rent one of the units and that will help pay my overhead so the record store isn’t dependent to do that, which is a good thing in 2012. As we all know real estate prices on the Vineyard are pretty high and a little bit above a record store’s income to be able to support . . . luckily, being the landlord, I can balance the two out by doing it this way.

“Eight years small, eight years big and we’re hoping we make it another eight years in the other side of the store, but good things come in small packages,” he added with a smile.

One of the musicians playing on Saturday is Aboveground employee, Andrew Valenti, age 23, who has worked at the store since 2003.

“I’ve been coming here as long as I can remember,” Mr. Valenti said. He shared a story of Mr. Barnes and former manager, Chris Liberato, playing whiffle ball in the parking lot.

“That’s the stuff I want to be talked about at the party,” Mr. Barnes said. “I have a grand idea for this party and having people sharing memories that have happened here.”

Emily Hunsaker plans to take the stage with bass player Larry Laverdure. The two normally play in the band Whiskey Stills but tomorrow will play an acoustic set with original music.

Ms. Hunsaker agreed with Mr. Valenti; the record store fills a much needed niche.

“Aboveground is great, Mike is so nice and it’s just a cool place,” she said. “I love that they still sell records and tapes. I think it’s a great part of the Island. It’s great that Island bands can sell their albums there even if they don’t have record deals.”

The rest of the lineup features bands from Boston and New York city and even some reunions, Mr. Barnes assured, plus a roster of Island favorites. Mr. Barnes scribbled out a proposed set list that included Good Night Louise, Erich Luening, Space Crusader, Kahoots, and Drawing Guts. Sisters Nina Violet and Marciana Jones plan to take a slight departure from their folk roots with a little more rock and roll. There’s even talk of an all-band rock out at the end of the night.

Mr. Barnes may even pick up his drumsticks.


The Back to the Future party begins at noon on Saturday at Aboveground Records in the Triangle in Edgartown. Food donations are welcomed. Following the show the store will be closed for remodeling until March 1.