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Chinatown: Noize in the hood

Vinyl veteran drops the needle on Chinatown
Dale Wiese operates the recently opened Noize To Go record shop on the edge of Chinatown. The Frank Frink Five will perform at Lana-lous Feb. 1 to celebrate the occasion.

Considering the era of digital downloads, file sharing, BitTorrent and growing expectation that all forms of media should be free to the lumpen masses, it takes a brave person to open a brick and mortar record shop these days.

Combine that with an unproven and long-ignored location on the edge of Chinatown, and the endeavour sounds almost quixotic. But Dale Wiese is one such man, and Noize To Go is the cozy record store he opened three months ago on an eclectic strip of Union Street between Main and Gore.

“You’ve got Strathcona, you’re half a block from the Main Street corridor, a 10-minute walk from downtown and in historic Chinatown, which I can’t overstate how important I think Chinatown should be to the citizens of this city,” Wiese says of his new neighbourhood. “It’s a little gem that too many people have forgotten about that takes us out of our day-to-day routine. It’s like going somewhere [else] without leaving the city.”

As Wiese says this, a young (surprise) bearded customer flips through Bob Dylan records, ignoring the out-of-this world 1976 pressing of Parliament’s The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein  inches from his scruffy head.

Wiese says his musical leanings veer towards punk, new wave and power pop of the 1970s and ’80s as evidenced by his black Pointed Sticks T-shirt. And while the remnants of Vancouver’s underground music scene can be found in every corner of the store, whether it’s a copy of Slow’s Against the Glass or an album from Art Bergmann’s former band Poisoned, Noize covers a lot of ground in a small amount of space.   

“To some degree it’s my tastes, since there isn’t anything here I wouldn’t mind having in my own collection,” Wiese says. “Lots of classic rock from the ’60s and ’70s, new wave and punk, which is my formative years. I have some really good jazz records and some good country albums and R&B that I think most people would agree is a nice little selection. So other than classical, I have a bit of everything.”  

While most of the records are used, Wiese doesn’t rule out carrying new albums in the future, noting that records vastly outsell CDs now. “Vinyl is the preferred format for someone who wants to build a collection and wants something tactile to look at and share with people.”

And Wiese should know. The veteran vinyl guru honed his chops at venerable disc dealer Track Records for 12 years beginning in 1986 on a stretch of Seymour Street once known as Record Row. At one point, the strip was home to Track, Sam the Record Man, Odyssey Imports, A&A Records, Collector’s RPM and A&B Sound. Track eventually morphed into Noize, then Noize To Go, and was the last holdout on Record Row, outlasting A&B Sound by four months until getting “renovicted” in 2009.

Not surprisingly, Wiese is happy to get back in the vinyl saddle. “People have been surprised there’s a record store here, but that’s my job to make them less surprised.”

“It’s a nice amount of records for people who don’t have a lot of time,” he adds. “If you’re even modestly adept at flipping through records, you could go through the entire stock in about 20 minutes, although it’s always changing.”

To celebrate Noize To Go’s new lease on life, Wiese’s musical friends the Frank Frink Five, once considered the unofficial house band of the Railway Club, will perform two sets of classic alt-country rock at Lana-lou’s (362 Powell St.) Feb. 1.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, Wiese does indeed know he shares a name similar to Canucks knuckle-dragging right winger Dale Weise. But he quickly points out their last names aren’t spelled exactly the same and they’re pronounced differently.    

“But it’s interesting,” Wiese says. “And if he wants to come by, I’ll give him a discount.”

Noize To Go Records is located at 243 Union St., ph. 604-428-7887.