Happy Birthday Backstreet

By: Melissa Smith

Buckle up, music lovers! Fredericton’s number one music store is officially old enough to rent a car. To celebrate, it’s going to take Fredericton on a wild ride.

This New Brunswick gem will celebrate 25 years with a full week of music deals and a slew of performances in conjunction with Fredericton’s Shifty Bits Circus on July 26 and 27.

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Manager of Backstreet Records, Eric Hill. (Photo Credit: Cara Smith)

Anyone who’s visited Queen Street’s Backstreet Records will recognize Eric Hill, the man behind the counter and long-time manager of Backstreet. This music man is an expert when it comes to recommending new tunes to the music lovers who creak their way up the archaic staircase to this musical land of plenty.

Hill has worked for Backstreet for 20 years, starting as a part-time employee while he attended UNB.  His love of music helps him to identify with the various groups of people that make their way into Backstreet. The store has become a home away from home for many customers, whose loyalty to the small business runs deep.

“Because we’ve been around for so long, we’re starting to see the teenage children of previous customers coming into the store,” said Hill. “It’s becoming a generational thing at this point.”

Backstreet has been a long-time supporter of Fredericton’s local artists and carries lots of music from the city’s up and comers. Hill said that it’s more difficult for bands to gain fame here, opposed to other Canadian cities, because of our transient population.

“We’re made up of government people and people are going to university, so people don’t really end up staying here after the age of 22. It’s harder for a band here, as opposed to someone in Halifax or Moncton or Saint John, to build a scene and keep a fan base.”

The loyalty of Backstreet’s regulars has helped the store thrive through the changes in format that’ve taken place in music over the past 25 years.

Photo Credit: Cara Smith

Photo Credit: Cara Smith

“We really serve people who are the biggest music fans,” Hill said. “And that isn’t defined by format. It’s really about people who are passionate about music.”

Digital and illegal downloading is becoming the dominant way of listening to music, which is causing the beloved CD to bow out of many people’s lives. Records aren’t just something you listen to in your parent’s dingy basement anymore. Major labels are now putting out vinyls with album releases and are causing this musical format to strut its way back into our music collections.

Although according to Hill, vinyl never really disappeared. A lot of indie and punk labels have kept it going throughout the ’80s and ’90s. Over the past 25 years, musical formatting has done a complete 360—and from the looks of things at Backstreet, records are here to stay.

“The thing that vinyl affords as opposed to digital downloading is that there’s an actual physical artefact that you have to pay attention to,” said Hill.

Garth Brewer, a music enthusiast and long-time Backstreet veteran, owns roughly 1000 cd’s and 500 records in total. He’s been mulling through the intensive collection since before 2000 and admits that vinyl is the way to go.

“I switched to vinyl because of the sound, mainly, and because it’s more interactive. You actually have to pay attention while listening to a record,” said Brewer.

The lure of free downloading won’t deter Brewer from going into the store. He gets his musical buzz on during his church-like Saturday morning visits. It is because of music lovers like him that Backstreet’s doors have stayed open for so long while other music stores are struggling to stay afloat.

As for another 25 years? “As long as people are collecting music, Backstreet will be open,” said Hill.

For the full list of preforming artists, click HERE

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