by HN Staff
The Nebraska music scene lost an important, beloved member Jan. 19, when One Hour Records and the Antiquarium Record Store founder Dave Sink died. We asked a handful of Nebraska musicians and others who knew Sink to provide some thoughts on his influence on them and his impact on our culture. Here's what they had to say.
(If you would like to add your reflections on Dave Sink, please do so in the comments below.)
by Simon Joyner, musician
I discovered Tom Rudloff's Antiquarium and the little 6 x10 foot record store at its heart, when I was a junior in high school. My best friend, Chris Deden, and I were hitting all the record stores in town, obsessively fleshing out our record collections, searching for records by artists name-checked in Elvis Costello interviews, that kind of thing. Someone had said there was a tiny shop inside a giant bookstore in the Old Market we should check out. Stepping inside the Antiquarium at sixteen was like finding a second home; a misfit commune of outsiders, artists, soapbox prophets and all the beautiful variations of strugglers you could imagine. Deep inside the bookstore in a room off to the side was a wiry, tall, CSNY-loving, chain-smoking hippie playing Jimi Hendrix and waiting for someone (anyone) to stop in and say hello. This would have been 1987, long before Dave came around to punk and indie rock and before the record shop had many records at all, or customers. Dave was just another fascinating character in a building lousy with traveled souls whose back stories would read like a magical realist Winesburg, Ohio if anyone had bothered to write those stories down. Meeting him then and becoming his friend would change the direction of my life.
Chris and I spent as much time as possible at the Antiquarium during those last two years of high school and the cast of characters began to grow around Dave and the shop and included all manner of future sacred monsters of Omaha rock. There were movers and shakers, doers and observers, all arguing with Dave about the Minutemen versus Firehose, Cohen versus Dylan, and other meaningless debates to pass the time in a place that felt like a home away from home. He was getting his schtick down, becoming more pugnacious. When Chris and I made him a mix tape of catchy songs by bands he supposedly hated to make him see the err of his ways, we dubbed him “the ultimate arbiter of taste.” This was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying he needed to open up his mind about music a little. He took the title and and wore it proudly and straight-faced! Sorry, everyone. Our fault.
I’d say the most important thing Dave ever did for me was to make me realize how important my friendship with Chris was, discussing it as he did in literary terms, as one of the greatest friendships he’d ever witnessed. I had never given it that kind of thought because it was so natural, but the way Dave valued it guaranteed that I’d never take it for granted. I’m grateful for his perspective. He could be an inspired confidant and a good friend, with a sensitivity often lacking when he stepped up to the cash register to belittle your record selections. I know he did the same for others over the years.
When Chris and I returned from college earlier than expected, Dave invited Chris to partner in the shop and that’s when it really exploded into the full-on institution it would be for years thereafter. During that time, I started playing my songs in front of people and Dave championed what I was doing and pushed me to record the songs and document all that kid furious storytelling I was messing around with. I honestly don’t know that I’d have thought to do it otherwise. He was doing the same for Mousetrap at the time and later he’d do the same for Conor and others, encouraging all the talented people that walked through the door to make records. Then in his double-edged way he’d eviscerate the records when they came out! In those days I was writing songs every day, and I remember he’d quote Andy Warhol via Lou Reed and say, “how many songs did you write today?” and whatever number I confessed, he’d laugh and say, “you could have written more.” He was right.
I was lucky to see Dave a couple of days before he died. Chris and I went to visit him at the Hospice House where he was staying. He was a little tired from the morphine but essentially the same old Dave; witty, highly intelligent, making jokes at our expense and receiving jokes at his expense with the demurring “ah shucks” smile that always took me by surprise.
The funny thing about Dave is that I don’t think he was especially passionate about music, despite all his famous opinions about it. Not passionate the way the kids coming into the shop were passionate about it anyway. He told me he pretty much stopped listening to music once he left the Antiquarium and went back to following baseball and reading books instead. He was a former reporter who loved people and their stories and their complicated lives. Since he was essentially a sedentary, solitary person, with little family, I think he enjoyed living vicariously through the lives of the people who visited the record shop. Creating that persona granted him access. That's what he was really interested in, people and their fascinating, screwy lives. His habit of ruthlessly sharing his opinions about music was a device I think he cultivated to draw people out of their shells and force them to stand up for something, to get them to talk, and share. That’s how he made family. I’m not saying it’s the best approach to get to know people. It scared a lot of people away, in fact, and rightly so, but I think that was the motivation behind it and so I’ve forgiven him for the way he sometimes went too far because I know he ultimately just wanted to love and be loved like everyone else.
I know there isn’t room here to tell the whole story. This isn’t “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” after all, it’s just a snapshot of a complex life through one friend’s foggy lens. Dave was extraordinary and there will never be another quite like him. Before we left the Hospice House, Dave told us how lucky he felt to have lived when he did and to have known us and the others that came into his life through the Antiquarium. That’s how I feel about him too. He was a Pied Piper. He took your kids and led them away by telling them they could have everything they wanted out of life if they just lived it without caring what anyone thought of them. It may be bad advice in the real world but pretty punk rock for an old hippie.
by Conor Oberst, musician
I don’t remember the first time I went to the Antiquarium or met Dave Sink. It all just kind of happened. I suppose I would have been 12 or so, just tagging along with my brothers and the older kids from the neighborhood. Whenever that was I know I could not have known then that that place would become the epicenter of discovery for my musical life (and life in general) and probably the single most sacred place of my adolescence. Dave was a rare bird. He had a way of making you feel good even as he insulted you. He was especially kind to misfits and oddballs. Hence him nearly always being surrounded in the shop by a small enclave of disaffected youth. Boys mostly, but girls too, who would sit hour after hour listening to him pontificate about punk rock, baseball, local politics, French literature, chess, philosophy, modern art or whatever was the topic of the day. The thing about Dave that gave him such a loyal following was not just the way he talked to us but also the way he listened. At a time in life when most all adults are to be seen as the enemy it was strange to meet one who was on your side. He treated us as peers, like our ideas and ambitions were worth something. He wasn’t always pleasant or polite, but he wasn’t a fake. And it is that quality that cuts through the angst and straight to the teenage heart.
He made me feel like my dreams and plans mattered, encouraging me to pursue them even as he talked trash on my latest recording or most recent show. It is true you had to be a bit of a masochist to be friends with Dave, but despite his sarcasm and argumentative nature he had a soft heart and generous spirit. He gave me a lot of good advice over the years, as well as my first real stereo and turntable. He said he couldn’t stand watching me waste my money on the inferior formats of CDs and cassettes. OK, truth be told, it may have cost me a backrub but I didn’t mind. You see, even his fondness for teenage company and the arrested development side of his personality were never off putting to me. He was never creepy. He was sweet. I spent countless hours with him down in that basement sitting behind the counter (I never worked there but I was allowed to run the register) just smoking and talking. Smoking, talking and listening to music. Always listening to music. He would play old folk records or jazz records or cassette tapes of the John Peel show that his friend had recorded off the radio in Europe and sent him. He played cult classics and the newest local bands. Sometimes he would pull out some used LP that had just come in that he was certain I would either love or hate. He would place it on the turntable, with a gleeful smile on his face, just waiting in anticipation for my reaction. He would explain how this band related to that band or who stole what sound from whom. It was quite an education and opened my mind up to the idea that the music I liked and made came from somewhere. He made me realize that everything was connected. And it still is. Music will always be a mystery to me but Dave gave me plenty of clues I have been able to follow since. He got me a little closer to the source.
I saw Dave a lot less frequently in the last several years of his life. I travel too much and once the Antiquarium closed it became harder to track him down when I was in town. I really regret not making the time but I guess that’s a typical thing to say at this point. But sitting here now, all these years later, I can’t imagine an Omaha without Dave Sink. I can’t imagine what my life and my friends’ lives would look like if not for him and that shop. I know it would be nothing like it is today. I treasure my memories of him and that magical place. There is a part of me who will always wish to be more punk rock than I am because of Dave. I remember the day my brother Justin turned 16 and we finally pried the keys out of my mother’s anxious hands. We ran outside, jumped in the car and he started it up. As we pulled away from the house I felt that wild sense of freedom that only comes at a moment like that. It is the invincibility of youth and the absurd feeling that truly anything is possible. We hadn’t discussed it but I knew where we were headed. We were going downtown to that crazy bookstore with records in the basement. We now had all the choices in the world and that was our pick. That is where we wanted to go.
by Robb Nansel, Saddle Creek Records
You don't have to have known Dave to have been influenced by him. His impact can be felt throughout our city. Whether directly or indirectly, Dave played a role in shaping so many aspects of our current music scene. Whether it was starting One-Hour Records to release Simon Joyner's first cassette or giving you an earful about the records you were buying, Dave was neither subtle nor short of opinion.
Yet it was those ideas, those debates, those long conversations with Dave that shaped our subculture's way of thinking not only about music, but about life in general. Dave instilled the DIY, punk rock aesthetic into a generation of Omaha kids that would grow up buying records, forming bands, starting businesses, touring in vans, and promoting shows.
As much of a critic as Dave could be, he and The Antiquarium were an institution of inspiration. They gave us the confidence to express ourselves, to think differently, and to question things. I shudder to think of what this city would look like if there had been no Dave and no Antiquarium. It's safe to say there would be one less record label and one less music venue calling Omaha home.
Here's to our favorite record store clerk. Thanks Dave.
by Jon Tvrdik, musician
I would not, in any way shape or form, be the person I am today without the mentorship, kindness and grace of David Michael Sink. Being one of my earliest influences in music, he introduced me to melody, coffee and snobbery and gave us all the best record store on the planet. He will be missed dearly by myself and all of Omaha's music community.
by Matt Whipkey, musician
1996: teenage years and cigarettes, Sorry Ma Forgot to Take Out the Trash, no, no, man that wasn’t their best, punk rocks dead, talk politics, Student Democrats, Tom Cavanaugh for Congress, that was a while back, wasn’t it? My best friend’s uncle and you believed in him, believed in what could be our best. When that fails us, nothing’s promised, have to fight for that, take sides, no independents, no disenfranchised enchantment. 97, 98, 99: peace time, or a lesson for: Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore, but I know what will, those Umbilical Chords, changed my life, the Room Temperature. If I see you there, behind the counter, give me shit for this Boss record. I can’t relay lessons learned, or the tears on this keyboard, imagine you and a typewriter, a penciled-in box score, newspaper man, real listener. Let’s get out of this basement, catch one last, Omaha Sun Set.