GET INTO THE GROOVE
Shakespeare's Orsino referred to it as the food of love, Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsch stated that without it, life would be a mistake and Jimi Hendrix called it his religion.
But while the vast majority of us may have never been moved to make such grandiose statements about the theme we're focusing on for this issue's independent shop of the week, it's a subliminal passion that unites us all: whatever your age, taste or influences, music provides the unique, personalised soundtrack to our lives.
That soundtrack, however, could hardly be described as an uplifting one of late; formerly cheerful tunes have been replaced by a distinctly downbeat overture lamenting the demise of the music business in general. But despite such pessimism, Bristol is home to a heartening beacon of light: if Rise Music doesn't put a song in your heart, you've tuned out altogether.
The Bristol branch of Rise Music is the flagship store of a small, independent chain of shops also flourishing in Cheltenham, Worcester and Swindon. "Rise opened in Bristol three years ago," says Lawrence Montgomery, the shop's managing director (and son of Gordon Montgomery, the philanthropic entrepreneur responsible for the original incarnation of the UK's much-loved Fopp chain of independent music shops).
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"My dad owns the business and we manage the day-to-day running of the shops between us. Basically, we both love selling products that we believe in and we're really enthusiastic about; that's the essence of the Rise ethos that provided the original idea for setting up the shops".
Today, Rise offers an interactive browsing experience to contemporary culture vultures, with vinyl mingling very happily with CDs to offer an across-the-genres musical cruise alongside an eclectic selection of DVDs to keep film buffs inspired and books covering topics from kids titles and cookery classics to cult fiction lining the shelves. Meanwhile, a constantly updated schedule of in-house live music events upholds the 'real music' mission at the core of the venture.
"Our in-store events involve local, national and international acts and we take a lot of pride in strongly supporting local and up-and-coming artists," says Lawrence.
"But in general, I like to think that shopping at Rise is interesting, fun, informative and good value for money. Our staff have an expansive knowledge about everything that we sell and what's going on in the music scene, and together we try to select products that other retailers may not be focussing on". Indeed, the Rise version of retail therapy is about as far removed from the 'typical' high street music shopping experience as you can get: friendlier, fairer-priced and definitely far more fulfilling.
But as with all independent retailers, Lawrence still faces a struggle against the vagaries of the current financial climate. "We're dealing with a double blow of weak consumer spending coupled with a double-digit decline in physical media sales," he explains.
"At the start of this year we came to the conclusion that we had to evolve, so we've just agreed to concede space to our favourite independent fashion and cafe operators in Bristol; this collaboration will be unveiled in time for what we hope is set to be a storming Autumn/Christmas period. I hope too that by incorporating different aspects to our shop (in this case food and fashion), we'll not only bring more people through the door but also give the music side of our business a multi-textured context".
Between now and that 'big reveal', live in-store performances will continue to thrive (visit the website for forthcoming highlights, including performances from Bristol-based 'ethereal dreampop' maestros Dear Leaders on Friday 20 July, enchanting, theatrical songstress Kyla La Grange on Tuesday, July 31 and feisty darlings of the post-punk scene Call the Doctor on Friday, August 24). And if you're stuck for musical inspirations to provide a soundtrack to summer 2012, the Rise team can offer a few pointers on that score too: staff are constantly updating their recommendations for the best music around, and an extremely fair pricing policy means that a musical treat to uplift the soul needn't break the bank. All Rise!
Rise 70 Queens Road, Clifton, Bristol BS8 1QU Tel: 0117 929 7511; web: www.rise-music.co.uk