Area media have been busy lamenting the imminent closure of Sundance Records, the downtown San Marcos institution that sold LPs then cassettes then compact discs to three and a half decades of college students before surrendering to the advent of digitized music.
The store, located in the Nelson Center at 202 University Drive, will close its doors April 1.
Universally laudatory articles mourn the store’s passing on dual counts — as the death of a symbol of San Marcos’ quirky uniqueness and as a symbol of a music industry transformed by technology.
“The freshmen in college right now, they were six years old in 1999 when Napster emerged. Their entire life where they’ve been aware of music, the idea of paying for music has just been alien to them,” manager Greg Ellis told the San Marcos Daily Record’s Jeff Walker.
Store founders Bobby and Nancy Barnard have known for years that Sundance’s days are numbered, Bobby Barnard told the Record. The store opened in 1972 on the square and moved a decade later to its current location a few blocks closer to what was then Southwest Texas State University. For at least 10 years, the walls have been closing in, little by little.
“It’s been a struggle for record stores, really, over the last decade. Each year it’s like there’s a little poison we have to take to get through every year. It’s a sad thing, for sure,” he said.
A piece by Jordan Gass-Poore in the University Star retells how Barnard, 14 years old in 1968, convinced a bellboy to tell him which room Jimi Hendrix was occupying in a Dallas hotel. He and a group of friends knocked on the hotel room door and were invited inside by a jovial Hendrix, who made small talk and sent them away with autographs and souvenirs.
The matchbook Barnard says Hendrix gave him that night is on display at the music store along with other memorabilia arranged in a shrine to the guitar-playing genius.
Ellis, who became the store’s first fulltime employee in 1984, summed up the cultural significance of Sundance’s closing — and the nagging fear of many a San Marcos old-timer — in his interview with the Star.
“The town is changing. Not much ol’ weird SM left,” he said.
Meanwhile, San Antonio Express-News columnist Roy Bragg sees Sundance Record’s closing as evidence of a more global, yet equally troubling, trend.
Recounting with sepia-tinted nostalgia an eight mile trek he made on foot in 1969 to buy an album by The Who, Bragg writes,
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When the eclectic Sundance bites the dust after 35 years — 25 of them in the same location, across the street from the Texas State University campus — it won’t be the day the music died. It will, however, be the day that music, as a way of life for some, got the wind knocked out of it and had to take a knee. …
Finally, when I was able to buy “Tommy” with my accumulated lawn-mowing revenue, I made the four-mile walk home and locked myself in my room for weeks, tickled pink and listening.
And with Sundance shutting down, there will be one less destination for music diehards.
‘No one will remember the day,’ Ellis says, ‘they clicked iTunes for a song.’