Transistor, a conduit for community

By Brandon Howard

Friday nights and the second Saturday night of each month, patrons of Andy Miles’ whimsically eclectic store Transistor can witness the shop transform from an art gallery and record store into an event space for live music, film screenings and spoken word performances.

The plain hardwood floors of Transistor, 3441 N. Broadway, contrast with the colorfully decorated walls, framing the vibrant, open space. Large wooden crates house vinyl records and a bright orange shelf displays a wide range of pop-culture literature, from music biographies to books on film theory. A diverse assortment of music equipment, from drum machines and handmade synthesizers to oscillators and effects pedals, sits on the floor. Miles said he wanted something for everyone.

“Our goal from the very beginning was always to create a community space that appealed to a wide number of people … that includes people that are artists and artisans [and] people who perform,” Miles said. “I’m looking for a diverse roster of talent that is performing on a weekly basis. I don’t want to be defined as the shop that [only] has electronic music performances or folk performances. I try to mix it [up].”

The idea for a creative record store serving as both a gallery space and performance venue stemmed from collaboration with artist Rani Woolpert, Miles said.

Galleria Andersonville, a gallery and boutique store inspired Transistor, Miles said. However, its structure, which allows artists to rent out a small space to market their creations, still seemed limiting for the minds of Woolpert and Miles. Not only did the rental spaces seem too small, the idea of normal business hours seemed too creatively constricting, he said.

Transistor originally opened in Andersonville in October 2009. In 2011, it moved from Andersonville to North Center and then again in July 2013 to the current location in Lakeview East.

“We originally had a good location but a really bad space that was basically a toxic dump, with a slumlord, and it was bad for our health,” Miles said. “So we unfortunately traded that for a [nice] space but a very bad location.… I finally made a third move, which I hope to be our last move, this past summer, July 2013.… It’s the best location and best space I’ve had.”

The performers and artists featured at Transistor are mostly local, such as freak folk band Yellow For David and electronic shoegaze artist Savage Sisters. The second Saturday of every month, Transistor showcases ECHO: A Night of Shared Readings and Fiction. The next installment of ECHO includes spoken word and prose, poetry performance art, vinyl DJ sets and a screening of the Wes Anderson film “Moonrise Kingdom.”

The sights and sounds of Transistor are not confined to the store. Miles also hosts a radio show bearing the same name that is accessible via Transistor’s website. Other than music programs, the webcast has included radio hosts doing artist round table shows, interview shows and comedy quiz shows.

Cinephiles, vinyl-lovers, artists, musicians and anyone with a passion for the shared communal experience of producing and viewing art is welcome to mingle and converse in the space, Miles said. He encourages local artists to submit their work to Transistor.

“I have a very open submission policy, and as I tell artists, I’m interested in their work, not their resumes,” Miles said.

Transistor employee Mike Benz was once a customer before becoming a regular performer and getting a job at the store.

“I heard [that Transistor] moved into [Lakeview], [and] I needed to go check it out,” Benz said. “I wandered over to the shop … I talked to Andy about his interest in having somebody come in and DJ, and he sort of warmed up to the idea.”

Benz, AKA DJ Tashtego, started DJing vinyl-only sets at Transistor’s Friday events, maintaining the shop’s old-school nature .

Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, said she thinks Transistor is a good fit for the already creative neighborhood.

“The theme of what [Transistor] is doing is very familiar to our neighborhood already,” Martino said. “I think we’re going to see more [businesses like Transistor].”

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