Store stocks punk, not apologies

Rancid. Misfits. Minor Threat. Fear.

No, this is not a list of descriptives dogging the current line-up of America’s Most Wanted. The above names, as any youthful rebel who came of age during the Reagan ‘80s already knows, belong to a veritable Mount Rushmore of seminal American punk bands whose thrashing rhythms and angry lyrics inspired a whole generation of teenaged malcontents to spike their hair, rip their jeans and start sneering like Johnny Rotten.

Kids will always eat this stuff up, and thanks to Dave’s Music on Highway 20 (next to K-Mart), denizens of seemingly un-punk Oak Harbor have a place to blow their weekly allowance on what owner Dave Willis calls good old rock & roll.

Willis said that his selection of music, which in fact ranges from Fleetwood Mac and the Beattles to Radiohead and Outkast (as well as the aforementioned punk bands), is largely market driven, intended to fulfill a need unmet by the typically streamlined and ideologically-handpicked music offered by chain stores.

“I have to carry things that Wal-Mart and K-mart don’t carry,” Willis said. “They just saturate the area with pop music.”

Willis, who has owned Dave’s Music since July of 1998, when he took it over from his previous boss of seven years, said that what distinguishes him from the competition is his ability to get the albums people want. The store has a strong system of special ordering; Willis said it usually takes only a couple of days to get a particular record from his distributor. It’s not unusual, he said, for him to process over 100 special orders in a week.

And not only does Willis carry a strong selection of new and used albums put out by both independent and major labels; he also offers the actual-factual instruments with which to make your own sweet sounds. About half his business, in fact, is dedicated to guitars, drums, amps and other accouterments of the trade, either for rent or sale to aspiring musicians.

Willis, himself a musician (guitar and drums), said that he supplies lots of young customers in the area with the tools they need to start their own punk rock bands.

Of course, being a proprietor who sells such controversial genres as punk and hip-hop can lead to local controversy, especially in a place as predominantly conservative as Oak Harbor. Recently, Willis came under fire from an angry grandmother who objected to his selling her grandchild an album with allegedly offensive lyrics.

Willis has a good answer to such outrage, and it has to do with something called the freedom of speech. While he insisted that he’s not insensitive to the issue of younger kids being exposed to supposedly strong material, he added that he will always defend the notion of personal responsibility, especially when it comes to someone old enough to make up their own mind about stuff.

“I’m not out to corrupt the kids,” said Willis. “But I am also opposed to censorship.”

As an advocate for freedom of expression in the arts, Willis said that he believes it is wrong, and perhaps wrongheaded, to tell teenagers what music they can or can’t listen to.

In this regards, Willis said that he feels strongly about his position as an independent among the chains, in that he can fill a gap in what’s available, even if some deem it offensive. He doesn’t want to see the option shrink in customers’ exposure to all sort of different music.

“There’s so much music that is not in Wal-Mart and K-mart,” he said. “”There’s more to learn. I’m not here to attempt to educate the world about good music. I just think there’s more to it.”

By the way: Willis himself prefers jazz.

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