On the eve of its opening, Third Man Press was a buzzing blur of yellow and black, chatter and song, excitement and awe. The artists, musicians, writers and legends of Detroit stepped out of the damp cold and into the warm world of Jack White — one that has the utmost respect for music, machinery and the city it calls home.
Small but mighty, the record store portion of the venue was dimly lit and filled with live music. There was TMR memorabilia alongside classic Detroit, rock and other records. That more subdued area then funneled down a short hallway, past a picture of a young, sweaty Iggy Pop and into the main event — the vinyl press. Shocking was the change in tone, color and volume. As would only be fitting, rock was blasted through speakers and bounced off the shiny factory surfaces. Guests mulled about with food and drinks, talking about not only the décor, but the importance of the evening for the record industry, Detroit and artists.
The press was vibrant; a bright yellow floor and tall, red beams drew guests’ eyes to the center of the room where workers were pressing custom vinyl. Friday night’s special: the debut albums of The Stooges and The MC5, pressed on bright yellow vinyl and sold in hand-screened sleeves. Sporting Third Man jumpsuits, the workers took care to mold, flatten and perfect each musical disc; this was no automated production. White purposefully curated this relatively small-scale press not only to boost the vinyl industry, but to connect and employ Detroiters by way of the music that shaped their city.
White made note of these sentiments in a toast he gave towards the end of the evening. Surrounded by his family, coworkers and attendees, White acknowledged those who work behind the scenes of music as well as the importance of art in a broader sense.
“I also want to thank everybody here who works in a pressing plant,” White said, “who works on mixing and mastering, and every musician and artist in this room. Third Man Records is about no genre, it’s about poetry, it’s about painting, it’s about sculptures, it’s about music, it’s about history, it’s about Detroit, it’s about Nashville, it’s about America first and foremost.”
Unsurprisingly, this sentiment was met with voracious applause; there was almost a visible glow of hope and inspiration. The night served not only as a testament to the power that music and Detroit had in the past, but to their inevitable place in the future of art and American life.
Raising his glass, White concluded: “We’re all one family, we’re all together, and remember this moment because we’re making things beautiful last for the next generation.”
— Carly Snider, Senior Arts Editor
I was forced to repeatedly pinch myself on the night of Feb. 24, 2017 due to the dreamscape that became the Third Man Records store in Detroit. In celebration of the grand opening of the highly anticipated record plant at the store, Jack White threw a stunning private event that was almost too good to be true.
Last year, I visited the store as a customer and left with a fond impression of the interior design of the store. Everything is fully merchandized from skateboards to coffee mugs. It’s layout is also littered with seemingly archaic machines custom designed in TMR’s theme: a mechanized puppet “house band,” a device for recording yourself and a booth to listen to the available vinyl before making your purchase. In its marriage of aging ideas with modernity, the store craftily brings unique appeal to the classically mundane aesthetic of a record store. Yet, the store wasn’t quite finished, as the doors to the pressing plant remained tightly shut.
I entered through the previously closed doorway to an explosively colorful plant. Workers manually pressed vinyl in the middle of the room using machines that were custom designed for the plant, roped off from walkways and tables where guests could circle the operation. A screen-printing station showed the manual application of artwork to the vinyl sleeves. The entire presentation was vibrant with the working-class spirit of Detroit.
Vinyl is the quintessential form of listening to music — fully superior in quality, tangibility and, of course, nostalgia. The entirety of the event not only celebrated the merits of manual pressing, but also commemorated the importance of vinyl as the physical representation of music. Towards the end of the evening, White himself gave a toast to the arts, to “every musician and artist in the room.” Embodying the TMR mentality, White’s speech praised all forms of art, from music to poetry to painting. Sticking to his word, Detroit artist Danny Brown gave a surprise performance later in the evening. In White’s beautiful testament, he also tied the arts into the history of Detroit itself.
Beyond bringing jobs into the city, the TMR record plant has blended music’s past and present by cloaking emotion in surrealism; beneath the bright colors and intricate designs lies the heart of the human connection with the tunes that cause our visceral reactions — soundwaves worthy of being pressed into existence by the very hands that enjoy them.
— Dominic Polsinelli, Daily Arts Writer