Filmmaker, director, musician and actor Peter McGennis crafted 2013's "Queen City" as a love letter to Buffalo's musical and architectural history, and he brought some of the finest American roots musicians the world has known – Sharon Jones, Allen Toussaint, James Cotton and others – to town in service of the film's attendant soundtrack.
McGennis is releasing a limited-edition vinyl copy of that soundtrack Saturday, as part of Record Store Day 2018. The album will be available at Revolver Records, 1451 Hertel Ave.
The only other area retailer listed as an official Record Store Day participant on the RSD site is Black Dots, 223 Lafayette Ave. Having only two participants here is a sad acknowledgement of the loss of music retailers like Record Theatre and Spiral Scratch over the last year.
I spoke with McGennis this week about his love for vinyl, his youth spent visiting record stores and seeing bands at the Tralf, and his love for the late Sharon Jones, who appears on the "Queen City" soundtrack album.
Question: I loved the recent text message you sent me: "Vinyl has become one of the last physical canvases where an artist can communicate on several levels." Can you expound on this idea?
Answer: We find ourselves in a rugged digital landscape and we now have a generation that is not used to paying for music. No touch, no feel, minimal investment. The resurgence of vinyl represents a backlash and a way to reconnect music fans and community. Record stores are redefining themselves and re-imagining their spaces in order to sustain a year-round model. I’m finding that my multimedia work is a good fit and resonates with record fans. I think record stores and I share a common goal in our way of assembling a multimedia package that combines film, music and community.
Q: The "Queen City Original Soundtrack" vinyl limited edition boasts quite a roster of talent …
A: "Queen City" was a musical love letter from the start. I wrote the title track before writing the script to serve as the fixed point of my creative compass. I wrote with certain musicians in mind, concentrating on how they'd tell the story, which is a celebration of Buffalo’s struggle, circa 1980, in the wake of the steel mill closings and city exodus.
I wanted to pair iconic musicians like Allen Toussaint, James Cotton and Sharon Jones with different backdrops of our city’s living history. Weaving blues, jazz, funk, gospel and folk into one quilt of Americana, which lends itself both to the timeless medium of vinyl and to my memories of growing up a couple blocks away from Record Theatre. That store served as my musical education in the '80s. The Tralf, too. It wasn't unusual to see Jimmy Cliff, Hot Tuna, the Ventures and the Neville Brothers in one month.
It was like a cultural crossroads – getting black and white audiences on the dance floor together while someone like the Average White Band played, and then heading to Club Marcella afterward.
Q: Tell me about your relationship with Sharon Jones. The way she fought so hard until the end – performing, giving it all against the odds – is such an inspiration. Something in her story feels very Buffalo, to me.
A: Sharon was a beautiful person, a tsunami of positive energy and an inspiration to so many. Absolutely, her strength and spirit are very much akin to Buffalo’s story. Since "Queen City" was filmed, we’ve lost Allen Toussaint, James Cotton, Magic Slim and Sharon. I’d like to think that what we did uniquely honored them as they stood at the intersection of film, music, history and community.