There was music coming from Vinyl Richie's Wiggly World of Records throughout the summer day. At the record store's inaugural music festival last May, boys and girls came and went like cockatiels among the hollers and the beer in the parking lot. At patio tables covered with empty Miller High Life cans, people discussed the day's events. To the left of the outdoor bar, a dunk tank was set up. "Come on! Let all your anger out when you throw it," shouted the shirtless jester derisively, before being plunged into the tub. With the atmosphere a heat-fueled frenzy, the bands started arriving and all hell broke loose.
The quaint, apartment-sized shop is barely visible from its home at 2436 E. Robinson St. It's the kind of place you have to work to find, which is fitting considering the rare, dug-out nature of the merchandise inside. Unlike most record stores, Wiggly World does not separate its albums by genre or some other obsessive-compulsive categorization. "We only sell what we like" is their gruff motto, and they mean it. Co-owned by ubiquitous local underground champion and Floridas Dying label head Rich Evans and his wife, Jeanie (formerly of FD's Jeanie and the Tits), Wiggly World was a necessary outgrowth of the couple's burgeoning inventory: not only the couple of dozen vinyl records issued on Floridas Dying by artists from Florida to France, but also their own quirky collection of mostly obscure music of every variety. It was swallowing them whole, so they formed a plan to turn the clutter into a business.
"Here's the truth," says Evans later that night at a downtown bar. He's joined by the singer for his band Slippery Slopes, Erik Grincewicz, who's wearing a Floridas Dying T-shirt and chugging beer from the pitcher. "I grew up in Miami and moved to Orlando when I was 20. I got a literary degree at UCF while still playing in bands and going on tour. After that I decided to open my own record store because there wasn't any place in town that carried the kind of records I liked. I thought, ‘Well, if nobody is still not into what I'm doing after this, then that's it.'"
Double negative and all, it's a declaration familiar to anyone who knows Evans and his endearing — and at times aggressive — desire for recognition and participation from Florida's music scene. Like many culture-minded citizens of a city that's long fostered a love-hate relationship with the very idea of culture, Evans occasionally tires of pouring his heart into something that often goes unnoticed.
"I first met him when he was playing in a band at Back Booth," says Dan Savage (no relation to the sex columnist), who resembles a scruffy John Belushi. "He and some other guys were rolling on the floor. I remember people pointing and saying, ‘Look at those assholes,' but I thought what they were doing was cool."
I turn to find Evans, but he's sneaked out, gone somewhere in the midnight hour. It's almost a week before I hear from him again.
"I've been trying to catch up on orders from last week," he says via phone. Then, finally, a confession of sorts: "There's been a lot of good shows in Florida lately."
The following Saturday, Evans and I are back at Wiggly World, where he's able to truly relax. He puts on some records — Royal Trux's Twin Infinitives, Flipper's debut album, Generic. In preparation for meeting with the notoriously fastidious-eared tastemaker, I bring my copy of Lou Reed's Coney Island Baby. Evans is characteristically unimpressed. Considering Evans is the man responsible for introducing Orlando to acts as diverse as Garbo's Daughter, Pink Reason and Miami's Tornadoes-meets-Rolling Stones garage rockers Jacuzzi Boys — whose next full-length will be released by Floridas Dying — he has earned his shrugging indifference.
Eventually, he closes his eyes and fades out like a fluorescent light radiating for the last time. "Richie?" No answer. When he opens his eyes again, he only comes back to life enough to weigh in on the music.
"This record is awesome," he murmurs, as I see myself out of the Wiggly World and back into the firstname.lastname@example.org