Return of the Splash

West Palm's favorite indie music store is back — on occasion.

It was Friday the 13th, and things couldn't have gotten any weirder at this music-store-hosted concert. The headlining band began its set on the empty floor, in a place normally occupied by CD racks. The drummer was the lucky one — he didn't have to stand in the melted chocolate ice cream left over from the previous band. The vocalist struggled just to keep from falling down, slipping and sliding through each song like he had on a pair of roller skates. Meanwhile, a store employee busily mopped up the remainder of the slop. Maybe there was a full moon. I don't know... I can't remember. Because I'm not talking about the Friday the 13th that just passed. This one happened in September 2002. In rock 'n' roll years, that's nearly a generation ago. The bands have since parted ways, done the reunion thing, and fallen back into oblivion. The store itself — West Palm Beach's former independent mainstay, Sound Splash — merely closed its doors. Now it's time for a reunion.

All this came back to me this past Friday the 13th, when I read the e-mail advertising Sound Splash's two-day sale happening that weekend. After all, it was my on-again, off-again band, Billy Boloby, that doused the store in ice cream four years ago, leaving the following act, the Heatseekers, to deal with the mess. Most dive bars wouldn't let us get away with such antics, let alone a music store. So when I read that Sound Splash proprietor Matt Reynolds was temporarily opening shop, I knew a trip to West Palm Beach was in order. This was one of the coolest stores Palm Beach County will ever know.

I arrived at Sound Splash around 1 p.m. on the first day. Only, the sale wasn't at the actual storefront (5101 Georgia Ave.) but all around it — in the backroom of a nearby house, in the storage unit next door, and outside, in the boxes and crates scattered across the courtyard that weaves its way through all the buildings. A small but determined throng of record junkies was digging through the 10,000-plus records, CDs, and cassettes (not to mention the thousands of books available). There was some good stuff too, including the Desperate Teenage Lovedolls soundtrack. I didn't buy it, though, 'cause my wallet was running on empty. But that's no problem — Reynolds is holding another sale this Saturday and Sunday.

"This is all stuff I had been saving over the years, but now it's gotta go," Reynolds said, while a few customers scanned the shelves of LPs in his living room, which served as the epicenter of the makeshift store.

I followed Reynolds through the courtyard over to the second indoor record vault, a storage space roughly 20 yards from his house. It looked like a small library of sorts — a vinyl archive, what with the towering, tightly packed rows of LPs. Yes, it was quite a change from the bagged, tagged, and categorized collection of albums in the old Sound Splash. But it shows that Reynolds knows his merchandise, even after all these years. The original Palm Beach Gardens location opened in 1989, back when Fats was still buying music at the mall. I wasn't yet hip to the indie store. My loss.

"At first, the store just sold CDs and tapes," Reynolds said. "But then we started doing trade-ins and realized people liked to get rid of their vinyl for next to nothing."

And record collectors loved to dig through the recent trade-ins, eager to see what they'd unearth on a given day. And so continued an accumulation of music that saw Reynolds moving into a bigger, better place. In 1991, Sound Splash found a new home, right along Okeechobee Boulevard, just west of I-95 — a prime location for any retailer. It was to be the store's location for the remainder of the decade, when the high cost of rent brought Reynolds to a small and short-lived warehouse a few blocks south of Okeechobee. When Sound Splash disappeared from that location, I was sure it was the end. But then it popped up again on Georgia Avenue several months later, where it lasted until December 2002. (The building at 5101 is no longer under Reynolds' lease; don't try to break in.)

Though he tried his hand at the eBay thing after the store closed, Reynolds quickly realized it wasn't the answer. "I just couldn't stand doing it on a computer," he said. Now Reynolds runs an entirely different kind of business, doing home repairs.

My first visit to Sound Splash was sometime around July 1992, when I was 15 and working as a car detailer at Don Cook Motors. I'd hitch a ride to work with Bryan, the other detailer. Afterward, we'd take our meager earnings over to Sound Splash and do our best to spend all of it. Now, don't quote me, but I'm pretty sure my first purchase went something like this: the current issue of MaximumRocknRoll magazine, some old Bad Religion tape (yes, I dug cassettes), and a local fanzine or two (back when there were local fanzines). Finally, I thought, there was a local store where I could buy all this shit I thought was available only through mail order, which was a pain in the ass. There was no e-mail, no Amazon.com — only handwritten order forms and snail mail.

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