Jack White’s Third Man Records celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a characteristic flourish, with a daylong party on Saturday in front of its Nashville headquarters that culminated with the first performance in eight years from the Raconteurs, one of several White-helmed bands.
Introduced by White’s mother Teresa Gillis, the band — White and fellow singer/guitarist Brendan Benson with bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler — combined old favorites with songs from their forthcoming LP, “Help Us Stranger,” due in June. The performance capped a full day of music and a street festival in front of the label’s distinctive yellow-and-black headquarters (which include a store, a pressing plant, a studio and offices), with DJ sets from label artists Margo Price and Joshua Hedley and performances from Craig Brown Band, Lillie Mae, the Gories and Quintron & Miss Pussycat.
And not least, White announced that he has given minority ownership of the label to co-founders Ben Blackwell (pictured above, right, with White, center) and Ben Swank (left). “After 10 years of incredibly hard work, and even longer that I’ve been working with these gentleman, they are now co-owners of Third Man Records with me,” he said. The pair founded the label with White in 2009 and have come to embody Third Man, its ethos and its projects nearly as much as White himself.
Variety did not attend the weekend’s festivities, but we got something special for the label’s anniversary anyway: Blackwell’s five favorite Third Man moments (we’d asked for 10, but we don’t feel shortchanged). So without further ado, here are those moments in the man’s own words:
1. That time I walked into the storefront and MCA [the late Adam Yauch] from the Beastie Boys was just flipping through the records — probably the only time I’ve legitimately been starstruck here at Third Man. I had to walk back into my office and gather myself. I went back out, introduced myself and then gave him a tour of the place. He was so kind and soft-spoken that the duality of that, paired with his gruff, billy goat exterior persona on those early Beasties records, put a smile on my face.
2. That time we released hundreds of flexi-disc records attached to 3-foot-in-diameter helium balloons. And did it on April 1, so that folks would think that we were just pulling their leg. Among the things I learned from this project: the international helium shortage, the unpredictability of jet stream winds above an altitude of 1,000 feet, the fact that it’s illegal to release more than 10 balloons at a time in the state of Tennessee. One of my prouder moments here…
3. That time we released the world’s fastest record. Every time I protested wearing the CHIPS costume, everyone wanted me to wear it even more, so before it became a “thing” I just acquiesced. I think those suits were something like $800 all-in — crazy! To think that we’d completely recorded, pressed, and released a 7-inch single in the span of 3 hours and 55 minutes still seems like a dream. Some German guys have since claimed that they have been able to record/press/release a record faster, but if really pushed, I think we could get this below three hours. Next time.
4. Those times artists performed at Third Man. Between Margo Price performing on the roof at Third Man in 2018 [accompanied by Brandi Carlile and Lily Hiatt], Mattiel in the storefront in 2017, and Mudhoney’s soundcheck in 2013, watching bands play through my daughter Violet’s eyes gives performances a whole other perspective. I’m sure she’ll think it’s all lame come teen age, but I love the idea of exposing her to so much live music, so closely, from such a young age.
5. Opening Day for the storefront: April 18, 2009. We ran this place like a damn merch booth. Cash only, no taxes, giving away free beer… with one new release (the debut 7-inch single from the Dead Weather). Everything else was literally White Stripes and Raconteurs extras that we had pulled out of Jack White’s closet. [Variety was unable to find video footage of opening day, but any interested parties who haven’t seen Third Man’s amazing headquarters should check out this video:]