Drastic Plastic: Still Underground

Photo Courtesy of omahamagazine.com
Photo Courtesy of omahamagazine.com

Jeff Turner

I remember a few years ago, I was out with my cousin and uncle in downtown Omaha. We went to a record store that my uncle had heard about. It was a cool place, with a lot of T-shirt designs I hadn’t seen anywhere else, a lot of vinyl records in really good shape.

I think I hit on the cashier that day. Wasn’t my best decision.

Drastic Plastic is the kind of store you feel proud for finding, the kind of store you get excited to show your friends. It feels unique, off Howard Street in the Old Market, it feels like something Omaha has specifically that you cannot get anywhere else.

Over the course of 30 years, Drastic Plastic has remained local; it’s evolved slightly, but not so much that the store sacrifices its vibe for the sake of a profit, and it has expanded to a second location, also on Howard Street. It is right next to the Tea Smith. You go in, and the signs direct you down the stairs to the basement of the building.

Photo Courtesy of omahaoldmarket.com
Photo Courtesy of omahaoldmarket.com

The idea was to have one store for the T-shirts, which the owner of the store says have grown in popularity in the years since they’ve been introduced. What they do, is they craft specific T-shirt designs, which is why you cannot find most of the shirts seen at Drastic Plastic elsewhere in Omaha (you *can* look online, but you aren’t going to know if what you’re getting is of quality until it’s there).

Drastic Plastic started out as a store that sold punk records. There was a certain rebellious nature to it, as the owner told me. Eventually Alternative music began to take off, so they began selling Alternative records, as well as cd’s, but their focus eventually came back to vinyl. Drastic Plastic is its own record label, which was started in the 2000’s, and they produce the records they sell themselves.

There’s something about vinyl. A certain lived in quality, a legacy. I sat down with the General Manager of the new location, Drastic Plastic Underground, and picked his brain a little on the subject.

“With the invention of streaming, you’ve lost a certain ritual to buying music, and the 20-somethings right now have an appreciation for the ritual that comes with buying a vinyl record, looking at the cover, taking the cd out of the sleeve, and putting it in the record player.”

He continued “vinyl allows you to get more immersed in the music, it’s like you are listening to the band play live.”

Many of the people that manage the day to day at Drastic are musicians themselves. The General Manager I spoke to, for example, was in the local band, For Against, which was a rock group that was big in Lincoln in the 80’s and 90’s. With Drastic Plastic, if you need to dish with someone about music, anyone working there is guaranteed to know what they’re talking about.

Places like Drastic Plastic are not often available in this portion of the country, you’re more likely to find stores like that on the coasts. The goal, as told to me by the store’s owner, is to become the “best record store in the Midwest.” If they’re not already there, they’re pretty bloody close.