AARON GOCS: THE HERO VISITING ALL OF AUSTRALIA’S REMAINING SANITY MUSIC STORES
Words by Christopher Kevin Au // Catch Aaron Gocs onstage at his comedy dates here
In the streaming age, you can get all of the world's music into your earholes for a few dollars. You can listen to endless New York hip-hop, Dutch rave-gurn anthems and some good ol' Midnight Oil within your personalised Spotify library, so explaining to youths that you used to pay $29.99 for a 11-track album is a real head-scratcher. If there's anything to make you feel like a decaying and balding old fossil, it's the memory of actually buying CDs from a physical store, looking lovingly the Parental Advisory sticker and being filled with juvenile 'mad cunt' energy, and reading the album credits written in ant-sized font.
For many music fans, including myself, our weekends were marked by visiting music stores and finding absolute gems like Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory and Cypress Hill's Black Sunday in a deep discount bin. While many people still buy physical music from the obnioxiously yellow JB Hi-Fi, many members of Generation Z won't remember the Mecca of Australian music stores: Sanity. I have fond memories of my local Sanity store, located at the bottom level of Eastgardens, a shopping centre in Sydney's South-East that was filled with Rabbitohs fans and teenage hooligans drinking Smirnoff Double Blacks in the carpark. There, I bought countless albums that shaped my goth phase, which consisted of me sitting on Town Hall steps and looking sad for seven years: KoRn, Slayer and Dimmu Borgir were all on high rotation.
Over the years, piracy damaged Sanity and music retailers, but karma bit back hard when we gave our desktop computers incurable viruses while trying to download Soulja Boy off Limewire. Then came e-stores, streaming and all of the other convenient methods of enjoying music that allow you to avoid human contact, and now, Sanity stores have become much more difficult to locate. But for those mourning the gradual erosion of the Sanity empire, there's one man looking to rekindle our love affair with the CD haven: Aaron Gocs.
On his highly-engaging Instagram page, the comedian has started a new series of sorts, where he takes photos in front of all of the remaining Sanity stores he can find. Like myself, Gocs reflects warmly on the Sanity era and the way it shaped his approach to music. His first ever CDs were No Doubt's Sunday Morning (an all hail Gwen Stefani) and Cake's I Will Survive, purchased "from Sanity at Garden City shopping centre in Brisbane... I have very fond memories of physical music growing up, first CDs, and then vinyl. Artwork, lyrics, the feeling of having it in your possession and supporting the artist!"
Gocs began the series when he surprisingly came across a Sanity store while he was on a job. "I was in Wagga Wagga filming the movie The Merger when I stumbled across one. Surprised to find it still in existence, I just decided to do a pic in front of it," he says. "Then every time I was in a town, I would check if it had a Sanity. The rest is history." What has resulted is a series of glorious selfies in front of Sanity's iconic red and white logo, and though he doesn't venture past the entrance, his "girlfriend still buys DVDs from the Ballarat one!"
While another gem of our sonic youths, music store HMV, closed its last Australian store way back in 2010, Sanity has been able to keep afloat in select spots throughout the country. According to Sanity's website, there are still 133 Australian stores open, and Gocs has his own theories about why Sanity has been able to do so. "Maybe it's a front for something," he says. "Although a less sinister reason could be that they might be in areas with slow internet?" And though we'd all like to see Sanity spring back into all of our shopping centres, Gocs is unsure that it'll happen just yet, despite the powerful resurgence of other physical music like vinyl; "I think CDs are kind of in a weird middle ground - not old enough to be retro, but also not new enough technology to be reliable.”
Shockingly, Sanity have not contacted Gocs with any sort of sponsorship deal, and he isn't remaining too hopeful because his series "is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Although I like to think there’s a bit of love involved, too." Gocs has currently documented 18 Sanity visits on his Instagram page, so there's still a long while before he completes his mission of visiting all of Australia's remaining Sanity stores. Still, he has some grand plans for when that day does eventually come: "Oh geez, I don't want the journey to ever end, but if I do, I will need to celebrate in some way! Maybe I'll buy a Hit Machine or 100% Hits CD if they have it."