Record store is a medium of self-expression

By CONOR GLESNER/Montana State News

Stepping into Cactus Records feels like entering a carefully curated world. Every square inch of the walls are covered in colorful bits of musical memorabilia, patchwork squares of vinyl records; row upon row of CDs interspersed with odd curios and locally-made bits of this and that. This atmosphere is partially due to the shop’s long, 45-year history in Bozeman. But most of it springs from the shop’s latest owner and proprietor, Mike “Bueno” Good.

A native Montanan, Good was born and raised in Billings, but feels his true love is Bozeman.

“… (I)t has always been home more than anything to me,” he says.

Fourteen years ago he decided to combine his passions for Bozeman and music by buying Cactus Records from its previous retiring owners. The shop was first established in 1970, but when Good took over in 2002, it transformed. These days he can be found often behind the store’s counter, a conductor to the orchestrated chaos of music, clothing, jewelry, memorabilia and assorted quirky knick-knacks.

When Good first took over the shop it was a fairly standard music store, CDs and the like. The first change Bueno made was to build a massive collection of vinyl records. His previous job was in vinyl distribution for a record label in San Francisco so when he started at Cactus it was only natural to introduce more vinyl.

“I’m not a huge audiophile,” he says, “it’s more of a collecting thing for me.”

He enjoys the beauty of a well-designed EP and loves collecting records both new and old. But more than that he enjoys the experience of music that vinyl offers

“When you’re listening to vinyl it’s much more of a personal interaction.”

Good takes that one step further by also making a concerted effort to be involved in local bands. A large stand of CDs in the center of the shop is crammed with albums of local artists. Cactus also promotes local shows and even hosts them occasionally.

“It’s all part of being a reflection of Bozeman.”

Good feels that part of his responsibility as the owner of Cactus is to expose people to music or art that may normally go unnoticed or ignored. He feels that the majority of our culture these days is very “spoon-fed, and there’s a great deal more of culture, art, music, and pop culture out there that people aren’t aware of.” Through Cactus Good hopes to make a positive impact on people’s view of their local artists and their art by allowing them to have voices and be heard.

This personal interaction between listener and art is really the form that Cactus takes; it is not standard or practical, it offers the customer something unique and asks them to react and interact in their own ways. And all of this is possible because of the way Good has formed the shop around his ideals.

“It’s the kind of place I’d like to go and it’s an expression of our past and every employee that has ever worked there,” he said, adding that everyone who works at the shop brings something different and everyone has a certain part of the store that reflects them. In a way Cactus will never stay quite the same. It will always be in some amount of flux as time goes on.

This is what makes Cactus Records the store it is today. It doesn’t attempt to constrain itself to any one thing. Like Bozeman itself, the shop is composed of a multitude of diverse interests and colorful people. As Good says “We just want to be a reflection of Bozeman as a whole.” He says he dislikes “sterile environments” and “homogenized culture” in general. And Good is the germ of all of it; the shop that is both a reflection of himself and those around him. One that does not attempt to conform but rather transform itself over time.

“It will always be an evolution for me. There will be changes in the future.” Good looks into the future with an open mind and a willingness to create an environment that he believes in. And as long as he owns Cactus, it will change with him; both for himself and the people of Bozeman.

– Edited by Kristin Rochniak

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