Record Fair Pays Tribute to Local Legend Bruce Ciangetti and Validates Vinyl Revival

Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Last Sunday, outside of ManaFirkin Brewing Co. in Manahawkin, stacks and stacks of alphabetized, boxed vinyl records sat under the cover of white and orange vendor tents, some organized by genre, others by price. A food truck from SunnyRaes Kitchen was parked outside the brewery entrance, serving pork belly tacos, fried mac and cheese and fresh fish tacos, snacks that pair evenly with a cool pint. A tall, older man with a silver goatee and matching locks wandered casually about, his infectious, booming laugh spreading like an epidemic to event goers. This gentleman? Bruce Ciangetti, the man of the hour.

The Red Rocker Record Fair paid homage to local legend Bruce Ciangetti, otherwise known as “The Red Rocker.” Ciangetti owned the old Red Rocker Record Store, which once lived along East Bay Avenue.

The afternoon was organized by the late record store’s loyal patrons Chad Odell, Peter Sullivan, Ian MacKenzie Smith and Chris Fritz. Sullivan and Fritz used to frequent Ciangetti’s store as teens, riding their bikes to and fro, carting their wares home after spending their entire allowances. Fritz, now a Stafford police officer and cover band frontman, also used to work for Ciangetti at Red Rocker Records.

“He’s like the son I never wanted,” Ciangetti said, laughing. “And he knows that. I say it to him all the time. I’ve been saying that to him for almost 31 years.”

The Red Rocker cracks a joke whenever he can, never missing the opportunity for a clever pun or a jab at himself. Standing under the hot sun amidst a sea of admirers, he fervently denies his status as a legend. “Nobody wants to believe me. I keep telling them ‘you're all wrong, you're all wrong. I'm not that guy.’”

But the crowd of music enthusiasts he attracted would suggest otherwise. His old record store was a renowned landmark in Manahawkin. With an extensive knowledge and love for music, Ciangetti had a knack for making recommendations to patrons and charming them with his humor and conversation.

“Pete Sullivan was buying these certain albums, and one day I said to him, ‘If you like this, listen to this.’ And I turned him onto the first King Crimson album. He rode his bicycle home and the next week he rides his bicycle in and he says, ‘What else do they have?’ I enjoyed doing that,” Ciangetti said of introducing customers to new music and broadening their tastes and preferences.

Ciangetti had worked for Stafford Township in the late 1970s before discovering this passion of his. He’d been seeking an additional avenue of income when he came across what was then known as the Manahawkin Record Store. After just a day of working at the store, the owner made him the manager. A little while later, the owner gave up the store and Ciangetti started his own.

“I had the store for 18 years,” said Ciangetti. “At first it was a necessity – for money. But I loved it,” he opened his arms wide in the air as if he were in the store again, “because I’m sitting in a room with music.”

The Rocker’s tiny store also became a hangout for guitarists to play and collaborate. “Once in a while, there would be like five, six people in the back of the store playing guitars.”

Sullivan and Fritz reminisced about the old store while rifling through records, occasionally pausing to hold one up or hand one off. At one point, Sullivan shimmied an album with a colorfully elaborate cover from its box and held it toward Fritz. “This is for Bruce,” he said, and they both laughed, savoring some inside joke.

Inside, a speaker system and microphone were set up for fans of The Rocker to share their favorite memories or to perform. Local musicians, including Fritz, played acoustic sets.

Ciangetti couldn’t speak for more than a minute or so without being interrupted with a friendly handshake or hello. Guests intermittently approached him, beaming and happily recalling those back-in-the-day memories.

The concept for the record fair came to fruition when Fritz played around with the idea of opening another record store.

There seems to be no better time than the present for a new Manahawkin vinyl shop. According to Nielsen Music, vinyl sales have been steadily rising for the past 12 years. Perhaps the modern emphasis on user-experience has spurred the mainstream appeal of tangible records. But even if the number of brick and mortar record stores is increasing by the year, would one such establishment flourish in our little Manahawkin?

Sullivan noted that the event would be an accurate measure as to whether or not vinyl is back. Judging by the diverse demographic of attendees, vinyl could, indeed, be making a swift comeback in the Manahawkin area.

When asked if he would still consider opening a record store, Fritz gave a “Maybe. Maybe ...” He’d initially proposed the idea to The Rocker, suggesting they repurpose the past with a partnership of some kind.

Ciangetti joked, “We came to an agreement. I’m not going to work for him. I’m going to sit in a glass cage, and I’m just going to sit there and I’m going to have my flavored waters and my guitar and listen to music, and people will knock on the cage and it will have on the cage a sign that says, ‘Please don’t feed the rocker.’”

— Sarah Hodgson

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