Mark Stowe was one of those special music fanatic/customers in Charlotte — brimming with enthusiasm, knowledge and a sizzling true love of music. The kind of dude that'd give you a contact music-high if he was standing too close, then have you following him around the store spending half of your paycheck on all the cool/mind-blowing/amazing things he was recommending. Or he was someone that would totally annoy you. Often, it was both and within the same 20-minute visit to a record store.
The 48-year-old Charlotte-music-scene original passed away on Saturday, March 10, after a long cancer-related illness. Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13, 2012, at Forest Lawn West Chapel. Visitation will be held prior to the service from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
Stowe was my favorite of all the "über-fans" I crossed paths with during my stint at the Record Exchange in Cotswold Mall between 1991 and 1992. A tall, skinny whirlwind of heat and flash, musical opinions, knowledge and proselytizing, he would explode into the place more than anything else, as if someone slowly driving by threw a couple of M-80s through the store’s front door. He was a handful, in other words.
"An era has passed," longtime friend and Charlotte musician Mark Lynch posted on Facebook. "R.I.P. Mark 'The Punk' Stowe. You were a true spirit, a genuine article and you will be missed."
By the time I became acquainted with him, Stowe — known for his love of punk rock — had progressed to full-on English-shoegaze junkie. Which basically meant the Cotswold store was the same way. As much as customers and store employees followed his recommendations and filled the cash register, you would have thought the owner had him on a secret payroll. With his passion and personality, it always struck me that he should have had his own record label, Charlotte’s version of Creation or 4AD. (He was also a huge collector of music memorabilia.)
Charlotte musician Scott Weaver posted on Facebook: "Many of you may not have known Mark Stowe, many of you did, but one thing is for certain. We have lost one of the most passionate, knowledgeable and radical personalities in the music scene, far beyond this town… He welcomed me to the rock 'n' roll scene as a total stranger 15 years ago with a sprinkling of glitter confetti on my head and a stack of rare 45s and I will never forget that. R.I.P. Mark, I wish you had gotten to see Spiritualized just one more time."
Others have equally compelling Stowe stories. Ask March Lynch about a 1991-ish jaunt to Columbia, S.C., to see Redd Kross and a later visit to a West Columbia holding cell.
Jason Herring, another longtime friend, recalled on Facebook, "Mark Stowe. We are going to miss you buddy. Thank you for all the music knowledge, and the crazy antics. The late nights in your living room listening to Brit-pop and fuzz rock. Seeing you at shows in D.C, Atlanta, Athens, and all the rest. Getting kicked off the Spiritualized bus for loving the band too much."
Pete Oram, a Charlotte musician and former employee of Manifest Records, also remembered Stowe fondly. "Mark seemed to know every band, every release, every label, all the band members, off-shoots, side projects, producers and everything between," he says. "Not only did he know these things, but he saw the bands live, got backstage, met the band members and got all of his records signed.
"One of my fondest memories was going on a road trip with Mark to Atlanta to see Spiritualized in April 2002… Somehow Mark [got us backstage] and we turned into this small room and all of Spiritualized
were sitting there. [One of them] looked up at Mark and said, 'Hello Mark, you're looking healthy.' At that point, Mark broke out a handful of 7" vinyl sleeves to get signed by the band and the band actually thought one of the records was a bootleg. Mark proceeded to tell them that it was a mail-order-only, limited-edition New Zealand pressing. That was Mark. If he really, really liked a band, he was the collector's collector with their music."
Stowe wasn't just a fan, he was a performer. Performing in bands No Rock Stars and Moist Cow, he and Lynch were part of the Milestone's early scene of local punk rock kids kicking up dirt at the venerable club before just about anyone else.
Joy Gray, another long-time Charlotte friend of Stowe's, visited him in hospice care recently. "He talked about trying to hang in there long enough to hear the new Spiritualized album. I told him they were going on tour and that he needed to go!" she said Sunday. "The only times I'd get to see him the past few years is when I'd visit him in the hospital. We would talk on the phone though, and he would leave me messages on my voicemail about music he wanted me to hear or about a show, etc.
"Last Sunday, when we went to visit him, he had gone down hill and it wasn't a good visit. But he did make me laugh, and he was wearing a My Bloody Valentine shirt. He told us that they wouldn't let him play the Sex Pistols in his room. He told them that he was dying that he should be able to play whatever the hell he wanted. I agreed. He said he just wanted to hear 'Bodies'!"
See ya, Mark “"The Punk" Stowe. We know you're blasting "Bodies" and pissing off your new neighbors somewhere now.