Third Man Records Celebrates Tenth Anniversary in Music City

Jack White and The Raconteurs played their first show in eight years.
Third Man Records Celebrates Tenth Anniversary in Music City

Jack White and The Raconteurs played their first show in eight years.

Words: Joshua Mellin

photos by Joshua Mellin

April 10, 2019

Jack White’s Third Man Records in Nashville has accomplished a lot in its inaugural decade: Releasing nearly six hundred albums, winning Grammys, and even playing the first phonographic record in space. To celebrate, Music City’s vinyl Willy Wonka opened up the secretive black and yellow headquarters for a tenth anniversary celebration boasting the return of White’s band with Brendan Benson, The Raconteurs.

Hosting the likes of Beck, U2, and Pearl Jam over the years, the downtown storefront has become a must-stop for passing fans and bands alike. Even Neil Young famously recorded his 2014 album A Letter Home on the shop’s Voice-o-Graph, a renovated recording booth from 1947 available for visitors to lay down their own tracks.

In addition to expanding to a second location—fully equipped with a vinyl pressing plant—in Detroit in 2015, Third Man’s Rolling Record Store truck has a history all its own, connecting it to other record stores, festivals, and even laundromats across the country. Spotting the truck could be a precursor to an impromptu set—or just a sign you’re at the center of the music world that day.

But it all stemmed from Third Man Records’ Nashville location, where rock supergroup The Dead Weather debuted at the opening in March 2009.

Since The White Stripes broke up in 2011, the status of White’s various projects have been in near constant flux. Shortly after the dissolution of The White Stripes, he declared to Q Magazine he had no intention of forming another band: “If I can’t say it in any of these bands, then I’ll say it by myself.” White’s solo projects have remained his primary output in the years since. The Dead Weather haven’t properly toured since 2010—they didn’t take to the road to support 2015’s Dodge and Burn, playing just one song on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The Raconteurs only officially reunited (briefly) once before in 2011, and as recently as 2014 the prospect of a new album or tour seemed off the table.

“It always felt spontaneous,” Brendan Benson said five years ago. “I liked that about it, too. And I think it remains that way. We never planned anything. We never planned a breakup. All of us but one live in the same town, so [in the future] it could very well happen…or not.”

That’s why last October’s announcement that The Raconteurs would be returning with not only a new album, but a full tour, was a stop-the-presses moment for Third Man fans. 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely was released almost as a surprise, with little warning, due in part to The White Stripes’ final album Icky Thump filling the airwaves the year prior.

For this year’s celebration, Third Man’s lineup of bands seemed genuinely thrilled to be included. The Dirtbombs, who hadn’t seen each other in months, turned in an energetic midday set that even White popped in side-stage to take in. Indicative of the kind of overlooked groups Third Man champions, The Dirtbombs once had openers like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Black Lips, but never broke through to the mainstream themselves.

Third Man staple Margo Price DJ’d earlier in the day, and Jack White’s Dead Weather bandmate Alison Mosshart spun records during the changeover between Lillie Mae and The Raconteurs. Despite all this, the day admittedly held few surprises, with none of the headliners joining each other on the main stage.

After being introduced by Jack White’s mother, the band ended their eight-year hiatus. “Consolers of the Lonely” broke open the set with the same sharpness it carried a decade ago, White’s guitar screeching out trademark howls.  

While The Raconteurs’ initial runs saw White on more equal footing with Benson, the first night of their reunion felt more bent toward White, presenting certain songs in the style he’s played them in on his recent solo tours.

The tight set was evenly divided between the group’s first two albums and live debuts from the impending Help Us Stranger, scheduled for a June 21 release. The night ended with a spirited take on the odyssey-like “Carolina Drama” to close the festivities surrounding a well-earned milestone. FL