As a writer for the Triangle’s Arts and Entertainment section, things never get too weird. We listen to new music, watch films, go to concerts and then we write about it. This routine made it especially strange when a small pink package with my name on it was sent to the Triangle office over winter break.
I received the package on the first Wednesday after break at the first Triangle meeting of the term. There was very little information on the outside of the package about who sent it, just a messy signature and barely legible return address. The shipping label said that the package was sent from Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts.
I opened the package to see a plastic cassette tape box with cover art for an album titled “Boys will be Boys” by a band called Alex plus The People. There was no music production label on the cover, leading me to believe that this was a small group that had self-produced an album not included in the package. Now that I knew the name of the band, I was able to figure out that the messy signature on the packaging was Alex plus The People. I had ever heard of this group and did not understand why they had sent me their empty cassette tape box.
I opened the box, and a small slip of paper was folded up inside. This note said, “Hey Grace, X marks the sound: 400 E. Girard Ave. Enjoy!” I wasn’t familiar with this address and used Google Maps to figure out exactly where this was. Google led me straight to a place called the Milkcrate Cafe.
Milkcrate Cafe is a combined cafe and vinyl record boutique. I had never been before, but it looked like a really interesting place to visit, regardless of the strange circumstances. So, I hopped on the Market-Frankford Line with a friend to investigate the meaning of the mysterious cassette case.
Once we walked in, we were directed downstairs by the cafe barista. Underneath the cafe, there is a full selection of vinyl records for sale. I showed the manager of the record store the empty case. He was really surprised that another person had received the package. Apparently, another person had dropped by the store a week ago with a similar cassette case, and someone else had called around that time as well with the same situation.
The manager then told me that not too long ago, the store had received a single cassette tape without a case. The manager took it home to listen to it and was unable to play any of it for me. He had not had any contact with Alex plus The People and did not know why the Milkcrate Cafe was chosen as the destination for the distributed cassette cases.
Although it is extremely likely that Alex plus The People sent these cassette cases out as a promotional stunt for free publicity, I have to admire the dedication of the group for sending these small packages from Boston to Philadelphia. I am actually quite surprised that my occasional Triangle articles were enough to warrant a promotional cassette hunt. This hunt brought me to a cool cafe and record store that I had never been to before, and will definitely visit again in the near future.
I am now in contact with Milkcrate Cafe, and we are planning on meeting together with the other people who were sent the cassette box. I will write a review of the music once I hear the full album, so stay tuned for future updates.