Ezra Hurd (background) looks on in amazement as Lonely Horse's Nic Long revolutionizes his sound. Credit: Courtesy of Oscar Moreno

When something is perceived as a lost delusion – a reverie waxed in personal longing and sentimental glances – we often refer to it as a “romantic” ideal that is only for the faint of heart.

Imagine Books and Records owner Don Hurd may have been called a “romantic” back in his heyday of underground poetry and counterculture rock rhapsodies, but upon celebrating five years at his book and record shop-turned San Antonio’s most unorthodox music venue, few would say his dream hasn’t become reality.

With a dynamic four-band lineup each night that ranges from Imagine favorites to newcomers and even a touring band, the Imagine 5-Year Anniversary Celebration will flip the lights off the literature and onto the lyricists for a three-day raucous ride beginning on Thursday, Oct. 20 and closing out Saturday, Oct. 22. Tickets are only $7 per person and can be purchased at the door, which opens at 8 p.m. each evening.

The plethora of party pumping performances is off a menu that would slake the thirst of any SA-indie lover, with bands including Bright Like the Sun, Deer Vibes, Harvey McLaughlin and the BottomFeeders, and under 21 bands such as 16 Psyche and Octahedron who are representative of the beauty of what has been called the “Loudest Bookstore in Texas.”

“I remember toward summer once, there was something like 30 teens that came over from McDonald’s into the store on an early release day,” Hurd said, reflecting upon what inspires him most about the music played at Imagine. “They came with a young band called Invision Love, who we gave a chance and they played a show here. We’ve been able to watch them since their inception, they’re an astonishing band now.”

Don and Irma Hurd, owners of Imagine Books and Records.
Don and Irma Hurd, owners of Imagine Books and Records. Credit: Courtesy of Oscar Moreno

Imagine Books and Records is built upon the idea of serving young people, opening its doors up to patrons and musicians of all ages.

“We wanted to give bands a stable place where they felt welcome, where the people cared about them, and what they were doing. That’s exactly what has happened,” Hurd said. “A band like that (Invision Love) could not have booked a show in other places in the city, and for bands like that this is a proving ground.”

The Hurd family consists of Don at the helm, his wife Irma as first mate, and sons Ezra and Armand as whatever the captain needs them to be, and they all make great sacrifices to make sure their ship keeps sailing.

“People asked us why we’d open up in this neighborhood,” Hurd said of the District 6 location on Culebra Road. “I knew as a teacher that it was the 17th largest district in the nation, and there are a lot of young people living here. It’s young people who read, so we were exploring ways to connect with them.”

Ezra, whose ravenous appetite for live music and supporting musicians has complemented his father’s vision quite perfectly, helps make that connection all the more seamless.

“I can’t go to a lot of venues at my age,” Ezra said, eagerly awaiting his 21st birthday on Oct. 24, just days after the celebration. “On this side of town there’s been nothing to cater to this population.”

The crowd (at a bookstore) cheers on the band. Photo courtesy of Oscar Moreno
The Imagine crowd (this is inside the bookstore) cheers on the band. Photo courtesy of Oscar Moreno Credit: Courtesy of Oscar Moreno

If you have a penchant for Chinese buffets and rural-side dive bars, then Imagine’s location would offer you a full evening of entertainment, but that’s not the case for fans of the non-traditional music venue. With Councilman Ray Lopez’s office just across the street, Imagine hopes to get some love from the City at the five-year celebration, and grow the music presence in the area for the future.

For San Antonio at large, more all-age venues can only add to the economy and produce a foundation of music aficionados who are educated and experienced when they enter the scene during their high-school years or later in life. Business acumen, professional etiquette, and craftsmanship can all be honed by active participation in the music industry from a young age, not to mention the intellectual and social stimuli for families with kids that want to expose them to music in different environments.

“It’s been a hub for youth to be in a positive musical environment,” Ezra said. “It’s hip and cool without being pretentious and very welcoming. People always feel at home here.”

Junkie goes wild at their Cassette Release Party at Imagine. Photo courtesy of Oscar Moreno
Junkie goes wild at their Cassette Release Party at Imagine. Photo courtesy of Oscar Moreno Credit: Courtesy of Oscar Moreno

This isn’t a subjective opinion by Ezra, but rather a fact confirmed by the touring bands from across the states, as well as Germany, the United Kingdom, and Australia that have come by – and come back – to Imagine while on the road.

“People still come back,” he said. “They could play other places, but they still return, which is very touching.”

Next weekend Imagine will get to be exactly what they set out to be – loud and full of people they love.

“We wanted to have the bands that we’re close to, people who have been on the journey with us and so consistently a part of our lives,” Don Hurd said. “We’re keeping going after five years, staying open for our passion for musicians and book lovers. This is a hand-selected, carefully tended garden.”

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Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.