Vibe Music and Bookshop in Mui Wo is absolutely not just a music and bookshop.
Vibe is a passion project turned all the way up to eleven.
Vibe is the thrumming hub of a lively literary and artistic scene.
Vibe also happens to be a music and bookshop, and a really good one at that.
Vibe smells exactly how a good bookshop should smell. The unmistakable whiff of carefully folded page corners; notes in margins; handwritten dedications to forgotten friends. All the books in Vibe have been on a lap, a beach or the desk of a previous careful owner and are now sitting on the shelves of Vibe tentatively and excitedly awaiting their next adventure. CDs too. And vinyl.
"Vibe is really just my passion," admits Gary Brightman, owner since 2018. "It's the stuff I love. Books and music. And it lets me work on my other passion; filmmaking."
We chat for a while under a wall of hand painted silhouettes of Joe Strummer, Aretha Franklin and Jimi Hendrix and a beautifully crafted neon sign reading 'Live @ Vibe' as a reference to Gary's Youtube channel, where he live-streams local musicians, book readings from Lantau authors and also presents his podcast 'Vibrations'. Gary's dedication to 'local' is admirable. He has an entire wall dedicated to local Lantau authors. Who knew we were such a talented bunch?!
For a small shop, Vibe packs a mighty literary punch. On asking how he keeps track of all the stock - Gary guesses he has about 25,000 books, CDs and vinyl - he says he uses a spreadsheet as opposed to a more sophisticated point of sale system. "That's all the tax-man needs to know - what goes out that door!" I ask him why second hand books, CDs and vinyl. These are not products of the future. "It's what I love..." he tells me. Fair enough!
Gary is proud of what he's achieved with Vibe. He doesn't say as much, but it emanates in the passion with which he discusses the place. He becomes animated and excited, like a kid showing someone new their toys.
He gives me a guided tour that lasts about 20 minutes. I'd not thought that possible in a space so small. I've done New York's 'Met museum in less time. After the meticulously ordered biography section, kids' area (with beer fridge!) and cook-book wall, I'm taken to the phone box. Yup - You read that right. Delve into the 'box and you're taken even further into the past. The walls are plastered with posters from bands ranging from the '60s, '70s and '80s and all acts Gary either attended or admires. The Sex Pistols feature heavily "I was a punk" he mentions.
Nestled between these musical greats are local folk who have made an impact on Vibe, and therefore Gary. "This is Les Bird" he says pointing to a section of wall. My ears prick and I struggle to recognise the name before I realise it's the author of the excellent book A Small Band of Men about his 20 years of policing Lantau (Les, not Gary), including 2 years at Tai O in what is now the Heritage Hotel. Worth a read.
The tour ends at the Mirror shrine. Kept in an incredibly secure vault (a glass case sealed with a piece of duct tape) is a one-of-a-kind signed CD box set of something exciting by the band Mirror. I've no idea what it is, and I'm not sure Gary does either. The story of how Gary ended up with this valuable CD, how he got pictured with two of their most famous band mates Ginger and Tiger, and why over a thousand Mirror fans have made the pilgrimage to Vibe's shrine to see it is a good one. I'll let Gary tell you himself.
VIBE holds a host of exciting musical and literary events. It's space to showcase, but equally to hang out with like minded folk. Gary and I got lost in conversation about Lantau, music and the conjoining of the 'Lantau Tribes', as I like to call them - Tung Chung, Discovery Bay and the rest of South Lantau - and I can think of a nicer place to meet my South Lantau neighbours than at VIBE.
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