Wednesday, April 21, 2010

On record fairs... and D.C.'s Black Cat says next one here is May 23 (!!)

Just days (DAYS) after Record Store Day comes word that the Black Cat in Washington, D.C. is going to be hosting the city's next record fair May 23rd, just a little over a month away. Looking ahead to this, rather than back at Record Store Day (just for a moment) got my thinking about record fairs in general.

I've only been to one proper record fair, and that was earlier this year in D.C. but I had always heard about them and wanted to check them out. Between reading stuff like this story from Montreal about people finding super-rare and super-expensive records at various places and the stories you always hear about a unassuming trip somewhere only to find something so amazing you can hardly believe it, I decided I had to check these things out.

So, in mid-February, we headed to the D.C. record fair. It was the first weekend after the Washington area got hammered with a week's worth of blizzard conditions, so just being out of the house and on the move somewhere was worth it. We got downtown to the Black Cat, a club in the area, and made it inside. What I saw was a sight was a sight to be seen -- to use a, come to think of it, incredibly redundant, meaningless and useless cliche. It was crazy.

There were more records than I had ever seen in one place. Ever. There were dealers stationed along every wall, packed in the middle of the dance floor, people waiting in lines three, four, five deep just to get to certain table so they could begin to look at the offerings. On the stage, there were DJs doing sets throughout. When I first got inside, Geologist from Animal Collective was on the stage. Not a bad start.

But it wasn't all good. For one, it was far too crowded for me. Waiting in line just to wait in line just to be able to look through records isn't my idea of a good time. Also, being cramped next to other people and having a line of people breathing down your neck when you finally do get to look through the records isn't any fun either. It limited the kind of casual perusing I enjoy, and instead meant you had to be very deliberate about it. Also, on a less-important, but no inconsequential note, it was too dark. I could hardly see what I was looking at and a number of people were using cell phones just so they could see.

Still, these problems aside, a room full of records -- with a full-service bar -- and a gathering of vinyl heads couldn't be all bad. And we landed some great finds: Duke Ellington and John Coltrane album, The Who's 'Tommy,' Pink Floyd's 'The Wall,' The Ramones self-titled first issue and The Doors' 'Strange Days,' all in decent shape and not too expensive. I call that a reasonable success.

So I'd give the experience a B+. I found some great records, had a decent time and didn't spend too much money. I found all of those records between two of the vendors, so who knows what I might have found if I was able to freely look around without having wait in long lines to do so. But that probably would've extracted too much money from my pocket anyway. So, for what it was, my first record fair was a worthwhile experience. Looking forward to the next one.

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