City Paper is not for tourists
As a record-store owner myself, and a relative newcomer on the scene, I read with some interest the article about shopping for vinyl in the D.C. environs (“Final Vinyl Days,” 11/9). Long before I became a store owner, I was (and I continue to be) a shopper for the kind of items detailed in the author’s quest. I know firsthand all the joys and frustrations he described, and a sense that there was something missing from D.C.’s record-store roster was a significant motivation for me to open my own store. In other words, instead of simply bemoaning what I judged to be the shortcomings of other area stores, I did something positive about it.
My biggest complaints about the piece are the absence of that kind of positive outlook and that a potentially interesting topic, the state of record shops in the D.C. area, was handled so poorly. Rather than celebrating the unique virtues of the many stores in the area, author Jason Cherkis chose to speak negatively about the sincere efforts local store owners make to create the scene he’s looking for. I’m all for constructive criticism, and would welcome it from Washington City Paper staff and readersas I do from my regular customersbut the kind of comments offered by Cherkis don’t enlighten or even entertain; they just take up space.
As for specific examples cited, such as the Eyes and the ’60s dance nights in Pennsylvania, it should be mentioned that on the first Saturday of every month here in D.C., the Metro Cafe on 14th Street hosts “The Wag,” which is a swinging-’60s night where excited crowds come to hear and even dance to the Eyes and many more great lost sounds of the era. The very existence of the Wag is yet another example of a local enthusiast making something happen instead of complaining. The pages of the City Paper should be filled with tales of things like that, exposing readers to all the wonderful things going on in D.C. and the people behind those scenes.
And for the record, Now! carried a vinyl reissue of the Eyes recordings and sold out of the few copies we could get hold of. That’s one of the key features about the kind of music we stock: One day you see it, and the next day it is long gone. We’ve stocked and sold a large portion of the specific artists and labels Cherkis mentions on both vinyl and CD. Maybe he wasn’t shopping here often enough. Good stuff like that goes pretty quickly and is very hard to get back in, especially rare used items. Someone is buying those things from us. If it isn’t Cherkis, maybe he’s being beaten to the punch by other eager record lovers.
On the plus side, it is always reassuring to hear that people like Cherkis are out there looking for the kinds of records we try to carry, not just the Top 40 flavor of the minute catered to by most other stores.
I would love to see the City Paper actually do a more extensive follow-up articlea move that would really benefit the stores, the shoppers, and the general public in obvious ways. Numerous large-circulation mainstream publications have run general-interest articles over the last few years about the resurgence of vinylor, rather, the reality that it never went away. The success of the film High Fidelity is evidence enough that wider audiences can appreciate record-geek lore and the human-interest side of our stories, too. Such an article could easily be written so as to appeal to the average reader, not just the rabid record buyer targeted by the author. The ups and downs and ultimate fate of independent, locally owned and community-oriented businesses is something that readers would be highly interested in, especially in uncertain economic times. I know the proprietors of the maligned establishments would be delighted to contribute their time and extensive knowledge to help paint a more complete picture of the past, present, and future of independent music retail.
It is that very wealth of knowledge about music and recordsand a friendly willingness to share that info and enthusiasm with customersthat keeps customers coming back and shopping at stores like ours, even if we don’t have exactly what they are looking for every single time.
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