Words by Farrah Skeiky and Janea Kelly
Photos by Farrah Skeiky
The Vinyl District, Som Records and DC Soul Recordings might have set a record for the biggest (or at least best) DC Record Fair to date with somewhere around 1500 attendees– following a snowstorm, no less. Not only did local businesses play a great part in setting the precedent for all record collecting events to follow in 2014, but experts with their own collections broke out the rarities and original pressings. There were also killer DJ sets from Geologist, Kid Congo Powers and Eric Hilton spinning excellent sets heavy on funk and soul. On such a momentous occasion, we decided to skip the gallery of attractive people browsing through bins of cool looking records. Instead, we opted to talk to a few shoppers about why DC Record fair is such a unique experience, what keeps them coming back, and what they were lucky enough to pick up over the weekend at Penn Social.
What’s your favorite thing about DC Record fair?
So far I’ve been able to find stuff that’s been harder to find elsewhere. I did a lot of digging in Richmond. I collect records on the regular and I have a couple thousand. Some of these are a little harder to find and maybe a little overpriced, but I mean, it’s worth it.
What’s your favorite record that you’ve picked up today?
So far today– actually, these two right here. I’ve been looking for them for a long time. One’s Dexter Wansel, one’s Kool and the Gang. They’re a little pricey, but it’s worth it.
What do you like about this event? have you been here before?
I have not been here before, and the thing that I like about this event is that there’s so many vendors selling all kinds of records.
Best thing you’ve found so far?
The best thing I’ve found so far. Hm. I’ve got Sade, Prince’s Sign of the Times, and any Duke Ellington stuff.
Rochelle and Kalea
What’s your favorite thing about this event?
Kalea: I guess my favorite thing is all the different vendors from all over the east coast. I’ve been looking for a Velvet Underground record since I was fifteen, and I found three.
Kalea: One original pressing.
Rochelle: I’m actually a newbie, so I got my very first album ever. I don’t own a record player yet! But that’s the whole point. I thought ‘I’m gonna go and see what I find, and this will encourage me to buy a record player.’ And I got my first album ever! Kalea just took a picture of me with it. It’s the soundtrack for Blue Hawaii. It’s an Elvis Presley album. I’m really excited. It’s been really great. And everybody’s been really friendly and helpful and encouraging.
Which Velvet Underground record were you looking for?
Kalea: The one I’m most excited about is probably this one with Lou Reed.
We’re guessing this isn’t your first time here.
Oh no, I’ve been to DC Record Fair many times. I’m also a dealer, and back in the day I worked at six record stores going back to the early 80s.
In the DC area?
In Silver Spring, Maryland mostly. All over. I worked at almost every record store and I still sell records for a living. And movie posters. Colesville to Downtown Silver Spring. I managed Joe’s Record Paradise for eight years, I was the rock/indie import buyer. And then I worked for five other places.
What’s your favorite record that you’ve found today?
I found the soundtrack to a 1970s animated TV series which was a version of King Kong, but it was for little kids.
What do you love about DC Record Fair? First timer?
It’s not my first time here. I’ve been coming to DC Record Fairs a lot. I love that they have it multiple times a year, and you can have all your favorite record stores in one place instead of having to drive all over town or walk all over town to get to places. I love that it brings more people in that wouldn’t necessarily just walk into a store on their own.
My favorite thing that I found today? This Chain of Strength album. It’s not anything fancy, but it’s a good listen.
Emi and Charlotte
What’s your experience been like today?
Emi: I love that there’s so many vinyl enthusiasts. I had no idea. It’s cool to see this big bar hold a thing like this. I love music, so this is awesome.
What about your top finds of the day?
Charlotte: We’ve got the Fonzie Favorites over here.
Emi: And a $10 Devo, no less.
We see a Lemuria hiding in there!
Emi: This is my favorite find, actually. From a Richmond store’s table. I just moved here from Florida– we found out about this event on Yelp.
Charlotte: I’ve been here for like a year, but I’ve been waiting for her to come here so we can do fun stuff like this.
Tell us about your DC Record Fair experience.
This is our second or third year.
What keeps you coming back?
I think the variety of records, the variety of people you see here– especially in today’s day when music is so often digital. It’s really cool to have physical records– even just the artwork on the record covers, sometimes that’s what gets me wanting to participate. It’s cool to see the people hold their music and look at it, and not just look at their iTunes.
What’s your best find?
I found a really awesome Aretha Franklin. She started her singing career as a gospel singer. Her father was a revered so she was in the gospel. This is a two-disc record where she’s singing with the James Cleveland Southern California Community Choir, and they’re singing “You’ve got a Friend in Jesus,” and it’s live.
Sam Lock, Record Exchange
We have a store in Silver Spring and one in Frederick.
On Georgia Avenue?
I’m pretty sure I’ve bought a game from you at some point.
The Silver Spring one’s been around for about fifteen years, so probably.
How many times have you been back here?
This is our fourth or fifth DC Record Fair we’ve done. We didn’t do the first couple, but all of them after that.
What is it that you like about this event?
You get so many people in one building that buy records and want to talk about records. You get a lot of the vendors swapping records before the event. It takes us a while to get set up. We like to set up our own lights– if people want to buy a ten dollar record or above, they should be able to see it. It really helps. We also take credit cards, which a lot of the vendors here don’t do.
Any special or rare records with you today?
Yeah, we have a couple of Japanese imports today. Someone traded them in last week. They all have these Japanese slips on them. They’re hard to find, and all of the collectors go for the imports. We also order a lot of the new indie stuff. It’s a mixed crowd. We put about fifteen hundred dollars into all of this before we get here, but then we can always take it back to our stores and sell there what we don’t sell here.
And you’ve noticed the increasing trend of record sales now.
Yes, since about 2009. Vinyl sales steadily moving up. It’s fun to be a record store again. Going into the 2000s, it was terrible.
I’m sure it’s fun to have interested clientele.
I read that vinyl is the only format of music that has increasing sales right now. I think the CD format is totally dead. A lot of the new vinyl we order comes with either a free digital download in there, or a free CD. It just shows you that it doesn’t cost anything to make them because they’re just giving them away for free.
I’m a private collector. There are actually only a few stores here. Maybe about half a dozen stores. Everyone else is just here.
Is this the only fair you go to?
I go to a few up in Baltimore, but it’s pretty useless. They don’t do any advertising. It’s all the same people looking for the same stuff. We never get new people in. This is completely different.
So you’ve been here a few times.
It’s big. It’s people under 30. You don’t get people under 30 at the other ones– just older people looking for the same old stuff, so I stopped doing them. They were supposed to do these three or four times a year.
We just had another conversation with another vendor about the increase in record sales.
I used to work in a real record store before we went out of business, and just in the last year before closed, vinyl came back.
How big is your collection?
I’ve taken some out of my personal collection because I don’t play them enough. This is just the stuff I take to shows.
And your own? How many?
Three and a half thousand, or something like that. I’ve sold about five thousand.
Where do you even keep that?
Basement. I’ve got about 50 more boxes in the basement, along with the same amount VHS. About three thousand. Plus a lot of CDs. Quite a bit of DVDs as well. The whole basement is full of stuff.
Sorry– we’re just hung up on that number.
Yeah, you need a few rooms. Gotta have some good shelving units.
Michelle and Tamlyn
Tell us more about your day at the Record Fair.
Michelle: I like the group of people that are here. It’s local businesses and an eclectic mix of people. It’s really crowded, but the music is great.
Tamlyn: And there are a lot of soul records and different genres that I don’t see a lot of at other places.
What are your favorite finds of the day?
Michelle: I found Patti Smith’s Easter for about eight dollars.
Tamlyn: I found a really cool Al Green record that I’m really excited about.
Thanks to the Vinyl District for this great event. Happy birthday to the DC Record Fair! Tell us below what great finds you picked up over the weekend. If you’re the lucky brat that picked up the soundtrack pictured here, let us know if we can come over. Seriously.