Playback: Record Store Crawl
The day after Record Store Day breaks the bank
Austin's appetite for music can be measured by the multitude of record stores within our city limits. Eleven currently exist, each with its own characters, curation, and clientele. The swagger and soul of these retailers was tough to detect on Saturday, when Record Store Day mobs cannibalized each other for limited-edition White Stripes vinyl, so I went shopping the following day. My objective: Hit every vinyl retailer in one day.
10:45am: After a late night on Red River, I consider scrapping this adventure and sleeping in.
11:11: Arrive at Waterloo Records to find the place packed with souvenir seekers and music freaks. RSD exclusives are picked clean, yet six copies of Rick Ross: The Maybach Edition remain. I rejoice at scoring James Cotton's Cut You Loose! ($18.99), then peruse the recent arrivals vinyl bin and find an autographed copy of Wild Seeds' 1986 LP Brave, Clean + Reverent, stuffed with six pink bumper stickers ($2.99).
11:46: Put Wild Seeds sticker on my car.
12:08pm: I hit Sound Gallery second, because in addition to having a sophisticated selection of high-end turntables, receivers, and speakers, they also have a coffee bar. Owner Marc Campbell, a self-described "merchant of vibe" who fronted RCA-signed punks the Nails and booked NYC's influential Rodeo Bar before opening the audio emporium, shows me a Crosley portable unit he's smashed to pieces to expose its tiny speakers and cheap components. Such is Sound Gallery's ethic: Death to crappy audio. Campbell offers a reasonably priced Denon turntable, amp, and speakers combo called the "Crosley Killer." From Sound Gallery's 3,000 LPs, I select an old pressing of the Stranglers' Rattus Norvegicus ($29).
1:30: I jam my car into a claustrophobic alley and enter Friends of Sound where a DJ called Juke Flywalker sits behind the counter archiving 45s. Specialists in the obscure, FOS's workers find vinyl the old-school way. "It often involves us in a dirty basement with headlamps on, digging for records," Flywalker admits. I nab a double LP promo copy of KRS-One's Return of the Boom Bap ($19.99), and Black Sabbath's Paranoid ($3.99).
2:32: End of an Ear bustles, but no one says a word, and the clerk stonewalls my small talk. Have I found Mecca for introverted music nerds, or are we all silently judging one another's music tastes? I better choose something elite. Oh look, a 180-gram colored vinyl pressing of Hawkwind's In Search of Space ($27.99) from the shop's extensive psych/prog section.
3:08: Hankering for Midnight's Satanic Royalty ($24.98), I land at metal lair Encore Records where owner Chuck Lokey invites me to hang out in the soon-to-open back parking lot where he's grilling lunch, playing with his dog Jake, and sharing folklore. Lokey's the Rasputin of Austin's record merchants, a man with obvious psychic abilities who's hard to kill – Encore closed in 2012, then reopened a year later. "There's good days and bad days," Lokey says of Downtown business. "But we're surviving."
3:40: RVRB Records downsized since opening last year. A room once full of guitars now brims with cacti from another merchant they share space with. The small vinyl selection largely represents acts playing Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest), hosted by the shop's owners. Accordingly, I choose upcoming Levitation headliner the Jesus & Mary Chain's Psychocandy ($20).
4:15: While walking from my car into Trailer Space Records, I notice my Wild Seeds bumper sticker has fallen off. Apparently, glue deteriorates after 29 years. Inside the Eastside clubhouse, essential for its constant, free, all-ages shows, I cast into their prodigious punk section and snag a copy of Obnox's Know America ($14.95) and, elsewhere, Robert Johnson's King of the Delta Blues Singers Vol. 2 ($12.99), while five guys sit around arguing the merits of weaponizing kryptonite against Superman.
4:45: Realizing that Whetstone Audio is closed Sundays, I'm grateful I stopped in yesterday and bought Ghanan funkman Gyedu-Blay Ambolley's Simigwa ($17) from owner Brian DiFrank's "crucial picks" section.
5:01: While shopping the miles and miles of the "Texas Section" at Antone's Records, I unearth an ancient copy of Doug Sahm's Groover's Paradise ($39.99) before impulsively adding Reverend Gary Davis Live at Newport ($15.99) and The One and Only Roger Miller ($14.99), which was playing over the store stereo. Guitarist extraordinaire Eve Monsees, who co-owns the shop, says RSD shoppers were civil this year and that the store made a typical week's profit on Saturday.
5:28: Monsees informs me my credit card has been declined and waits patiently while I conjure funds. I've broken the bank.
5:49: Don't ask why there's a record store inside JuiceLand – just go. The one-stop shop for fans of funky music and vitamin C, Exploded Records houses hits from urban experimental labels like Stones Throw and Brainfeeder along with wax from the Exploded Drawing crew. The cashier, also ringing up my yerba mate shot, recoils in horror at the cover of Charles Mingus' The Clown ($16.98).
6:15: The final stop of my journey was warm and welcoming. "Hey, there's a cooler full of beer and soda if you want a drink," offered Sean Robb at Breakaway Records. The northside music retailer epitomizes the genre-focused fortes of Austin's record store scene with a deep specialization in soul. I bring Lee Fields' Let's Talk It Over ($15.99) to the counter and ask if it's good. "Well, I'm a soul geek," admits Robb, "and it's amazing." (Catch Fields Sunday at the Parish.) I add a copy of Boogie Down Productions' Criminal Minded ($14.99), forgetting I purchased another KRS-One release five hours earlier ....
April 20, 12:01am: While simultaneously celebrating another questionable holiday, I drop the needle on Sahm's 1974 LP and reflect on how fitting the title was. Us music junkies are lucky because Austin has good dealers all over town. It's a Groover's Paradise.
When KUTX deejay Jody Denberg and famed rock photographer Bob Gruen presented Yoko Ono with a book of photos for her 80th birthday in 2013, she spent hours lovingly reminiscing about every photo and then told them to publish it. See Hear Yoko now pays tribute to the enduring artist/musician/activist. "I think there's a mutual respect for the way we do our jobs and, over time, we developed a close friendship," Denberg reveals. The coffeetable book arrives on Infinitum Nihil, an imprint owned by Johnny Depp, who found interest in the project through local friend Bill Carter. Tuesday, Denberg jets to Manhattan for a booksigning with Gruen and Ono.
Stevie Ray Vaughan cemented his place in rock history decades ago, but now he's got a trophy to prove it. The late guitarist and his band Double Trouble were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Saturday in Cleveland. "I could see him walking up here all humble and shy with his quiet, little sweet voice and being so proud," imagined big brother Jimmie Vaughan during his acceptance speech. Soon all-star Vaughanabees John Mayer, Doyle Bramhall II, and Gary Clark Jr. jammed with Vaughan on "Pride and Joy" and "Texas Flood."
Behold the ATX6: crooner Brian Kremer, Reservations leader Jana Horn, folksinger Silas Lowe, Americana songstress Elsa Cross, Not in the Face frontman Jonathan Terrell, and spicy folk-pop singer Gina Chavez. Think of the group as international ambassadors of Austin music. With program founder Chris Brecht in the captain's chair, they'll represent ATX at multiple international festivals beginning with Toronto's North by Northeast in June.