A shared nostalgia for the golden age of the record brought browsers young and old to the local record fair at Amigos Cantina on Jan. 31.
“We’re just here to have fun” was the general attitude at the record fair. With CFCR 90.5 FM hosting, this year’s event was the first of what will hopefully become a recurring series of events. Local music fans, personal collectors and record shop owners came out to display and browse through collections of new and used records, CDs and cassette tapes.
“It went even better than expected,” said CFCR’s program director Jay Allen. “Maybe a bit too crowded for some, but that’s a better problem to have than not enough people.”
The atmosphere, permeated by the smell of cardboard vinyl sleeves and beer from the previous night’s show, created an intimate vibe. Shoppers’ fingers rustled through albums seeking out that one special gem to take home. The sound of exclamations of approval and groans of disappointment were barely audible above the DJ’s mix of new and old tunes as music lovers struck deals with vendors and bonded over their shared love of certain bands.
In the midst of a sizeable crowd, I managed to find an eclectic mix of music I was familiar with, including old classics and underground local acts. There were some new releases from acts like Colin Stetson and Julia Holter, old records from The Beatles, The Guess Who and Bob Dylan as well as collectable items such as t-shirts.
“Next time we may do it somewhere a bit bigger” than Amigos, Allen said. “But lots of people liked the busy vibe of the whole thing.”
I was pleased to find that someone else had a Pretty Girls Make Graves album and was more than a little bit thrilled to see Thurston Moore and Nine Inch Nails in the mix. There was even a box full of Dave van Ronk releases, a box of 80s electronic music that nobody there had even heard of and a box of singles selling for a dollar each. The most expensive find I came across was an original print of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band going for around $200.
People were not there to barter over prices however; they were there to celebrate a shared love of music.
Record shops may be a relic of the past but they are not completely lost. There is something about the physical proximity of fellow music lovers that can’t be replaced. One moment I am talking about the worth of vinyl records and the next I am chatting with folks 30 years older than me about The Beach Boys. Everyone can find someone they agree with which creates a sense of camaraderie that allows us all to lower our masks and connect through our enjoyment of the art.
For a market setting, the attendees were surprisingly quiet, letting their fingers do most of the talking. Seeing the person next to you pick up an album you love and turn it over quickly results in an exchange of smiles and the beginning of a temporary but strong bond between the two of you. If new vinyl records are dying out, there is still life left for the old ones and they aren’t going away anytime soon. Much like making a mixtape for your significant other, being able to recommend your favourite music to a stranger is almost as good as hearing the music itself.
The most fascinating part of the CFCR record fair was the descriptions that fans put on the albums they were selling. Little post-it notes that described the music to be found within the album sleeve acted as small love letters to the spirit of vinyl. This wasn’t something you’d be able to find anywhere else. The notes served as a stamp of approval from one person to the next but also as a small memoir, detailing everything from initial impressions of the music to intimate details about the note’s author. You’ll never see “I had sex to this album once” written on an iTunes receipt.
What really struck me was the honesty and trust between sellers and buyers. Vendors got up to get a drink and left their collection entirely unsupervised and nobody thought anything of it. It says something about the syntax of music that commands such respect between fans. Music is a universal language that brings us together like we’re all part of the same family. That feeling will not be replaced so easily.
Here’s hoping CFCR’s record fair becomes a regular part of Amigos’ event calendar in the future.
Photo: Kayle Neis