But of all the obsolete technologies of the past, who would guess that the very symbol of antiquity itself, the record player, would have the strength to answer back. No one would have guessed 20 or even 10 years ago that vinyl records had a chance of outlasting CDs. But in the sterility of our double-click lifestyle, people of all ages are rediscovering the tactile pleasure and the still-unexplainable draw of vinyl “warmth.” Even a few record companies are catching on, marketing new releases as record/download packages that cater to music lovers at home or on the go.
While vinylphiles are likely better off in Denver, the city of Boulder has a very lovable record scene that has plenty of room to grow. The death of Bart’s certainly hasn’t helped anything vinyl-related, but it wasn’t the only store in town selling records.
The Beat Book Shop has catered to east Pearl Street foot traffic for 20 years. Owner Tom Peters has seen locals, tourists, wandering strangers and traveling celebrities alike find their way to his discreet doorstep at 17th and Pearl. It’s easy to thumb through the janky but enticing outdoor bargain bins and somehow discover yourself inside a moment later. The crowded shelves are like a cocoon of culture and make the artistically sensitive life of the beatnik seem very attainable. Peters waits patiently behind the counter under a photo of Jack Kerouac taken by Allen Ginsberg, and will let you silently peruse the stacks until you ask him a question. Whether it’s about his past T.A. job for one of Ginsberg’s summer writing classes at Naropa, or about one of the 5,000 records in the alphabetized collection on display, he can enliven a discussion about any facet of culture you can produce.
“Record collectors are solitary in nature, even if they are solitary spinning a record in front of 5,000 people,” Peters says. Not only does he collect and sell the standard 33s, but carries 45s as well as CDs and cassettes. If you ask nicely, he will even close the store just for you and reveal his hidden stash of 78s, so fragile that you really shouldn’t touch them unless you don’t mind breaking/buying them.
Absolute Vinyl brings another Boulder collector to the surface. Doug Gaddy has been collecting records for 27 years, and reopened his gigantic collection the public two months ago. The store, which also sells books in the form of Little Horse Books, is quiet, well-lit, and immaculate.
“Record stores are notoriously grungy, and I just don’t want that here,” Gaddy said. His 10,000-record store holds only a quarter of what he says he owns, and it will understandably take some time to put each through the ritual you can find him doing every day behind the counter: cleaning, researching and pricing. The records are very well-organized, making it easy to lose yourself in one genre to the next. Though Gaddy admits he is more of an expert with pre-1980s music, he has a solid selection of hip-hop and other DJ-centric records toward the front of the store.
It should only be a matter of time before the Hill population finds that the trek to his north Boulder location isn’t so far. “It’s not that close to Wyoming,” he says with a laugh, “we’re only 10 minutes from downtown!” Speaking of the Hill, Andy Schneidkraut has possibly the most widely-known record store in Boulder, though he says he faces the reverse problem: “There are many people who find coming to the Hill unsavory,” he explains in his usual hilariously deadpan manner. Though many of his sales are CDs, Albums on the Hill has a crypt full of hidden gems, tucked far away from the Hill’s student traffic. Since the Fox Theatre box office moved upstairs, stacks of records seem to accumulate every day, and serious archivists and curious customers alike can spend an eternity thumbing through records in the still basement air.
The Root also keeps it real, holding a small record selection with more of a b-boy graffiti factor than many older vinyl fans are looking for. If you see a DJ you like playing at The Root’s basement venue across the hallway, chances are you can catch their newest release the day after the party.
Boulder even boasts a few DJs who remain true to the label of disc jockey. DJ Vajra is perhaps one of the best known and most capable DJs in Colorado, and has been known to scratch that vinyl itch at ‘Round Midnight. DJ Rootz has distributed records to many of the venues listed above, and on the Hill one can occasionally catch a house party in true vinyl form. The stars may end up on Radio 1190’s hip-hop show Basementalism or pirate station Green Light Radio.
But the very best thing about vinyl? Nothing is constant. Every new day brings a different selection out on the shelves, so take nothing as a constant and learn to enjoy a daily routine. Like the barbershops and newsstands of old, record shops are not meant to be passed through. Going once may be fun, going twice might be exciting, but going three times could be forever.