In rotation: 3/26/21

Los Angeles, CA | Amoeba Music Is Reopening Next Week After a Year In COVID Hibernation: About 11 months after launching a GoFundMe campaign in a desperate bid to stay financially afloat, Amoeba Music is preparing to open its new Hollywood location. The 21-year-old record-store mainstay just recently announced plans to welcome customers to the new Amoeba Music Hollywood, located at 6200 Hollywood Boulevard. Early last year, Amoeba confirmed (in a video with Tyler, the Creator) that its existing Hollywood store would be demolished to make way for an apartment complex. And while Amoeba noted in the same clip that it intended to return at the aforementioned address by Labor Day (September 7th), the domestic onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (as well as related lockdown measures) disrupted the timetable. Now, Amoeba Hollywood is set to open its doors next Thursday, April 1st, with temporary hours of 11 AM until 8 PM. (The buy counter will close an hour before the store, however.)

Boston, MA | From Comic Book to custom vinyl records: Newbury Comics! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Newbury Comics, you might, you might go “WAIT WHUT?!” because there’s nothing VINYL about Newbury Comics at all. Newbury Comics was originally a comic store that only sells…well, comics. Their first store opened in Boston, New England’s largest city in 1978. The founders, John Brusger and Mike Dreese, both MIT students, started selling Brusger’s preloved comic book collections on Batman, Superman and Spider-Man and later expanded to many other comics with different styles and origins– from American comic books, graphic novels, manga…you name any comic title, they probably have it. But what really elevated their success aren’t the comic books, it’s music! They should probably rename the store to Newbury Music but I guess they don’t need to. Somewhere in the early 1980’s, the comic store shifted into selling CDs and vinyl records. This was all thanks to a box of records Dreese brought back from England and Boston’s booming local music scene. He just put it in their store and BAM, they’re gone. The albums sold fast.

Vancouver, CA | Neptoon Records thrives at 40, the pandemic be damned: The Vancouver vinyl palace has hosted everyone from Tyler the Creator to Jack White. Rob Frith knows exactly where and when his lifelong love affair with vinyl started. From the basement of Neptoon Records, where he sits surrounded by thousands upon thousands of albums, Frith recalls how, when he was four years old, his mother owned an old flip-top record player. The machine could only play 45s, which was just fine with the wee tyke because he revelled in the sound of singles by Elvis Presley and a mix of long-forgotten country acts. “There was a little light in the front that showed that it was on,” he recalls. “And I remember leaning against this counter that it was on and just staring at this light and this music would be playing, and I was just overtaken.” Sixty years later, music still holds a magical power for Frith. And that’s a good thing, because he’s celebrating four decades as the owner of Neptoon, the Main Street record shop that’s been a treasured destination for scores of Vancouverites in search of a music fix.

Santa Rosa, CA | The Last Record Store’s co-owner will retire as shop rebrands: It’s closing time for Michael “Hoyt” Wilhelm, his 38-year journey down the long and winding road of running The Last Record Store about to end as customers pick through the fruits of his labor. Wilhelm is retiring in May from the business he opened downtown on Jan. 15, 1983, with his longtime friend, Doug Jayne. Back in those days, physical LPs and cassettes were the dominant music format and the compact disc was only beginning to emerge. The intervening years brought massive technology changes and innovations such as Napster, iTunes and Spotify that wiped out most physical media sales. But The Last Record Store still stands as a beloved musical mecca for curious Gen Z shoppers to the most hard-core vinylphiles who could easily unpack the references in the first paragraph of this story to lyrics from Semisonic, the Beatles and Lucinda Williams, or even come up with their own. As part of the transition, Jayne and Wilhelm will close the business, which moved to Mendocino Avenue north of the Junior College in 2003. Jayne and longtime store manager Gerry Stumbaugh will reopen a new store called The Next Record Store at the current location.

Philadelphia, PA | Move over, vinyl. Cassette tapes are the new old thing to love: The vinyl resurgence has been keeping independent record stores alive for years, and it hit a milestone in 2020: Music fans spent more money on LPs than CDs last year for the first time since 1986. But the desire to possess an analog recording that you can actually hold in your hands — in a streaming era when everything seems ephemeral — isn’t limited to records. It’s now also about cassette tapes, which are making a comeback. On Discogs, the online database where fans buy and sell vinyl and other physical products, U.S. cassette tape sales were up 33% last year. Part of the appeal? New tape releases are cheaper than new releases on vinyl. Phoebe Bridgers’ 2020 album “Punisher” sells for $23 on vinyl, said Pat Feeney, owner of Manayunk’s Main Street Music, which this month started to once again devote store space to cassettes. In a florescent green limited edition cassette, “Punisher” went for $10. The rare-cassette market is also robust, particularly for hip-hop releases from the golden age of the genre, when cassettes were also at their peak. A mint copy of “Illmatic,” the 1994 debut album by Nas, was on sale on Discogs this week for $13,999.98.

London, UK | Green light for new mixed-use venue in West London: U+I and Really Local Group have secured the go-ahead from the London Borough of Hillingdon to bring the former pressing plant at The Old Vinyl Factory back into a mixed-use venue. The site, to be called The Gramophone, will celebrate the area’s rich cultural and industrial heritage whilst providing a state-of-the-art bespoke cultural and entertainment hub for Hayes and West London. The Gramophone has been designed by Architecture Initiative. Previously, it was an iconic component of the global music trade, responsible for stamping the grooves onto heated vinyl records that subsequently shipped around the world. The Gramophone forms the final part of The Old Vinyl Factory development located at the site of the former EMI record plant, where records by artists such as Pink Floyd and The Beatles were historically pressed, and the building celebrates this rich musical heritage through its design and end-use. It will become home to a new cultural and entertainment hub at the heart of The Old Vinyl Factory masterplan.

Scottsbluff, NE | Gering Library Book and Record Sale: The Friends of the Gering Library are planning a book sale April 5-17 in the library community room during regular library operating hours. “None of these books were on our last sale,” said Friend Carol Enderle. “We are setting up a limited number of tables again and as the sale goes on, we will replenish the book selection, so come back through the ‘book buffet’ more than once!” Masks are required for our volunteers’ safety. “The Friends received two large donations of vinyl records including 33, 45 and 78 RPMs. We are selling the records for 50 cents each,” said Enderle. Hardcover books are 50 cents, paperback books are 25 cents, DVDs and audio books are $1 each. The library is open from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information contact the Gering Public Library at 436-7433. Plan to attend — you might find just the book or album you’ve been looking for.

New Balance Is Releasing a Collab With Amoeba Music and Nice Kicks: 992 two-pack arrives in early April. Following its huge run last year thanks to a number of celebrated collaborations, New Balance is keeping the momentum behind the 992 model going in 2021 with another sneaker project coming soon. Shared by designer Frank Cooke on Instagram is the first look at the three-way collab between Amoeba Music, Nice Kicks, and New Balance. According to the post, the color scheme is inspired by the exterior of the record store sporting a bevy of grey tones towards the heel while the forefoot is decorated in a golden mustard hue. Adding to the design are teal shoelaces, a white ABZORB midsole, and a black outsole. While an early look at the Amoeba Music x Nice Kicks x New Balance 992 collab was shared by Cooke, a release date has yet to be announced by the brands. UPDATE (03/24): Official release details for the Amoeba Music x Nice Kicks x New Balance 992 Collection have been announced. Two colorways of the archive runner will be available, along with matching apparel. The shoes, priced at $240 each, will release on April 2 at shopnicekicks.com.

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