Vinyl and good vibes: The Washington, DC Record Store Crawl, 8/6

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to record shopping in these modern times:

  • Those who were born in the ’90s, and have discovered a fascinating retro-cool way to listen to music while shopping at Urban Outfitters.
  • Those looking to detach from the digital wasteland and reconnect with their beloved music in a tangible way.
  • Those who grew up with vinyl, and have either never stopped listening to it or who have reembraced the format.

No matter which group you may fall under, there’s no denying that the popularity of vinyl is at an all-time high since being dethroned as the preferred music format by cassettes and CDs in the ’80s. If you were to ask any vinyl aficionado what they love most about vinyl, somewhere between “the warmth of the sound” and “the artwork” would be the hunt. Sure, it’s easy nowadays to hop on ebay or Discogs and find your prize within seconds of typing in the search, but nothing beats the joy of finding that long-sought-after gem after hours of crate-digging at record shows or your local shops.

Not long after I was approached by TVD to cover the 2016 Record Store Crawl, I read up on it and found the concept an intriguing one: a pseudo-bar crawl, hopping from record shop to record shop, getting drunk on shopping and live music rather than cheap drinks. Taking place in seven cities in the U.S. over a three-week span, they tout the crawl as “The Coachella of crawls” on their Facebook page. While that description didn’t exactly endear me personally, I was still excited to hit some of my treasured local record shops with a group of like-minded souls.

The day started out with brunch at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe in Adams Morgan. The mood was jovial, and as the crowd sipped mimosas and bloody marys, the organizers handed out swag bags full of posters, promotional records, and more while raffling off prizes such as a rare Tom Petty record and a Green Day test pressing. After explaining how the day would go, the group leader led us out the door, following his backpack-mounted record sign like a museum tour guide.

Our first stop of the day was longtime DC punk mecca Smash!, just a few blocks down from Songbyrd. One of the few negative aspects of the day quickly became apparent at our first stop: there were a lot of us, and most local record stores aren’t wide open spaces like California’s famed Amoeba Records. On a typical record shopping day, this is no big deal, but cramming 40+ people in a tiny shop makes things a bit difficult to navigate, and served to make inside feel more like the hot summer day outside in a hurry.

After roughly 30 minutes of digging and comparing purchases, we continued our march down to Red Onion Records & Books, narrowly avoiding a heavy rain shower minutes after entering the store. At Red Onion, we were greeted by the featured artist of the DC crawl, Philly indie rockers Good Old War, and were treated to an impassioned acoustic set from the duo, morphing into a crowd sing-along in no time. The music faded, and some shopped while others talked to the band. As for myself? As I type this, I am reliving my childhood with one of the gems found at Red Onion, a VG+ copy of the Beat Street soundtrack. Be jealous.

After pausing for a group photo, we made our way down U St. for the final two shopping stops of the day, first at Joint Custody, then concluding at Som Records on 14th. The pros and cons of the day remained the same, with the heat and tight fit in the stores making things difficult, only to be remedied by the group’s good spirits and the joy of record shopping.

After we were thanked and bid farewell by our guides for the crawl, and we all set off to continue our afternoon. The evening portion of the crawl, which I unfortunately missed due to work obligations, was a performance by Good Old War at the rooftop lounge of the W Hotel, in the Penn Quarter overlooking the White House.

As I look back on the Record Store Crawl, I expect more events such as this to follow, and look forward to what is to come, as the vinyl format gains popularity and attracts even more devotees. The enthusiastic turnout means we will most likely see the return of the Crawl, hopefully with a couple of tweaks (possibly a different time of year, and broken up into smaller groups) to make the day go a bit smoother. A great experience overall, but what really made the day special was the camaraderie, the good vibes, the enthusiasm of the guides, and most of all, the local record shops that dedicate their lives to providing us the music we crave.


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