Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, February 4

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Event Tue Apr 16 2013

Yours To Keep: Dispatches from The CHIRP Record Fair

Walking into the bright-lit auditorium of The Chicago Journeymen Plumber's Union, its stage playing host to a series of DJs spinning rare vinyl, its walls adorned with all manner of music ephemera long past their sell-by date, and its floors teeming with record collectors eager to share their collections with any and all passersby, was admittedly a bit overwhelming. The scent of dust that hung in the air was unavoidable, the result of the hundreds of cardboard boxes lining each vendor's table and, of course, the hundreds of pieces of vinyl that lay within each box. The effect was dizzying. When a friend asked me how many individual pieces of vinyl might be housed in this one room at any given point, I said that there had to be hundreds of thousands, if not more, on the right side of the room alone. This fact, combined with the constant, colorful barrage of organizers, small labels, "Flip Your Wig" Beatles board games, Dead-head vendors and greenhorn collectors, had me quickly ditching my punch list of desired titles, and what awaited me instead last Saturday afternoon at the Eleventh Annual CHIRP Record Fair was a lot more than the search for a few stray John Cale records.


The morning began at 10am (and even earlier for the dedicated, pre-admitted few) and lasted until just after 7pm, with hundreds of people filing in and out of the auditorium to get their vinyl fix. Local roasters Dark Matter and brewers Goose Island were on hand to keep people buzzed in one way or another, with food from local restaurants Irazu and Handlebar keeping people fueled if fatigue ever set in. The assembled dozens of vinyl vendors ranged from the casual two-man label to major collections from shuttered record-store owners, and even a handful of scrappy independent enthusiasts (one of whom found me an old copy of Europe '72, and another I spotted hawking beer as a vendor at the Cubs game the next day). Everyone was eager to help find whatever was being sought by whoever was seeking it out an all seemed to know their massive collections like the back of their hand.

As the day wore on, CHIRP organizers began sprinkling in programming in between the DJ sets, and I caught a particularly intriguing interpretive dance performance that combined real-time painting, ambient guitar loops, and a lot of curious looks from the crowd. By 2pm, the conversations became friendlier as the more ardent crate-divers started recognizing each other from the racks and began complimenting each other on their finds. (Some guy found an original Dead Kennedys 45 on Alternative Tentacles and, yeah, I was a little jealous.) More than once, though, I was helped by random rack-browsers in searching out a few titles, with one even leading me to my find of the day: an original 45 of Television's "Little Johnny Jewel" on ORK Records.


Now, a confession: I did not grow up in the era of records and record stores. Being born firmly in the CD era, I went to Tower and Coconuts and picked up whatever discs were on circulation on MTV at the time, while my dad bought Traffic re-issues and the latest trumpeted alt-country release. The allure of vinyl and its attendant culture was more or less foreign to me until its resurgence around the time I was entering in high school, incidentally about the same time when digital brought the record industry to its knees. In my mind, the record store of old was a mythical place shut-off from the present day where people gathered to discuss rare and obscure releases and, more than anything, assembled together to size each other up and talk intensely about the music they love. Clerks and patrons took an interest in what you bought, and you sought their direction and approval, and their secret knowledge of forgotten EPs by The Kinks.


I didn't grow up with any of this sort of deep vetting, for better or worse, but I can tell you that a semblance of the record-buying communities of old are popping up more and more (with help from an uptick of in-stores and events like this weekend's Record Store Day) and I can tell you I saw it in spades on Saturday. And while record collectors may retain an unfortunate reputation as pretentious, holier-than-thou music nerds who balk at anything "beneath" their taste (which, let's be honest, isn't changing anytime soon), each carries a deep love for all the history, scope, and music each record carries, and, perhaps above all else, they want to share them with you. If anything was to be learned on Saturday, it's that all that old enthusiasm and positive, inclusive aspects of record collecting and vinyl culture have been there all along, even when I was too young and too busy staring at my shelf of jewel cases to notice.

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Hayden / April 17, 2013 12:12 PM

This is such a good time. I look forward to it more than Record Store Day now. BTW, I think I'm still buzzing from the Dark Matter coffee.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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