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Event Mon Apr 28 2014
[Ed. note: Apologies for the delay!]
When I'd told a friend I was planning on visiting a record fair for an entire afternoon one Saturday, they were dumbfounded. You're excited at the prospect of sharing a room with a bunch of old white guys selling dusty records to even more old white guys for inflated prices and "posterity"? Seems like a recipe for boredom, or at least an empty wallet, no? I avoided the question, first because I knew, of course, that he was right, but second because I also knew there were certain indescribable elements and tiny excitements to an event like CHIRP's that I'd never be able to fully explain. I am not an old white man (yet), and since I count myself a member of a growing number of younger vinyl fans who love obsessively padding and curating their collections of old records, it's a culture, man, and I planned to get my fix! I won't stand for any naysayers in my tent.
So when my roommate and I got up early to head to CHIRP's 12th Annual Record Fair & Other Delights, we expected more than to cross off a few harder-to-find records off our respective punch lists. Arriving at the tail end of the early bird session (where diehards paid a bit extra to comb the stacks first), we noticed right away that my friend's quick stereotyping was way off: Women! Young people! Young people selling records to even younger women! I'd be lying if I said that the old white guy demographic wasn't well represented, too, but even at 10am the fair was filled with people of all shapes and stripes coming to browse the racks, ogle at strange Beatles ephemera, and learn a thing or two about a record or two. Fifty million Elvis fans can't be wrong, or something like that.
Last year's fair boasted an impressive array of vendors, refreshments, and entertainment, and this year didn't disappoint on any of these fronts. The Journeyman Plumbers Hall stage played host to CHIRP DJs throughout the morning and afternoon, and was even punctuated by a heated (and quite pedantic, to my delight) music quiz ran by the CHIRP staff. There were tacos, there was beer, and coffee. And there were records. Hundreds of thousands of records. While I searched in vain for some hard-to-find records by The Fall or Beat Happening, I did happen upon a copy of John Phillips's self-titled debut, the cover of which Dylan aped for his own 1976 release, Desire, which I also picked up (see picture below for a side-by-side comparison, nerds.)
The vendors' collections skewed heavily toward the golden age of vinyl, roughly rock and pop music from the mid 60s through the early 80s, with more niche collections of jazz, r&b, and disco dotting the auditorium. Small local labels (Hozac, Already Dead Tapes) and more well known vendors (Byron Coley!?) were there, too, selling a mix of new LPs and impossible-to-find obscurities. (It killed me to pass on Coley's dizzying crate of Flying Nun originals, but I was steadfast in convincing myself I was on a "budget.") With the exception of one vendor from Seattle who had an absurd collection of turn-of-the-90s Sub Pop singles and LPs, the fair was extremely light on 80s and 90s indie/punk/hardcore records (all of which are understandably much harder to track down, since far less were pressed than, say, any ELO record.) I resolved to resign my search for records of that ilk to chance and serendipity, or maybe just Discogs. (But that would be cheating.)
All told, we'd spent a solid six hours digging through the crates at this year's fair, and had the lingering scent of dusty fingers and a heavy stack of records to show for it. I made off with a few records I'd been spending the better part of the last six months tracking down (thanks for the ultra-clean copy of Vintage Violence, Mr. Coley), and my roommate rounded out his collection of mid-70s (prime era) Neil Young. The afternoon at CHIP was a series of delights, just as advertised, and I anticipate being just as vinyl-hungry for next year's fair. Meet you in the tent.