Friday, October 30, 2009


Published by Gregorious Winter

White label disc jockey promos. Withdrawn 45 picture sleeves pressed in Sweden. Mint Lexingtons with a deep groove, flat edge and RVG in the run off. While this terminology is alien to the general population, these words were often murmured throughout the WFMU Record & CD Fair held at Metropolitan Pavilion’s expansive convention space in downtown Manhattan from October 23rd-26th. Fuzzed out, foot stomping, head banging and shoe gazing grooves from every period of music could be found this past weekend as millions of records were available for purchase under one roof.

WFMU Record Fair

This year’s event saw record breaking (not literally) numbers in attendance, with 2,300 people paying admission to get in on a dreary Saturday and 4,000 people tallied for the whole weekend. Once inside, attendees were presented with a cornucopia of sensory-overwhelming paths to travel down that included live music, film screenings, DJs spinning and, of course, more records and CDs than you can shake a stick at. With over one hundred and fifty dealers, every conceivable genre of music could be found at the annual event. While vinyl was the main course at the convention, there were plenty of dealers who were hawking non-playable tchotkes to tempt potential customers. From books to t-shirts to homemade drink coasters (nothing says class like resting a glass of Merlot on a Kraftwerk coaster), there really was something for everyone.

The Trashmen Live at WFMU Record Fair

What makes this annual pow-wow of music nuts so unique is the addition of live music performances throughout the weekend. The walls of the pavilion shook as the legendary group from the 1960s The Trashmen played a rawkus set of dirty rock and roll, including their infamous hit “Surfin Bird.” Following close behind was Heavy Trash with an hour long set of raw and bluesy grooves. Legendary NYC guitarist Jon Spencer, of Blues Explosion fame, is 1/3 of the group and their presence at the fair was mind-blowing. Sunday was highlighted with a majestic performance by Chris Brokaw and his 12-string guitar trio, setting a more calm and relaxed atmosphere at the event. Throughout the whole weekend, the radio station’s DJs spun slabs of LPs and 45s for the crowd. Unlike many record conventions where hundreds of thousands of records are in one room and none are actually being played, WFMU provides an uninterrupted stream of music for the whole weekend.

Rarities are abundant at the Record Fair

Walking the aisles, bits of conversation in French, German, Italian, Russian and Japanese could all be heard as travelers came from all points to attend the fair. This show, which is the largest of its kind in North America, attracts every manner of customer through the doors. Many of the foreign attendees are knee deep in the business of buying and selling high-end vinyl, dropping thousands of dollars in the US and turning a profit back in their country where desirable Blue Note Jazz LPs and obscure funk LPs from the Midwest are not to be found. Beyond the high rollers though, the bulk of attendees were just people who love to shop for music but find it increasingly hard to do so as record stores continue to close left and right. The most notable trend though was the overwhelming amount of young people digging through crates and building their collections with foundational artists and recordings. This development in the record collecting community is a strong sign and solid proof of vinyl regaining a foothold in the market.

My nook in the corner attracted a fair share of collectors seeking out all kinds of genres— many attracted by my display of dozens of records plastered all over the wall behind me. Even so, the fair was sprinkled with highly specialized dealers hawking very specific albums and singles. Crates littered with ludicrously rare Nigerian high-life and afro-beat records could be found close to the stacks of mouth watering Brazilian psych and jazz pieces brought straight from São Paulo. Collectors of Northern Soul 45s (read next week’s post “Trends in Collecting”) could be seen satisfying their fix as buyers sought out anything obscure on the favorable 45rpm medium. Beyond all the rare and expensive vinyl that can empty a pocket of cash in an eye blink, the record fair also offered up a plethora of bargain discs for casual shoppers who favor paying for wax in single digit values. Despite my addiction to vinyl and my insatiable appetite to consume overwhelming amounts of it, I did not make many purchases this weekend. From behind my table, I enjoyed the countless hours of meeting new people and watching interesting specimens of the human race. For every ordinary music loving person that would walk past, at least two examples of your stereotypical music fanatic —smelling of old records and body odor—would shuffle by.

With the last spin of the turntable and the handful of diehards scoring the best bargains at the final seconds, the WFMU Record Fair closed its doors until next year thus allowing everyone another twelve months to recover and excavate more obscure wax for the hungry masses.

Keep Digging!

Special Thanks to Gregorious for allowing me to reprint this material!


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