The local record store has become a thing of the past in today’s music world. Gone are the days of going to a record store to actually find new music and to talk to other people about upcoming shows and new bands. These days you don’t have to take a chance on anything – not when you can just go to a band’s MySpace page and have a listen. And in many ways, this system is a good thing. It allows bands to get more exposure and network, and it allows music fans access to basically an infinite supply of new sounds. The other side of the coin, though, is that we see places like Record Service fall to the side. It becomes harder and harder to have a unique music shopping experience. You end up with no place to go except Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Sure, things are cheap, but the selection is relatively small. Well, we’re lucky here in the twin cities, as we still have a few places left that carry used items, local stuff, and the indie things that you can’t find anywhere else.
Record shopping is almost like therapy for me. If I’m frustrated or overwhelmed, spending an hour going through stacks and stacks of albums is often the perfect activity to iron things out in my head. So, having these places around is a treat, and more people should be taking advantage of them. Not long ago buzz ran an item about some of those places, but the article was more about how to get there and not about what you could find. Let’s see if I can get you a little more info.
Parasol Records (303 W. Griggs in Urbana) has long been the place that no one knew you could actually go inside to shop. Most people think the place only does mail order, along with putting out records on their own labels, but they have always welcomed shoppers to come in and browse. They have even made some changes to the space recently, in order to make shopping even easier. Yellow footprints on the floor will lead you to a wall of new and local releases, along with a full rack of new vinyl. In the corner you’ll find the rest of the massive CD collection, along with a ridiculous amount of 7″ vinyl, including a ton of old local stuff from bands like Hot Glue Gun, Moon Seven Times and even the ever-elusive Ward (that’s right, Ward Gollings’ old band). Ward’s “Boom” is one of my favorite local songs of all-time, and you can find it at Parasol.
They have used vinyl (which, if you say Angie Heaton said so, you might get up to half-off on), and a giant dollar section with tons of CDs. Everyone in the place is nice and they all know a ton about music, so ask questions. Owner Geoff Merritt has been around the scene for a long time, so he has a lot of great stories. Just ask him for one of the many about Kayla Brown. So check out Parasol the next time you have the urge to buy some new stuff. I grabbed matt pond PA’s Several Arrows Later on vinyl, and a ton of old 7″ stuff. It was a highly enjoyable experience.
Record Swap (110 S. Race in Urbana) is right down the street from Parasol, which makes it very easy to hit both on the same trip. Record Swap is more like the record store that the High Fidelity fan will appreciate. You could (and I have) spend hours going through the many thousands of records packed into that space. The stacks tend to get regularly picked clean of your typical Beatles and Led Zeppelin records, though you can happen upon those sometimes. For the ridiculously obscure, though, you’ll find plenty. And right now, there are actually hundreds of albums sitting on the floor all over the store, and they’re all one dollar. It’s really ridiculous. There are tons of gems to be found in each pile. Huey Lewis, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Fleetwood Mac – tons of albums that were simply doubles or triples that just need to be sold. Vinyl is having a resurgence at the moment, so get in there and pick those piles clean soon, before someone else beats you to it.
Apart from the records, Record Swap also offers a huge selection of used CDs, including a lot of old local stuff. This week I saw everything from the newest Living Blue to old Absinthe Blind (all you young Headlights fans should know that Absinthe Blind was the band that turned into Headlights). Stop in and spend an hour finding twenty records for twenty bucks. It’s very worth it.
Exile on Main Street (One Main Plaza in downtown Champaign) is the place that has the biggest variety of goodies available under one roof. Here you can find new DVDs, complete with a Criterion section, along with used DVDs and even a rental service. There are new and used video games and systems, going all the way back to Atari, and there is a vintage arcade game in the corner that you can play for free. As far as the music selection goes, there is a huge section of used CDs, and a good-sized section of new discs. There is also a good selection of local albums. In the back you’ll find a smattering of used vinyl and a few new records. Stuck in the very back corner you’ll find a bunch of half-off CDs. Exile is the new kid on the block, but Jeff Brandt has done an excellent job of building a customer base by having a wide variety of products available, alsong with doing mail order for just about anything that you might be looking for. Exile also stays open later than the rest, which means you’re not screwed when you are overtaken by an urge to shop at 8 p.m. You’ve got ’til 9!!
There you have it – the big three. But wait! C V Lloyde Music Center (University and Neil in Champaign) has a nice selection of local music. When Record Service closed, Lloyde’s decided that they should step up and help local musicians by selling albums for them. And they do this at no charge, which is incredibly nice. They even have all of the local stuff ripped on the store Mac, meaning you can listen to stuff before you buy it. For the guitar players out there, Lloyde’s has the cheapest strings in town, and an excellent array of acoustic and electric guitars.
Borders in Champaign has a pretty extensive local section, thanks to employee and local music fan (and generally awesome guy) Dennis Jordan. Sure, it’s a chain. But it’s not Wal-Mart, so hey. Dennis usually does a good job of keeping the rack stocked, and the listening station fresh with new local stuff. The next time you’re at Borders, find a manager and tell him/her how awesome it is that they carry local music.
So now you know. Let’s try to keep as many dollars as possible in local hands when we can, huh? Oh man . shows .
The Wandering Sons are coming back to town. Their last show (a December CD release show at Cowboy Monkey) was very much sold out, as word has been spreading about them being one of the best bands in the Midwest. This Friday they will play at the Highdive with elsinore, Gentleman Auction House (St. Louis), Cameron McGill (with a rare solo appearance), and Noah Harris (of the Elanors). I put the show together so I could have a blast with some of my favorite bands for my birthday. If you’re looking for something to do on Friday, come by and say hi. The show will get hoppin’ at 9 p.m.
Don’t like the idea of hanging with me on my birthday? That’s cool. Hit up Cowboy Monkey to see Kilborn Alley (one of the finest blues bands in the area), or the Iron Post for Miami Heat Latin Jazz (with Carlos Vega).
Saturday night is pretty packed with great shows. The Iron Post will host Rob McColley & the Heather, Mad Science Fair and Without Atom for only $3. At the Canopy Club you’ll find one of my favorite bands, Shipwreck, playing with Exhale, Look Down, Roman Numerals, reds and Coco Coca. The cover is wacky, so just throw some money at them and run in. The metal kids will want to head to Cowboy Monkey, where Tritone will lay it down with Quadremedy and Monster Honkey for $5!
And a final bit for all of you Lorenzo Goetz fans: Larry Gates is now dominating a DJ residency at Cowboy Monkey on Wednesdays. Starting at 10:30 p.m., Larry will spin records from his collection, mp3s from his iPod, and beats by himself and with Josh Miethe. There is no cover, though there are tango dancers in there until 10:30. So watch out!
Mike Ingram is the local music director at WEFT 90.1, where he books the live, local music show WEFT Sessions. He’s also a booking agent and he occasionally calls himself a musician. You can reach him at email@example.com.