The Music Tribe
If you followed our coverage of the CES and THE Show from
Las Vegas, you saw that we from the SoundStage! Network had some rare free time to do
whatever we wanted before the show began. SoundStager John Crossett and I did what men
like us do in Las Vegas: We went shopping for LPs at two stores definitely worth finding
when you're in town -- Zia Record Exchange near the corner of Eastern and Paradise, and
Record City on Sahara. There are actually two Record City stores on Sahara, and
it's worth your time to visit both. One has a more common selection of used LPs and CDs,
while the other is where you'll find the really good stuff, including vintage vinyl.
However, John and I actually bought about the same amount of music at both stores, proving
once again that "common" to one man is "treasure" to another.
About the only time I physically browse for music these
days is when I go to Las Vegas for CES or to Phoenix, which is two hours away from where I
live. It's a rare pleasure to pick through bins of LPs and CDs -- to actually hold and
inspect what I'm purchasing before I pay for it. Even though all of the music has been
separated into sections and there are dividers with the names of musicians or bands on
them, I try to look at everything, occasionally finding a misplaced LP worth examining and
John Crossett was an especially congenial and keen-eyed
music-shopping comrade. He ploughed through each bin vigilantly, picking out albums for
himself and me. "Do you have this?" he'd ask, holding up a Columbia six-eye J.J.
Johnson LP, then, "I have this and it's great," shoving Art Pepper's Omega
Alpha my way. I bought both of them. Of course, I reciprocated. The album I'm holding
in the picture below (a Verve Japanese pressing of Jam Session #1, in case you're
interested) is one I showed to John and he bought, along with an original pressing of Lee
Morgan's The Sidewinder that I also uncovered. John, you owe me for
handing over that Blue Note.
This is the way it used to be -- spending hours at a record
store with a discerning friend, picking over everything (especially the cutout bins --
remember those?), recommending albums, accumulating a stack that made your arm ache to
carry it, then heading home with anticipation. This used to be a usual occurrence for
music lovers; today, it's like riding in a hansom cab: the remnant of a bygone era. We
shop for music online or in understaffed, well-lighted big-box stores, or we simply go the
no-format route and buy digital files off the Internet. You can carry far more
music on an iPod than John and I bought combined in Las Vegas, but doing so means you lose
something important: the slow, tactile hunt for music and the camaraderie of like-minded
people. If we humans are tribal at our cores, our tribes and lands are now so fragmented
and spread out that we can easily lose sight of who we really are.
I'll sound like my dad by saying this, but what the heck: Ah,
the good old days. As audiophiles, we are part of the Music Tribe. If you've
overlooked this fact of your heritage, spend a few hours in an honest-to-goodness record
store, where you can commune with your people, hunt and gather, and return home with the
fruits of your satisfying labor.