Whatever type of music you like, you can listen to it on a vinyl record just as easily as you could on Spotify or Pandora. Many contemporary artists like Bleachers, The XX and CHVRCHES have released vinyls over the past few years to be sold in stores. However, collectors of vintage records rely on local shops and record fairs to find great deals on collectible items.
The D.C. Record Fair is just six years old and the only record fair held in the District. The event is held annually at Penn Social on E Street and for only $2 you can gain access to over 40 vinyl vendors from D.C. and beyond (plus plenty of refreshments for the 21 and over crowd).
Upon entering the event, there was an overwhelming sense of chaos. Older men lugged huge tote bags full of records, mothers held their children’s hands as they navigated the fair and teenage girls proudly showed off their favorite purchases to friends. Browsing through the collections on the upper level was a competitive process. Rows of tables were set up and stacked with crates full of vinyls; each crate had at least two frantic collectors digging through their contents while the shop owners fielded buyers left and right. Still, amid the diverse crowd there was a feeling of camaraderie that came with the gathering of people who shared a love for the unique listening experience of vinyl records.
PHOTO BY JEAN VOZELLA
The lower level was where the bar and several more crowded tables were located. Several concert venues had set up booths to hand out schedules of upcoming shows and events. The fair seemed to be meant for those with a taste for a more “authentic” sound when it came to music, whether it be the rich tone of a record or having real instruments being played live right before your eyes and ears.
Some may argue that vinyl is the best way to listen to music, especially nowadays with all the low quality digital downloads that the average music pirater can rip from YouTube for free. Despite the fact that record players are, overall, more expensive and less convenient than mobile streaming, record sales have risen by the millions since 2006.
The recent upswing in popularity has led to the institution of a Record Store Day (the third Saturday of April) to bring fans of vinyl together in the same way the D.C. Record Fair does. Even if you have never been an avid record enthusiast, being immersed in a stirring atmosphere of passionate fans would make anyone question their music consumption practices - that is until you noticed members of the crowd holding their iPhones to the ceiling, Shazam-ing the song playing over the speakers so they could add it to their digital library.