Vinyl records are an interesting phenomenon. Those who are into collecting vinyl are especially passionate about it. And Bill's Records, now in its fifth year on South Side on Lamar, is one of the few places in Dallas where vinyl-philes can find rare recordings.
"[Bill]'s got almost a million pieces of vinyl," explains Kessler Theater artistic director and local music historian Jeff Liles, director of the 2007 documentary The Last Record Store, a film about Bill's Records that will be screened at the Kessler as part of Hot Box Beats, an event that celebrates DJ culture, and which Liles hopes to make into a regular happening.
Liles affectionately refers to vinyl aficionados as "crate-diggers" -- the DJs, collectors and historians who are willing to paw through dusty shelves and boxes in search of that perfect record.
In the years since Liles filmed there, Bill's has shifted focus to online sales, providing hard-to-find vinyl gems for crate-diggers around the world via eBay and Amazon.
"It's kind of a departure for Bill," he says. "I'm sure that the thing that bothers him the most, and what he cherished most about his old store, was the face-to-face interaction with the customers, that kind of mom-and-pop store vibe where people sat around and talked about music all day."
Still, as Liles explains, "crate-digging is something that will be around forever. There are DJs that are collectors, and each piece of vinyl they find is like a gem."
Liles has booked a few of Dallas' best such DJs to play at the Kessler on Friday night.
Two of the DJs, Kelly Reverb and Jeff K, are former Bill's employees who honed their tastes for vinyl at Bill's venerable storefront.
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Liles will show his documentary prior to their set to provide some insight into the crate-digger mindset that inspires DJs to find and mix new music, and also to "provide some context into where these kids came from, what they did when they were teenagers and where they get started."
"Bill's," he says, "was a really integral part of that."
Since The Kessler's opening in 2010, the venue's booking has consisted of some truly stellar roots-country-Americana acts. Dipping the theater's toe into the electronic-music arena is a natural fit for Liles, though, who has dabbled in electronic music himself in the past.
"People know the Kessler as a live music room," he says. "And we are first and foremost that, but we want to show flexibility by putting on this kind of event. The Kessler is going to look very different tomorrow night."