Early on Saturday morning a group of crate diggers roll into a church parking lot on Columbia Ave. They pay a small cover charge to walk into a big room with boxes of 25 cent vinyl on the floor and a few private retailers with boxes of premium but reasonably priced records on either side of the space. Vinyl hunters on their knees feverishly dig through boxes of vinyl looking for that piece of vinyl treasure. This is not a formal record store. This is part of the growing number of pop-up vinyl shops that are becoming more and more commonplace.
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The return to prominence of vinyl has been a recurring story throughout the past few years, as evidenced by the string of recent record store openings right here in Dallas. Josey Records, Spinster Records and Dead Wax have all been welcomed by crate diggers and casual record collectors alike. But existing in the periphery in art galleries, the backs of clubs for DJ nights and even directly out of the trunks of cars in parking lots, independent record dealers have given Dallas even more options for finding nuggets of wax. A few key players have nurtured this underground culture of vinyl exchange in Dallas.
Mark Ridlen started his Vinyl Tap residency a few years ago, inviting private collectors to bring out boxes of records to sell at his DJ residency. The night evolved out of his singles night where he would invite people to bring there favorite 45s for him to spin. Extending the invite to dealers was a logical next step. Although it has changed locations a few times, Ridlen currently holds down his Vinyl Tap residency at Crown & Harp every Wednesday.
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Bryan Coonrod has been a usual suspect at most of these spots. A regular at Vinyl Tap, Too Fresh Productions' Fresh 45s night at Crown & Harp and Doublewide's recent Flea Market on the first Sundays of the month, Coonrod is directly responsible for bringing the Beat Swap to Dallas. "Dallas had a record show every year at a hotel in Richardson and it had faded away for some reason," he recalls. "I was looking online at what other cities were doing and came across Beat Swap Meet in L.A. and noticed they were doing some really cool things that included urban culture with artists, B-boys, bands and the like and were popping up in other cities. I had contacted them about coming here and the ball started rolling."
Coonrod always had a knack for finding good records for people that were looking for them. His first formal involvement came when he opened his Rush records in Vikon Village back in 1993. "Much of the stock there came from Sound Warehouse after it had closed. Word travelled worldwide about what I had there," Coonrod explains. "There were so many records from Sound Warehouse I was selling them cheaply just to make room for more." With a backstroke of almost 70,000 records, he is something of a one-man independent vinyl-selling goliath amongst his peers.
DJ 5-D can be found every week hosting his Classic Tuesdays at Crown & Harp. Before that he was a regular at the infamous Cool Out night at the same venues, always with a few boxes of vinyl out for sale. 5-D had experience with independent retail that goes back before haunting the backs of bars with his wax. "I started the Dallas Record Convention in 2009 at various hotels," 5-D says. "Dallas hadn't had a record convention in three years before that. I figured if I was going to have the convention I might as well sell some vinyl along with the dealers too. I'd been collecting since 13 so I had plenty."
Some time after those conventions slowed down 5-D, along with Coonrod, started showing up to the vinyl swaps hosted at events by DJ Sober. These events along with Ridlen's Vinyl Tap seem to be a local genesis point for this current movement. "There was an increasing demand and desire for vinyl, and due to modern demands, decreased time to actually look for them," 5-D says. "So I brought the records to them after record store hours where they were already hanging with friends." His idea was to bring the records to the people rather than the people to the records.
For someone like Joshua Kynd, that idea opens up a whole new world of possibilities. He had been selling records out of his house for 10 years before taking a shot at a storefront. Timing, however, was not on his side: "I opened my store when the DJ community decided to go digital. This caused the fall of the store." Kynd now frequents spots like Ridlen's Vinyl Tap and the quarterly Beat Swap. He also runs the best bargain-hunter crate dig in town, where he has a "monthly 25-cent blowout sale with about 7,000 records to reduce the amount of common records that just take up space." Between these outlets and another 10,000 records he has available through his online site, he is really taking advantage of the many avenues to move vinyl without being tied to a storefront.
All of this suggests a vinyl buying fever that has resulted in something of a goldmine for vinyl retail. "The popularity comes with it being a trendy thing right now," Coonrod explains. "Record labels are making more unique releases just on vinyl to entice people to buy that over a digital download; from swirled, splattered and colored vinyl to all of the cutting edge ideas of Third Man Records, there are lots of options to get people interested."
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Coonrod points to one other obvious cause of independent vinyl boom: "The other main factor has been Record Store Day that started in 2007," he says. "It has received a lot of buzz in the media and when you get people's attention they tend to want to be a part of whatever trendy movement is going on." This new fervor was on full display when the Jack White-owned Third Man Records truck recently rolled into town for a few-hour engagement at Good Records where it was welcomed by a line wrapped around the building.
One might wonder how many years before renewed interest in CD's turns down a similar path or if the current fever for vinyl is rooted in something exclusive only to vinyl which not that long ago many expected to go extinct.
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