We talk a lot about all the good music that's out there, new and old, but I also want to shed some light on the brick and mortar retailers that are out there fighting the good fight, keeping the doors open in an uncertain time, stacking the shelves with vinyl, CD's and DVD's. Keeping the unparalleled experience of music shopping in an actual store alive.
I go record shopping often- I mean really often. In my home area of San Francisco but also in every city I visit on every trip I take. Almost always I'm digging for vinyl, but I wouldn't pass up a great CD package. In this column, I want to shed some light on each of the stores I visit. An honest review, sharing the good and the bad, hopefully helping you find a new music store for your own digs.
So, let's start with a killer joint. Four blocks from my current hotel room . . .
Fingerprints Records - 420 E. 4th Street, Long Beach
I love this store. It's the pinnacle of what a "new" record store should be. A huge vinyl section with new releases of all genres and an ample used section to go along with it. There's even a small, but useful, discount vinyl area. They have one of the biggest 7" vinyl areas I've seen in ages with a plethora of new and used discs including a good lot of punk rarities. The CD section is massive and well-stocked. The DVD and book areas are satisfactory and there's a good amount (but not overwhelming stock) of t-shirts, bags and nicknacks. There's also a very nice cafe, Berlin, attached which makes it a great place to hang out and spend some time. I had an Americano and Muffin while I read the paper and waited for the store to open.
So, let's get to specifics. This was a vinyl dig for me, so after walking in I immediately dove into the discount boxes. Like always, most of the stuff is old and not useful, but there were some damn fine surprises. Stray Dog's "While you're down there" is a tasty slab of 70's rock for only $2.99 and Strap and Racing Cars albums were juicy finds. Unfortunately, I had all of them already. Instead, I settled on a Moby Grape "Wow" album for $1.99 and the Steve Harley "Love is a Prima Donna" LP for $.99. Not amazing but not bad.
One great thing about the store--given it's proximity to LA -- they have a great stock of LA punk, new wave and metal bands, stuff that is relatively common here in So Cal, but damn hard to find in other parts of the country.
The store is clean and well-lit and is the type of place my wife wouldn't mind accompanying me too. She could sit in the cafe or outside on the tables, having a croissant and tea while I dig my brains out. If there's a downside here, it's that things are a little pricey, not too excessive, but let's say they do know the value of their merchandise. Amazing finds at a discount are rare. A new album is usually around $20. Obscure 70's prog or metal will run about that much also. Some new albums go up to $40. Average used price is around $8-12. But, in truth, those prices are fair and at least you have a good chance of finding a rarity there.
Once a year, I head down to Long Beach and Fingerprints Records is one of the highlights of my trip. If you're in the area it's definitely worth checking out.