For John Thompson, listening to records is a ritual – holding the record, cleaning the record, putting it on the turntable. “The ritual is important,” says Thompson. More importantly, he believes that records just sound better than digital: “With analog – there’s more spaciousness and depth to the sound and you can hear all this wonderful stuff. Digital never quite caught this.”
Thompson is one of the many vendors who gathered at the seventh Annual Community Record Show on October 21. The first community record show was at the Sandy Hill Community Centre in 2009. Over the last few years the event has grown and now attracts hundreds of people to the more spacious St. Anthony’s Hall in Little Italy to buy and sell vinyl records, wax, platters, LPs (and some CD’s too).
Dave Aardvark, well-known in the music community for a variety of initiatives, organizes the show. Records have always been part of Aardvark’s life. “When it comes down to it, records are the best way to listen to music. it’s not broken up into bits, its continuous. You’re not going hear your favourite artists any better than that.”
When I asked Aardark where the sellers came from, it became apparent that it was a mishmash. “There’s a variety of stories out there as far as dealers,” said Aardvark. “Some people run antique collectibles businesses; some are DJ’s at CKCU-FM that have lots of records; some have record stores.” Aardvark also mentioned a friend who trolls garage sales for records, keeps them in his basement, and then sells them when it’s record show time. Dealers come from places like Toronto and Montreal, but many are local.
Thompson, for example, was a seller on Ebay for 10 years. He took over the Record Centre at 1097 Wellington West eighteen months ago and now has 200,000 records for sale. He’s been collecting for decades and has been part of a music appreciation group for seventeen years. Five thousand records have made the cut to be part of his personal collection.
Walking around the show, I couldn’t help but notice another seller with a bowler hat and moustache. Old Chelsea resident William Desjardins, aka DJ Hokum, is pretty unique in Ottawa. He was selling vinyl, but he’s obsessed with 78s and has always had an attraction to nostalgia. He deejays tunes from the twenties and thirties, such as hot jazz, hillbilly and country blues, including such artists as Blind Willie McTell, Peg Leg Howell and Sleepy John Estes. In addition to being an avid collector, he is also a leather smith and was selling his leather and felt record mats.
As I look around the show, I’m impressed by the diversity of the crowd, particularly in terms of age. Thompson agrees that records have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. While there are still a lot of men, we notice a mother and pre-teen daughter looking through boxes together. Thompson noted that it was fun to see them each with their own list.
“People are still interested in records”, said Aardvark. “It’s a misconception that the tangible medium is dying. Lots of people want records and they don’t want to download music on to an MP3 player. They have nice turntables. They appreciate quality sound.”
I’m getting pumped to enjoy records more in the future. In addition to the sound quality, add that crack-pop when the needle meets vinyl and the cover artwork and I’m convinced that I need to move beyond digital. Thompson, whose store refurbishes vintage equipment, even offered to set me up with an amp, speakers and turntable at a reasonable cost.
Don’t miss the next Community Record Show at St. Anthony’s Hall on Sunday, April 7, 2013.