Monday, September 12, 2011

Austin Music, Nice to Meet You: Guest Post

[guest post by Andrew Murphy]

One of the first sight-seeing ventures I partook (partook upon? Partook in? Took part in?) One of the first sight-seeing extravaganzas me and my brethren pertook...

One of the first things we did when we got to Austin was take a look at some record stores. The first one we checked out was Waterloo Records on North Lamar Blvd. From what I understand this is the Cadillac of record stores in Austin. It's near the behemoth Whole Foods Utopia that is also somewhat of an enigma for those new to the city (or any city with a Whole Foods). One of the awesome things about this organic marketplace is that it has it's own free parking garage. For those not willing to spend the better part of their paycheck on locally-grown sugar cane or coffee strong enough to give you telekenisis, you can still use the massive parking structure and venture outside to see the nearby attractions (disclaimer: I'm not sure you can actually legally do this, but it's pretty easy to do. I am also now becoming aware that I have shared way too many thoughts and feelings about Whole Foods, and this post is about record stores). 

Anyways, my visits to both Whole Foods and Waterloo Records were pleasant. However, Waterloo's breadth of options and new releases is slightly contradicted by its prices. The store doesn't have a great selection of used CD's (i.e. cheap), therefore the average customer really has to do some digging around to find a good deal. What I liked about the store, however, was the atmosphere and it's overall exuberance for music in the here-and-now. No other record store I went to had giant posters of new releases plastered on it's front walls. There's a respect for the artists making music right now that pushes their creations into a realm of theatricality and euphoria, as if a new release by an esteemed outlet isn't just something you can steal on the internet, but an experience and story that will shed itself new light when explored through a physical copy. I'm probably taking Waterloo's huge posters too seriously, but it made me think of CD's as, basically, a different form of movies. Cut to three weeks after my first visit, and I have made the shift from MP3's to CD's. I also bought a beeper and some pogs.

Right down the street from Waterloo is Cheapo's. This place is pretty self-explanatory. If you want cheaper options, it might be for you. The negative is that to get to the gems at low prices, you also have to dig through some really high-octane garbage. I'm not even that picky when it comes to music, but I'm pretty sure when your store is selling a used Blind Melon B-sides collection, maybe some discernment is in order. But I kid, folks. I have visited Cheapos more than once and found some excellent material. There's a Julian Casablancas vinyl still on sale and my brother picked up an Explosions in The Sky album for close to five bucks. The BM B-sides album, sadly, still exists to remind everyone that people made a lot of mistakes in the 90's.

My favorite store, however, is End Of An Ear on South 1st Street, about a block away from South Congress. It's a humble little joint which shares a building with New Brohemia (no typo, I think the "R" stands for exact Replica of the popular vintage store on South Congress). There's also an abandoned trailer that sells chicken behind it, which I'm pretty sure was just established by mobsters in the witness protection program. Anyhowever, despite some questionable picks for the loudspeaker (a ten-minute kaval solo, really?), it is laid-back, reasonably priced, and has listening stations for both vinyl and CD's, a growing rarity in contemporary music retailers. I now own twelve new CD's since I've gotten to Austin, and I believe nine of them are from End Of An Ear. For some reason this place just clicked with me.

All this being said, no hard feelings towards any of the aformentioned stores visited. I discover something new virtually anywhere I go in Austin, which speaks to the uniqueness and lust-for-life that exists here. I know this statement will be frowned on, but music is pretty awesome. Let the comments battle begin!

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