POST UPDATED 1:57 P.M.
In an age when the phrase “buy the album” calls for merely a click of a button, the D.C. Record Fair is a welcome throwback to the days of browsing for vinyl. The discs will spin Sunday, when Riot Act Comedy Theater will host 40 vinyl dealers from across the area for a day of crate digging and DJ-ing.
“Serious music lovers ... just don’t want to hang the hat on an mp3,” said Jon Meyers, founder and creative director of The Vinyl District and one of the four-year-old event’s three sponsors. “Vinyl is a whole different medium. It sounds richer, it’s warmer — it’s all of these things you hear orally, but at the same time there’s a tactile experience to it.” Prime yourself before the doors open at 11 a.m. with these tips from Meyers, who let us in on what’s hot, the best time to visit, and why you should leave the plastic at home.
Come early, come late: “There are two types of people who attend, frankly,” Meyers said. “The hard-core, seasoned ‘crate diggers’ line up long before 11 o’clock to get in and be the first to plow through what the vendors have trucked down. The late person, the curious — or just someone who would want to beef up their record collection, can come at any point during the day and have at it.” Also important: Browsers who attend before Noon pay a higher admission fee ($5) but get first dibs, as opposed to those who pay regular admission ($2). Those searching for a deal might want to wait until the end, however. “Dealers are often really willing to make a bargain or two toward the end of the day,” Meyers said. “Those records are heavy, and they don’t want to be carted back out [by vendors].”
Soul and funk are in heavy rotation: “I’m a huge fan, but I didn’t really anticipate how much the buying public tends to want to get those old soul records,” Meyers said of the “renaissance via vinyl” that groups such as The Temptations and Earth, Wind and Fire are receiving. Could blues be next? “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of Etta James walking out of the fair,” he said of the late singer. But when in doubt for what to buy, “Cover your taste gamut — but if you see a bargain on something that you happen to know is mega-collectible, why not?”
Come with cash: “Vendors rarely will have anything you can swipe [with], said Meyers, who also advises negotiating. “Ask questions and get involved and talk to dealers. [They] are often very willing to make a deal, make a bargain, and not just at the end of the day [or] the beginning of the day.”
Play before you buy: The record fair will have turntables on site, with headphones supplied for customers to listen to an album before they make a decision. But album buying is more than meets the ear, advises Meyers. “It’s a visual medium, too. Inspect that record. If it’s scratched and if it’s got fingerprints all over it, that’s probably not the one you’re going to want.”
Above all, visitors should be prepared to explore a vast, carefully picked selection. “Every dealer who will come to this thing has curated what they’re bringing,” Meyers said. “There’s a whole wellspring of good vibes as opposed to downloading something for free.”
Admission is $5 from 11 a.m.-noon; $2 from noon -5 p.m. Riot Act Comedy Theater is at 1101 E St. NW. For more information, visit facebook.com/dcrecordfair.