On the Record

DJ Blkceaza (a.k.a. John Balthrop) right, tests new tunes at DJ Hut on P Street NW while local music producer Michael "Mooch" Slifka, left, sifts through records with DJ Hut's Jim Pitocchelli.
DJ Blkceaza (a.k.a. John Balthrop) right, tests new tunes at DJ Hut on P Street NW while local music producer Michael "Mooch" Slifka, left, sifts through records with DJ Hut's Jim Pitocchelli. (Ann Cameron Siegal - For The Washington Post)
By Ann Cameron Siegal
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, April 18, 2008

A tune is stuck in your head, but you can't place it. What's the title? Who's the artist? Aaarrgghh, it's driving you crazy. Try humming a few bars to your computer and see how far that gets you.

Therein lies one problem with digital downloading. Sure, it's handy, but it's impersonal.

But pop into one of the cozy brick-and-mortar music shops still thriving locally and you'll inevitably find someone who'll hum along, know the title and suggest similar cuts as well. Rooting through stacks of CDs or vinyl records, chatting in person with other music aficionados, meeting local musicians -- it's personal service and serendipity rolled into one.

The atmosphere in these independent stores is reminiscent of that in old barbershops, says David Eisner of Takoma Park's House of Musical Traditions. "It comes down to a sense of community."

Whether you are a baby boomer seeking to connect with your past or a high schooler just discovering Led Zeppelin, there's a whole locally intertwined group of experts who know the tunes and the players. Though their numbers may be shrinking (Orpheus Records in Arlington plans to shut its doors at the end of May), their fans remain loyal and the experience they offer is unique.

Step inside and be instantly inducted into a bustling, melodious word-of-mouth community.

DOWNTOWN WASHINGTON

Melody Records

1623 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-232-4002.

Open Sunday-Thursday 10 to 10,

Friday-Saturday 10 to 11.

Owners: Jack and Suzy Menase.

Melody Records' customers have remained loyal through three decades and three moves. Now carrying only new CDs, Melody is still known for its opera, jazz and classical collections.

"Our service is very addictive," Jack Menase says. Staffers (some have worked at Melody for more than 25 years) demonstrate expertise in specific genres, including international music, blues, New Age and rock.


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