"We want to help educate record buyers," says George Gelestino, one of the producers of the Vinyl Event Record Convention. "We want to offer music fans different choices, new choices and variety. We want to be much more than a record store."
If you happen to be looking for a Beatles wig, a pair of Woodstock tickets, one of Elvis Presley's Sun singles or an ancient copy of Rolling Stone, there's no use bothering with a record store. Your best bet is a record convention, where dealers and customers buy, swap, haggle and discuss records and music-related memorabilia in a mercantile atmosphere every bit as intense and colorful as a bazaar.
"Back in the fall of 1980, at our first Vinyl Event, we were expecting maybe 200 people at the door," says Sali Gelestino. "We got over 800, and that surprised us."
Since 1980 the Vinyl Event, produced by Sali and George Gelestino and Gary Sommer, has grown into one of the most successful regular record conventions on the East Coast, and its rapid rise has been paralleled by that of another locally produced convention, the Record Convergence. Both are well managed, well promoted shows that offer fair prices to both dealers and customers.
"We quickly decided," Sali Gelestino says, "that rather than working against each other, holding shows at the same time and hurting each other, we would alternate our two shows a year with theirs. We also work with the Record Convergence to put out the Record Collectors' Quarterly, and we still share mailing lists of collectors."
The success of these conventions is partly a reflection of the tremendous boom in the record-collecting market since 1980. Whereas rock collecting was once mostly the province of hard-core fans devoted to older styles such as R & B, doo-wop and rockabilly, the market has broadened to include all kinds of fans and collectibles. A deepening nostalgia, even reverence, for America's cultural past has already turned '60s surf, punk and psychedelic styles into hot collector areas, and the '70s aren't far behind.
The Vinyl Event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Sunday at the Crowne Plaza Holiday Inn in Rockville (at the Twinbrook Metro stop), offers much more than rock 'n' roll records. With more than 60 different dealers, fans can feast on jazz, classical, pop, reggae and country records, as well as imports, odd-shaped and picture discs, and all kinds of musical memorabilia, such as buttons, T-shirts, books and magazines.
As important as these conventions are to collectors, they also offer a vibrant meeting place for fans, musicians, promoters, record store owners, DJs and writers. Regardless of whether you want to buy anything, the gossip, criticism, rumor-mongering and name-dropping are well worth the low cost of admission.