Arts Desk

Was The DC Record Fair Too Crowded?


Yesterday's DC Record Fair at the Black Cat turned out to be an overwhelming success, according to one of the event's organizers. "It was pretty crazy," says Neal Becton, Som Records' owner, "like 1500 people turned up. That's one of the reasons we left Comet. We love Comet but it was a little too small. We expected like 500."

The fact that organizers tripled their attendance expectations was not lost on a few record geeks. "A few folks complained about it," Becton says. "There were people lined up at some tables. But everybody was pretty pleased. The dealers were happy."

Becton says that if they hold the record fair at the Black Cat again, they may open up the club's first floor as well. The next record fair may be held in June.

This fair had 30 dealers including notable local shops like Red Onion, Smash, and Crooked Beat as well as Plan 9 from Richmond, Memory Lane from District Heights, and Own Guru from Baltimore. The crowds could have lead to an epic disaster like the one famously chronicled by the Onion.

"From like noon to 5:30 it was like packed with people," says Red Onion's Josh Harkavy. "Everyone's table was like two or three people deep waiting to look at records which is not something I see too often....It was impressive."

Harkavy adds: "I was pretty much blown away at how much merchandise we sold. I think I had four empty crates at the end of the day which is awesome."

Harkavy says his personal highlight was "seeing a baby flip through records. I'd never seen that before."

Becton says: "the DJ sets were great. Kid Congo's set was awesome. Seeing Ian MacKaye up there was kind of fun. He sounded great, playing some pretty rare punk rock singles."

Harkavy and Becton say the fair wasn't just crowded but very diverse for such nerd events. "It's really encouraging," Becton says. "I saw a lot of Xs on hands there. A lot of under 21s buying records, male and female. Most record shows you go to it's a bunch of old guys.... My wife even commented on it. I thought it was kind of nice. It makes for a better atmosphere."

*photo by Matt Dunn.

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  • Tracy

    Matt Dunn with the hot snap. Yeah it was a bit crowded at times, but nothing to complain about.

  • technosophe

    Admittedly, it was a bit too crowded for my liking (it's not particularly fun to wait 2-3 people deep just to cruise through vinyl).

    That being said, it was a very laid-back atmosphere, and for the most part, the dealers and the buyers were pretty fair about negotiating pricing. There were some exceptions (a VG+ Iggy Pop - Raw Power for $35?), but there were some awesome bargains to be had, still. Plenty of obscure stuff, too.

    I think this does call for a bigger (and better-lit) venue for next year, though.

  • Right

    Techno's last point is key, I think.

    The lines/crowds weren't the best for crate digging, but it is what it is. Anytime you have a big record fair in a place like D.C. I think you're going to see a lot of people turn out, and that's a good thing!

    But the lighting really detracted from looking at the records. I saw people using cell phones to light up records they were looking at. At some tables to had to stand just so to get the light to show on the records. That was a real pain. Standing in line is one thing. Not being able to see what you're looking at almost defeats the purpose.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Maybe the next fair should be held outside under tents. They should have local bands play as well. It's nice to see the record stores organizing together for an event like this. But wouldn't it be cool if the local labels got involved and showcased local bands?

  • bitchgositdownSW


  • Neal Becton

    I thought yesterday was awesome. You're never going to please everyone.
    A real cross section of DC (old/young, male/female, black/white/hispanic/asian, etc.) came out for a cool event. When folks complain about DC not being hip I can point to an event like this to refute it. I've been to a lot of record shows in a lot of cities and believe me crowding is not usually an issue.
    Yes, it did get crowded, but part of that was the perfect storm of holding the event on the first nice day in two months. We'll listen to (most of) the complaints and tweak the next show accordingly.
    Thanks to everyone who came out!

  • Matty B

    I arrived shortly after noon. It was crowded, but nothing insufferable. As soon as an opening at a table presented itself, I'd dart in and crouch to the floor to sift through the $1 bins. Considering I spent only $20 altogether walked away with 15 killer records, I'd call it a wild sucess.

    Oh, and Geologist stood behind me in line in Food for Thought Cafe. Very cool.

    Many thanks! Please consider making this a regular happening...

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