Anything for a Weird Life

A Return to the Arbutus Record Show

I returned to the record show a new person, transformed by years of questing that began here, back in the 1990s.

In my younger and more vulnerable years, I would spend each weekend (when not attending shows or band practice) traveling the state in search of vinyl. The Arbutus Record Show was a regular stop and one of the first of its kind I encountered.

The situation was different then. If you did not find that copy of Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts on LP, you did not hear it. You could only guess at what it sounded like end to end, check out songs from it on re-issue punk compilations. No Internet yet existed to link you instantly to the entire album.

Another difference is that, back then, if you were diligent in your crate digging and had a good poker face”, you could get valuable albums for a price below their market value. This was important for a college student on a budget, hungry to hear things that were otherwise not available. The folks running their vendor’s table were canny and good hagglers, sure, but the cross referenced database and marketplace for all known recordings was not yet available. I walked out once from one such adventure with a Public Enemy’s Fear of the Black Planet LP, first press, in shrink, for its original retail price ($9.98) because… that was the price marked on the front, from 1990. In 2024, all would have the ballpark figure, smartphones at the ready, the data to sort through, the going eBay price to throw out. It can make the process about as fun as using the Internet these days.

But still, the spirit of the event this past Sunday was convivial, folks ready to make deals and friendly conversation. The rarest of the rare Beatles records were on display, absolutely, but the two dollar record bins overflowed with potential finds. The event’s organizer was walking around, checking in and personally thanking each vendor for being a part of the show. This thing is still going strong and did not seem to have changed much in the twenty or so years since I last passed through.

I find these pockets of the world harder and harder to find, places and events of enduring community. They keep keepin’ on, awaiting the next generation to catch this stain of the gentle madness” and stop on by. They are often connected to Volunteer Fire Departments and Community Centers.

And what was I looking for at the 2024 Record Show? Ultra-rare Japanese pressings of certain albums? Deep groove” original press jazz LPs? Nah. I didn’t buy a single record. For me, the real deals are on cassettes and compact discs, as devalued as vinyl was in the 1990s. I may not be a college student, but I am still on a budget, and that sort of stuff is too rich for my blood. You can take the boy out of Southeast Baltimore…

Tim Kabara

IG: @kim_tabara

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