Published on April 17th, 2014 | by Daniel Salas3
Record Store Day: A buyer’s guide to the 6th Ave record stores
This Saturday April 19, record stores around the world will celebrate Record Store Day, a day devoted, obviously, to the local businesses that provide physical music to their communities, despite the economic hardships most of these stores face.
Now in its seventh year, the event is designed to celebrate vinyl culture as well as bring in customers who may not normally venture into a record store. Featuring live performances and limited edition releases, Record Store Day has grown from a moderate 300-store endeavor to an internationally celebrated phenomenon, with this year’s event likely to be the largest since it began in 2008.
While Tacoma may not be the most musical town this side of the Mississippi, it does have a surprisingly large amount of record stores, nearly all of which are in walking distance from each other.
Though not all are officially celebrating Record Store Day, April 19th is still a great excuse for record collectors to visit these local shops and help keep vinyl alive. In preparation, I offer a buyer’s guide to Tacoma’s 6th Ave record stores, from the westernmost to the easternmost.
3823 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98406
Located near Proctor Street, Rocket Records houses possibly the most diverse selection of records in Tacoma, but don’t expect to find anything for cheap. Few (if any) of the albums here sell for under 12 dollars, including such in-demand records as piano-only movie soundtracks, Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling, and Kiss live CDs.
The high prices, coupled with the perceived unfriendliness of the man behind the counter, prevent me from ranking this among the best record stores in Tacoma. However, potential record buyers shouldn’t pass by Rocket Records with their noses in the air – this store has some great albums for sale you won’t be able to find anywhere else. From limited edition, sealed Sonic Youth records to rare Madonna imports, chances are Rocket Records has something of interest to offer most vinyl collectors, but one must be willing to drop some serious cash. The storekeeper seemed to view Record Store Day with a bit of disdain, and was unable to tell me which records the store would be carrying for the occasion. Still, record collectors and enthusiasts will have nothing to lose by stopping by on Saturday to see what the store has to offer.
3521 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98406
Upon entering Golden Oldies, one gets the feeling of walking through a portal to a dusty musical past. The walls are lined with crinkly black and white photographs, handpainted advertisements, empty matchboxes, and signed instruments – emblems of a culture that may be gone but is far from forgotten.
Focused mostly on music from the 1950s to the 1970s, Golden Oldies caters to the classic vinyl hobbyist, but their prices are cheap enough for anyone to enjoy. They offer a wide range of $1 LPs, even cheaper 45s, and enough inexpensive rarities to make fans of scratchy rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, and blues rejoice. I spotted a 5 LP Bruce Springsteen box set priced at just $12 during my last visit, and I’m sure there are many other wonders to be found for similarly low prices. Because the store only carries “oldies,” as the name suggests, they don’t plan on stocking any of the special Record Store Day releases coming out on April 19th. Fortunately, this store has no need for them; its fairly-priced and well-curated collection of classic records should be enough to entice customers on its own.
2612 6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98406
If you’re looking for albums that came out less than 30 years ago, Hi-Voltage should be your go-to record store. As the only location in Tacoma where one can buy Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days or Danny Brown’s Old on vinyl, Hi-Voltage Records seems to have cornered the market on new releases, making it the definitive record store for Tacoma’s growing community of vinyl enthusiasts and DJs.
Hi-Voltage has the largest selection of hip-hop vinyl in Tacoma, though their assortment of older vinyl consequently pales in comparison to those of their neighbors. With new albums selling at $25 and vintage or reissued vinyl usually marked around $15 or lower, Hi-Voltage is perhaps the most average-priced of the 6th Ave record stores – not cheap, but a customer needn’t lose an arm and a leg to walk out with a great record or two. This year will be their biggest Record Store Day yet, and they are offering numerous special edition records to coincide with the event. Expect to see releases from Mudhoney, Built to Spill, Devo, and a very limited tribute album to Nirvana’s In Utero available this Saturday, as well as a sale on all used vinyl. The store opens at 9 AM and they expect a line to form outside, so if you want to get your hands on limited edition vinyl made specifically for Record Store Day, be sure to show up early.
608 N Prospect St, Tacoma, WA 98406
If you’re fascinated by all this vinyl hubbub but don’t yet have a hi-fi sound system, this store should definitely be your first stop. Turntable Treasures is the audiophile’s heaven: stacks of turntables, receivers, and amplifiers fill the modest space nearly to the ceiling. This location is a one-stop-shop for all of your sound system needs, from needles to speakers and everything in between.
Turntable Treasures may at first seem more focused on selling hi-fis, but venture past the audio equipment and you’ll find yourself in House of Records, the establishment’s record-selling alter-ego. House of Records holds an immense assortment of classic vinyl, mostly from the 1950s through the 1980s. If you’re a jazz-head, make doubly sure to stop by – it has the largest selection of jazz records in Tacoma. Fans of local music may also be impressed by the store’s well organized and surprisingly deep Northwest section. The folks here believe that every day should be Record Store Day, so don’t expect to see any specials for the occasion, but true record collectors would miss out on a chance to snag some rare, sealed original pressings if they decide to skip out on this store.
Disclaimer: While Drastic Plastic does indeed sell records – along with cheap Levis, discount cigarettes, and smoking paraphernalia – it isn’t a record store per se. Because of this, I elected not to include it on this list. However, if you’re interested in exploring every store on 6th Ave that carries records, don’t neglect this quirky store; you never know where you’ll find the next treasure of your record collection.
Record Store Day fosters a culture that celebrates and supports the arts, musicians, and the stores that keep vinyl alive in their communities. Year by year, an increasing number of record stores close their doors due to a lack of revenue, making the sale of physical music a progressively rare phenomenon. While it is not my intention to evoke pity for these often mismanaged and market-inept stores, I do believe that we have a responsibility to support our music scene, and that often begins with becoming patrons of the businesses that supply non-mainstream or hard-to-find music to the community.
The record store continues to be a site of discovery, musical fulfillment, and hours of engrossing, face to face conversations with chill clerks – something Spotify will never be able to replace.