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Best US cities for record stores?


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Hi everyone, 

 

New around these parts and kicking off with potentially an annoying request..but I'm after some advice. I'm planning on a trip for some record buying this year as a birthday present for my girlfriend. I know in the past she's mentioned Chicago, Detroit & Seattle as places she wanted to visit, specifically for the music scene, or history of a music scene.

 

Ideally I want it to be a complete surprise, so I don't want to dig any further in case she's on to me. 

 

Does anyone have any recommendations out of those 3 cities? We went to New York record hunting recently so I think that's out of the question but am completely open to other suggestions (doesn't need to be one of those). It'll be a long weekend, Thurs/Fri to Monday so have a few days to spend in the city too. 

 

I'm UK based so my knowledge or stores stateside is very limited to say the least. Any advice appreciated really!

 

Cheers!

V

 

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Yeah, you’d barely have time to see the food trucks in those cities over a long weekend. Three days is pretty short. 

 

You also don’t say if you’re renting a car or relying on walking/public transportation. 

 

Based on your list, if you had to do something, I’d say Chicago:

 

1. Probably the best record stores of the bunch. 

2. Certainly the best public transportation to get around of the bunch. 

3. A few of the shops are walkable to each other. 

4. A shorter flight than Seattle. 

5. Atomic Relish

 

 

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4 minutes ago, unknown pleasures said:

Yeah, you’d barely have time to see the food trucks in those cities over a long weekend. Three days is pretty short. 

 

You also don’t say if you’re renting a car or relying on walking/public transportation. 

 

Based on your list, if you had to do something, I’d say Chicago:

 

1. Probably the best record stores of the bunch. 

2. Certainly the best public transportation to get around of the bunch. 

3. A few of the shops are walkable to each other. 

4. A shorter flight than Seattle. 

5. Atomic Relish

 

 

Totally agree with this. Dusty Groove, Shugga and Reckless are all walking distance from each other and Chicago is such fun city and pretty affordable. 

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I really liked record shopping in Seattle and Portland.  New York was pretty good too but I wasn't quite as impressed. I'd love to go record shopping in Chicago though....

 

Depending on amount of time and whether you want to do multi-city/destination, Toronto is also quite fun for record shopping - there are quite a few stores, and while some aren't so impressive, there are an array of pretty good ones (a number of which have opened up in the last five years), and the GBP will go further when compared against the Canadian dollar.  Let me know if Toronto is where you end up and I can make some suggestions.

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1 hour ago, jerseypride said:

Totally agree with this. Dusty Groove, Shugga and Reckless are all walking distance from each other and Chicago is such fun city and pretty affordable. 

Also, you can search Reckless’ inventory online (www.reckless.com -kept reasonably up to date), so you can do some planning beforehand if there are things you are looking for. 

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I'll throw Cincinnati out there. Lots of record stores and probably a cheaper overall trip. From my house there are at least 5 record stores (Plaid Room Records, Shake It Records, Everybody's Records, Black Plastic, Main St. Vinyl) within 30 minutes, you can easily hit at least 4 of them in a day with a couple of short skips across the highway. I believe there are at least 3 or 4 more right across the river in northern KY too. 

Edited by serum7
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My recommendation with "record trips" is that you can buy whatever you want these days online. With discogs and ebay,  you arent going to find some oop gem sitting in their stacks inventory. 

 

You are mostly going to find new sealed items that can be bought anywhere, older classic rock albums and a few" wall pieces" that may not be what you want anyways.

 

As someone who travels a ton for work and been to alot of stores, I never walk out thinking that was the greatest store visit ever.

 

However, stores that I think generally are awesome and different

End of An Ear- Austin

Twist and Shout/Wax Trax- Denver(My current city stores)

Strictly Discs/Mad City Music- Madison WI

Permanent Records- Chicago sadly closed by have a LA location

 

NYC/Brooklyn, Chicago, LA and SF are generally picked over pretty well

 

My recommendation is spend those 4 or 5 days going to a city because you like it, want to catch some shows or a festival or a nice vacation. Dont make it around buying records. If they have a cool store, go for it but that should be  a small part of why you want to go there

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14 minutes ago, youspinmeround said:

My recommendation with "record trips" is that you can buy whatever you want these days online. With discogs and ebay,  you arent going to find some oop gem sitting in their stacks inventory. 

 

You are mostly going to find new sealed items that can be bought anywhere, older classic rock albums and a few" wall pieces" that may not be what you want anyways.

 

As someone who travels a ton for work and been to alot of stores, I never walk out thinking that was the greatest store visit ever.

 

However, stores that I think generally are awesome and different

End of An Ear- Austin

Twist and Shout/Wax Trax- Denver(My current city stores)

Strictly Discs/Mad City Music- Madison WI

Permanent Records- Chicago sadly closed by have a LA location

 

NYC/Brooklyn, Chicago, LA and SF are generally picked over pretty well

 

My recommendation is spend those 4 or 5 days going to a city because you like it, want to catch some shows or a festival or a nice vacation. Dont make it around buying records. If they have a cool store, go for it but that should be  a small part of why you want to go there

Permanent records Chicago was sold but still in operation as joyride records. From what I can tell it is still very similar to permanent. 

 

 

If you go to Chicago I recommend June-August with shoulder months may and September. 

 

There are tons of free or cheap outdoor concerts, movies, yoga, street fests, fireworks, etc. you will have a much more entertaining time.  

 

For how long you are traveling and the price of flights id really suggest staying at least 5 nights. If you can go longer I’d also recommend taking the train to Milwaukee for two nights. It’s about an hour and a half train ride. Milwaukee has almost everything Chicago has without a lot of the big city congestion. 

 

Or take a bus to Madison, WI. It’s about 2 1/2 hours and is a university town & state capital. 

Edited by Tidal Wave
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23 minutes ago, youspinmeround said:

My recommendation with "record trips" is that you can buy whatever you want these days online. With discogs and ebay,  you arent going to find some oop gem sitting in their stacks inventory. 

 

You are mostly going to find new sealed items that can be bought anywhere, older classic rock albums and a few" wall pieces" that may not be what you want anyways.

 

As someone who travels a ton for work and been to alot of stores, I never walk out thinking that was the greatest store visit ever.

 

However, stores that I think generally are awesome and different

End of An Ear- Austin

Twist and Shout/Wax Trax- Denver(My current city stores)

Strictly Discs/Mad City Music- Madison WI

Permanent Records- Chicago sadly closed by have a LA location

 

NYC/Brooklyn, Chicago, LA and SF are generally picked over pretty well

 

My recommendation is spend those 4 or 5 days going to a city because you like it, want to catch some shows or a festival or a nice vacation. Dont make it around buying records. If they have a cool store, go for it but that should be  a small part of why you want to go there

I’d like to agree with you on this, but i think it’s very untrue. I’ve been across the US many many times and have found insane gems in record stores across the country. I found an original 2010 pressing of Fantastic Planet in New Mexico for $25 new in 2014. Or From Under The Cork Tree(og die cut cover) for $10 in 2012. I will agree with that list of stores though, all great.

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Nobody has mentioned it but I am actually going to vote Phoenix. For sure don't travel here for a three day weekend, but I just wanted to brag on us. On top of the shitshow of mispricings that is Zia Records in town, we have a huge volume of independents. Nobody here seems to really care a ton about music nearly as much as in other places, and every store seems to have one thing they really like to misprice. So yeah, this means that there's a lot of inventory hitting the floor at a lot of different stores and very little competition relative to the volume. If you're coming into Phoenix send me a PM and I'll give you a run down of what to hit while you're in town.

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4 hours ago, unknown pleasures said:

Yeah, you’d barely have time to see the food trucks in those cities over a long weekend. Three days is pretty short. 

 

You also don’t say if you’re renting a car or relying on walking/public transportation. 

 

Based on your list, if you had to do something, I’d say Chicago:

 

1. Probably the best record stores of the bunch. 

2. Certainly the best public transportation to get around of the bunch. 

3. A few of the shops are walkable to each other. 

4. A shorter flight than Seattle. 

5. Atomic Relish

 

 

I was going to make that same recommendation.   I live in the burbs of Detroit and there's not anything worth coming from out of town for, in my opinion.  There are some good (Street Corner Music, Found Sound, UHF, Stormy, Dearborn Music) but not great stores around.  Plus for most of those stores, they're all pretty far apart and without any public transit to speak of, you'd be hard pressed.  Chicago would be a much better pick in my opinion.   

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3 hours ago, serum7 said:

I'll throw Cincinnati out there. Lots of record stores and probably a cheaper overall trip. From my house there are at least 5 record stores (Plaid Room Records, Shake It Records, Everybody's Records, Black Plastic, Main St. Vinyl) within 30 minutes, you can easily hit at least 4 of them in a day with a couple of short skips across the highway. I believe there are at least 3 or 4 more right across the river in northern KY too. 

To be fair, why would anyone go to Cincinnati for vacation? 

 

- Your friend, from an hour and a half-ish north.

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1 minute ago, Satan said:

To be fair, why would anyone go to Cincinnati for vacation? 

 

- Your friend, from an hour and a half-ish north.

Good point. I suppose my response was more geared toward the record store part of the equation.  Then again all the cities mentioned (including Cincinnati) sound terrible so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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If you do Chicago, Milwaukee is only an 1 1/2 hour train ride away and costs just $25. Great city imo (but I'm biased) and some decent record stores. Exclusive Company, Acme Records, Bullseye Records. Plus the music venues are way more interesting/historic than most of Chicago's. 

 

Madison is also pretty close but you have to take a bus to get there. Strictly Discs for that place, and depending on when you're here, there can be some pretty cool and sometimes free music events going on. Live on King Street is pretty cool, as is Madison's Favorite Concert presented by Isthmus. Majestic Madison tends to have just about every show posted on their website's concert calendar. And again, pretty cool city. 

 

Live on King Street

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Edited by GloomForever
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Gotta mention Dave's for Chicago, I think my favorite scores from my trip last summer came from there (reckless and dusty groove had good stuff, didnt find anything at shuga's cool store though). I think there are good record stores everywhere, but if you are looking for used records it depends on the demographics, if I drive to St. Louis I'm going to find a lot more soul but if I drive an equal distance the opposite way to kansas city i'll see more jazz, what's scarce in one city, could be plentiful in another. I can't keep sinatra in stock at my shop, if I drive a half hour to another local shop he has a row full. It's odd, how what's popular can vary by even a small distance

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7 hours ago, Dunc said:

I mostly shop in the SF Bay area and East Bay. I love punk and hardcore and don't think I could find a better area outside maybe new York. I also hit a lot of the bigger chain thrift stores in the shittier areas and if I get lucky leave with stacks of amazing classic rock.

I think if you take the Bay Area as a whole there are tons of amazing shops to make the trip worthwhile

-in the east bay besides amoeba and rasputin 1234go and contact are great visits

-in the city asides from amoeba there are some great shops on valencia st. along with thrillhouse (amazing punk) on mission, tunnel (i'm biased its my shop) way out in the sunset, and on haight rooky ricardo's (i dare you to find a better 45 selection) and groovemerchant (for that white whale soul/jazz record you've been searching for)

-in the north bay Red Devil in San Rafael is great for punk, reggae, blues etc while further north the Last Great Record Store in santa rosa always has great stuff. 

 

oh and its all in california.

 

 

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