Many of us remember the physical experience of browsing through and purchasing records.
Flipping through albums at the store, you lift one out of the rack, looking at the cover art. Album art is a genre in itself. The exposure artists receive through music is remarkable. The anticipation of opening the plastic and sliding the precious record out of the sleeve for its first listen on your turntable at home. The sound of the needle touching the record as it begins to play.
If you miss this at all, you should know that record collecting and listening is still alive and thriving, especially here in Hutchinson.
You can begin your journey to reliving the vinyl life at a unique event called Vinyl Night on Monday, June 11, at the Rusty Needle, 1808 N Plum St. From 7 to 10 p.m., you can listen to various records being played on a turntable.
This is the second Vinyl Night hosted by Michael Rumback and Jonathan Carroll, two local vinyl enthusiasts. If you love records, I encourage you to attend, and possibly join in.
Vinyl Night consists of audience participation.
Jonathan Carroll, local record collector and audiophile, describes Vinyl Night as “an idea to get people together to share and enjoy music of all types, new or old, slow or fast. The idea was to treat the night as an open mic night of sorts. A different member provides the listening source each time, which usually consists of a nice turntable, receiver or amp, and speakers. So the idea is to have a different listening experience every new Vinyl Night.”
So how does this work?
You will want to join the Central Kansas Vinyl Collectors, Audiophiles and Hi-Fi Enthusiasts Group on Facebook. There you can sign up for a 20-minute time slot to play a selection from your records that you bring that evening. Getting a time slot secured online will ensure you have a chance to be included.
I still have my hundred or so records that I collected in the 1980s. Along with all the goth music in that collection, is an extensive grouping of what I called "Tiki Music." Music from Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman and others, with their exotic cocktail sounds. Sometimes the album covers alone were worth the fifty cents or a dollar I paid for the albums.
Much of the satisfaction from looking for records came from the experience. The treasure hunt. The joy of record stores on second floors above shops, or down the alley, the thrift stores and garage sales. And it still is just as fun today as it was then! When I would get home, the first activity would be to put on the record and listen to it. It was a complete experience.
Stephen Godfroy, co-owner and director of Rough Trade, makes a poignant observation, “Vinyl demands dedicated listening, so listening habits are shifting to reflect a multi-format-savvy level of comfort. Listening to music in your own home is not just secondary to another activity. Music is returning to the fore of engagement, as a personal and social occasion to absorb, savor, share and cherish.”
Making a conscious choice to listen to music is a different approach than having it always in the background as we go about our day. Taking the time to focus on what is immediately before us is a wonderful dynamic.
There are plenty of others who share the same passion for records. Carroll mentions the early origins of his being enthralled by records, “There has always been an appeal for me since I was a kid looking through my parents' collection the big cover and artwork just appealed to me. I also like reading the back of a baseball card have always enjoyed the liner notes which never seemed to be easy to read on a cassette or CD.”
The Central Kansas Vinyl Collectors Group came about through the efforts of Hutchinson resident Michael Rumback, who describes the origins, “About a year and a half ago, Hastings was closing down, and we were looking at a bleak future as a town without a record store. As listening to and collecting records was one of my favorite things to do, I was bummed. I was not excited about living in a town without a record store. Growing up, we had Hayes and Poorboy's, which were two of the first places I ever purchased music from. They were both long gone, and we were looking at becoming a music desert. That's when the idea occurred to me: start a local group. Focus on the vinyl community, not retail, and try to meet up occasionally. The idea was born.”
There are collectors of all types of music on vinyl, but as Carroll says, “Classic rock seems to me to be the most collected since LPs were the main format during the 60's and 70’s, although our group has all kinds of collectors from old big band 78 collectors to people who only buy modern music on newly pressed vinyl.” Rumback adds “Every collector has their own niche. However, not all old records are valuable. Pink Floyd, Beatles, Zappa and Grateful Dead records are valuable.”
If you have interest in record collecting, I encourage you to seek out the local community of fellow audiophiles.
When I asked Rumback about the future of the group and its mission, he replied, “Our main goal is to build a fun, inclusive community based on our shared interests in records and hi-fi. Through this group, I've grown my record collection, but have also met some great people. Our monthly Swap Meets have become something that I really look forward to.
"It's a place where lifelong collectors, people getting back into vinyl and curious people buying records for the first time can interact and learn from each other... We buy, sell and trade stuff all the time, but there's also just lots of giving. Hopefully, we create more events and bring more people into this community. I'm in a lot of Vinyl Groups on Facebook and people around the world are always impressed to find out what we have here in Hutchinson and Central Kansas."
Keep an eye and ear out for more vinyl events. This is a growing interest. Before you know it, we may see a local record store opening, something I have dreamed of for years!
Jennifer Randall, a Hutchinson artist and organizer of Third Thursday, writes an arts and entertainment column for The Hutchinson News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.