Area stores keep vinyl rocking
Audiophiles love the physical format. Ask any music fan around and they’ll tell you they’d rather be holding a limited edition color vinyl or hard-to-find cassette tape in their slimy hands than buying music out of thin, digital air.
To wit: Vinyl sales have been climbing steadily, rising 20.4 percent in 2017 — a continuation of vinyl’s 2016 surge, according to Buzzangle’s mid-year report.
It’s a stat that’s reflected in the healthy glow of record store marquees around Denver. And with that in mind, we dug through the bins and brains behind the Front Range’s favorite record stores to find out why the stores are still spinning.
Chain Reaction Records
Specialty: Metal, in all its grimy incarnations.
If you consider yourself a metalhead and don’t frequent Chain Reac-
Records, you can just go ahead and burn your battle vest right now. Not to be confused with Athmar Park’s Chain Reaction Brewery Company, the store is housed in a scant shopping strip along Colfax Avenue in Lakewood and houses a comprehensive metal collection. The offerings include the usual suspects like Motörhead and Iron Maiden, but there are deeper, arcane cuts to be had, like a 1998 demo tape from a band named Squalor, which is so mysterious that no mention of the band exists on the internet.
Justin Lent opened the space with his brother Josh just over two years ago. The shop has a stage, complete with a house drum set, which gives the space an old-school basement vibe. Lent, who tries to hold at least two shows a month in the shop, said most of the store’s 4,000piece stockpile is used goods, such as the recently sold $200 band-only Repulsion 7-inch pressing he uncovered in a box of Jerry Reed records.
8799 W. Colfax Ave., Lakewood, 303-237-4445; facebook.com/ chainreaction303
Wax Trax Records
Specialty: Classical and punk
Capitol Hill’s Wax Trax Records has so many musical offerings that it can’t be contained inside one store. The CDS are housed on the corner of East 13th Avenue and Washington Street, while the extensive vinyl collection, which numbers in the “hundreds of thousands,” according to employee Mike Buckley, is on display two storefronts down on 13th Avenue.
Buckley couldn’t give an exact number of the store’s vinyl numbers since nothing gets thrown out. “We have basements full of stuff,” he said. “We’ll put something down there and go back a decade later when (that genre of music) is popular and pull it out.”
One new, somewhat obscure category the store created not too long ago is the organized classical music section. But Wax Trax is better known for its extensive underground punk, UK imports, industrial and new wave selections — a collection that became renowned during the 1980s and ’90s. When the Mercury Cafe was across the street, hard-core punk pioneers like Black Flag and Circle Jerks used to shop the shelves. (Keith Morris, who fronted both bands, plus OFF!, still drops in when he’s in town, Buckley said.)
The best thing about this shop, though, is the fair (if not downright cheap) prices. I scored an original 1972 Leon Russell “Carney” album and a Lightnin’ Hopkins 1962 “Nothin’ But The Blues!” repress for $10 ... total.
638 E. 13th Ave., Capitol Hill, 303-860-0127; waxtraxrecords.com
Twist and Shout Records
Specialty: Everything With over 11,000 square feet to fill, it would be a disservice to call the basilica that is Congress Park’s Twist and Shout just a record store.
Aside from the vast musical offerings — owner Paul Epstein guessed there are around 250,000 records for sale at any given time — which span every genre from Celtic to classical, the shop sells Funko Pop! Vinyl figurines, music memorabilia, T-shirts, books and DVDS. You can even pick up 8-tracks there.
And then there’s the music memorabilia that isn’t for sale. It makes Twist and Shout like a free museum. There are signed Nancy Sinatra boots, a banner from Bruce Springsteen’s 26th anniversary concert in New Jersey and a marquee piece from the former Rainbow Music Hall. But the most popular piece of memorabilia is a large, lighted advertisement for The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” album, featuring a pigeon-toed Robert Smith with his Fender Jazzmaster draped over his shoulder.
Professional musicians tour Twist and Shout “every day,” Epstein said. “From Eric Clapton to every modern band, they all shop in here.”
2508 E. Colfax Ave., Congress Park, 303-722-1943; twistandshout.com
Specialty: Local gems and mint-condition collectibles
While many local music stores have been around for decades, Recollect Records is one of the new kids on the block, having opened in a former art gallery just over a year ago.
The store is chic, more like a carefully curated exhibition (it’s blocks away from the Denver Art Museum) than the usual musty record cavern. The walls are carefully decorated with music posters and paintings, and the lighting makes the room look crisp. In turn, most of the 10,000 records for sale in owner Austin Matthews’ store are high-end, nearmint condition first press- es, but the back room houses a healthy hodgepodge of used records for $3 each.
Matthews came into his treasure trove of local music after buying a lot from an area church.
“The high-end stuff is obscure, a lot of Denver music,” he said, like copies of local singer-songwriter Kenny Knight’s “Crossroads” LP. The limitedpressed, self-released 1980 record “Crossroads” found the light of day when a collector uncovered it at Twist and Shout a couple of years ago. Since then, “Crossroads” has been repressed, but the originals have become valuable collectibles for local music lovers. Other offbeat regional wax at Recollect includes a bevy of Denver gospel music. Otherwise, Matthew stocks mostly R&B, jazz and soul records.
1255 Delaware St., Golden Triangle, 720-542-8785; recollectrecords.com
Angelo’s CDS & More
Specialty: Used music ... and medieval weapons
The “More” in Angelo’s name is key: In addition to that new Katy Perry release, the long-running music shop sells everything from pot paraphernalia to medieval weaponry. Seriously: Swords run in the $70 range, while a ball-and-chain mace costs $24.99.
“I often say we sell it all from sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” manager Brian Rooney said. (The shop does a lot of business from the cannabis counter.)
Of course, Angelo’s, which will soon be Angelo’s Records, does sell music. It offers top-notch record players, especially around the holiday season, and houses around 15,000 LPS and 45s in the store at any one time, most of it used. Right now, more classic cuts, like a $290 “The Velvet Underground & Nico” first pressing, are lined along a wall next to the paraphernalia and suits of armor.
937 E. Colfax Ave., Capitol Hill, 303-863-8668; angeloscds.com
Bart’s Record Shop
Specialty: Alternative and rock
Bart’s is the movable epicenter of Boulder’s physical music scene. After bouncing around a few times since 1993, the store’s latest home is on Folsom Street. (Founder Bart Stinchcomb was pushing music out of the closet inside a hot tub rental spot before securing a legit setup.)
After Stinchcomb moved back to Maryland last year, Will Paradise, a vinyl hobbyists since forever, stepped in to preside over his collection. Though the people and place has changed, artists and record addicts alike have been stopping by Bart’s calls home.
The music selection is as varied as any shop around, with a mixture of classics and current chart toppers. The store’s offerings mimic Rolling Stone’s Top 100 albums of all-time lists, which are released and reshuffled every five years or so.
They stock all forms of physical music, Paradise said, noting that cassettes and CDS are becoming more popular. They even sell the odd 8-track, mostly from customers who just bought an old car.
Sale or no sale, some relics are better left in the past.
“I hope 8-tracks never come back into style,” he said.
1625 Folsom St., Boulder, 303-444-1760; bartsrecordshop.com
University of Denver student Eli Bogan, 22, listens to a record at Twist & Shout in 2011.
Greg Mudd of Bart’s Music Shack sorts through music at the store’s 28th Street location in Boulder in 2013. The store has since moved to Folsom Street.
Dennis Leyba of Commerce City browses the CD selection at Angelo’s CDS & More.