Vinyl takes center stage at Black Cat

Chris Knott did not go to the Black Cat on Sunday to listen to music. He went to sell it.

Knott, a local DJ, was one of 30 vendors from along the East Coast who attended the D.C. Record Fair, an event that has evolved into a tradition among the city’s music community. Held in the past at local venues like Civilian Art Projects and Comet Ping Pong, the fair attracts a different crowd each time.

“The last few shows I saw little evidence of any serious jazz fans or collectors,” Knott said. “This one seemed to have more than usual, many being in their 20s.”

Although acts like Kid Congo Powers, BlueBrain and Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton played on the mainstage throughout the day, the music did not distract the crowd of people that tore through stacks of crates full of vinyl records. Fair-goers were sprawled out throughout the venue, some even kneeling on the floor, flipping through each individual record. Perhaps the only thing more diverse than those in attendance was the music selection. Kids and adults alike clung to an eclectic range of vinyl, from Kanye West’s “College Dropout” to obscure ’70s funk.

Patrick Gordy, an employee of Som Records, a sponsor of the event, explained the difference between the D.C. Record Fair and other fairs throughout the country.

“We just try and make it more of an event,” he said. “You can buy food and alcohol, it’s not as nerdy as just going to a normal record fair.”

Knott said that even though records are far from being a cutting-edge musical format, they are still in high demand.

“Vinyl has never been phased out, just pushed to the side and ignored, which has allowed much of it to come into the used market since many casual buyers switched to digital formats like CDs and mp3s,” he said. He added that a record’s durability allows it to survive years of neglect and wear-and-tear.

“Try listening to a scratched-up CD that is 20 years old,” he said.

Other enthusiasts are convinced the sound quality is better.

“I just enjoy listening to it more,” GW freshman Drew Bandos said. “Each instrument is more distinct, so you can hear the texture better.”

One of Knott’s favorite parts of working the fairs are the interactions he has with customers.

“I had a great exchange where I sold a guy a copy of Australian punk-rock pioneers The Saints’ second LP, ‘Eternally Yours,’ ” he said. “I told him that I was on the hunt for their first LP, ‘(I’m) Stranded’, and he says, ‘Oh, that guy over there has one in his crates for sale!’ So I went over and bought it!”

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