Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Search for Rare Soul in Allentown, Pennsylvania: Day 2

Just in case Day 1 wasn’t overwhelming enough, we got up bright and early to attack the Allentown record fair with a vengeance. What awaited us was 9000 square feet packed with only 45s. It’s the biggest convention of its kind in North America. I’m not a big coffee drinker but I exceptionally had one that morning just for the extra boost I needed to face such a daunting task.

We got in line for the early bird entrance and got to chat with a nice man who has been a regular for years. His recollection of the past years only got us more amped. This is it! This is why we drove 7 hours for!

Whoa! What a sight! Where to begin? Mayday! Mayday! Sensory overload! Without being over dramatic, it's a bit intimidating at first to walk into the place. But like any true crate digger, you take a deep breath, roll up your sleeves and dive in. The trick is not to buy the first thing you come accross. I had to be selective or I would have blown my budget in the first five minutes.

I was very happy to see that, just like the previous night, the vast majority of what was for sale was music by black artists. Soul was the main style represented with Doo-Wop or “groups”, as many dealers advertised it, coming in at a close second. For all you Garage and Psychedelic fans out there, do not despair, there was enough to keep you busy for hours. Since I had limited funds and only a few hours to go through countless records, I focused my digging efforts around Soul 45s that would find a home in my DJ box.

One thing needs to be explained to me. If you're going to pay extra for the early bird entrance, how come half the dealers aren't open or have sheets over their merchandise? Feels like a ripe-off to me! 

Since I'm on the complaint bandwagon, let me address another problem. Where do these dealers get their prices from? Record convention shouldn't equal retail + 20%. The prices were insane! Some dealers weren't even open to negotiations. Some stalls had 50% off boxes which amounted to retail price. I'm starting to think that eBay remains one the best places to buy records. And for all you dealers out there, if a record has a "buy it now" price of $250 on eBay, it doesn't mean that's what it's worth.

That being said, I did manage to cross off a few records off my wish list for a fair price. Two Northern Soul classics were added to my collection: Chuck Wood's Seven Days Is Too Long and Bonnie & Lee's The Way I Feel About You. These are the type of songs that you hardly get tired of and that gets a dance floor going every time. 

The others I picked up were new to me. This is the best kind of find. You buy something that you stumble upon and that you never knew you really wanted. Some acts I was familiar with, like The Exciters and The Ohio Players, but my handy Soundburger made me discover some new tunes.

Will this become an annual pilgrimage? Probably not. The prices are too high for my taste and everything I found can be bought at a click of a mouse. Do I regret going? Not at all. This was a record buying experience I will not soon forget.

This dealer from Virginia is probably the funniest and nicest dealer I've met in a while. Here he is enjoying Montreal's Papa Bill Records.

I can't guarantee that this will become a regular occurrence but here's the second installment of the Parka Avenue Podcast. All the selections come from what I brought back from Allentown. The last two tracks are some of Papa Bill's favorite purchases.

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