Sunday, November 4, 2007

Why the 42 Bus is Music to Your Ears

Consider yourself lucky if you live on the 42 bus route and love music. In an era which CD sales are slumping and many CD and record stores are closing in favor of digital downloads, there are more than a handful of music retail options for residents of Mt Pleasant, Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle. I set out to visit five CD and record shops on the 42 bus route and pick up a few CDs along the way. There are others in the city, but I'm focusing on these five; Ritmo Latino, Red Onion, Crooked Beat, CD/Game Exchange, and Melody. I covered Smash! a few weeks ago after the last Adams Morgan First Tuesdays event.

First Stop, Ritmo Latino. Ritmo Latino is a chain music store with a DC location at 1775 Columbia Rd NW. Hop off the 42 bus at Ontario Rd. There are over 50 locations of Ritmo Latino nationwide, including more than 30 in California alone. They carry CDs and have a surprisingly large selection of DVDs. Nearly all of the products they offer are Spanish language. They also offer blank media, a very large selection of books, MP3 an CD players and some clothing and accessories. I was actually looking for a particular CD on this outing. The Grosse Point Blank soundtrack introduced me to Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, a genre-hopping Argentinian rock band. Ritmo Latino was very busy, but the staff was nice enough to point me in the right direction (I have to admit I was a little lost as far as how they organized the music on the shelves). I picked up the 1997 release Fabulosos Calavera. I must say, a good choice!

Inspired by the Grosse Point Blank soundtrack once again, I made my way down to Melody Record Shop in search of The Specials self titled album. Melody is located in Dupont at 1623 Connecticut Ave NW. Get off of the 42 bus at Q St. The place screams independent record store and I hope it sticks around for the long run and doesn't go the way of DCCD. Melody is primarily a general purpose record store with a little bit of everything really. Every genre is covered including a world section whose CDs are divided by nation. Thorough, thorough. So, of course they had the Specials disc I was in search of, but I balked a little at the $17 price tag. Its not a rare CD, so I figured I'd come back another day, or try one of the other stores on my little tour.

Step off the 42 bus at T St NW (near Buca di Beppo), walk over to 1901 18th St and you'll run into one of DC's newest record stores, Red Onion Records and Books. This place is the latest addition to the stretch of 18th St which bridges Dupont and Adams Morgan. Red Onion carries pre-owned CDs and records as well as books. Much of the vinyl collection is to die for and includes all of those records you wished you had bought back in the day (or like me, you did buy, and somehow lost, sold or gave away over the years). The true bonus though, is the book selection. I always find myself flipping through pages even though I originally came to thumb through the CDs. And speaking of, Red Onion has a book reading and discussion event coming up on Tuesday November 13. Anne Elizabeth Moore, author of Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity will be at the store from 7:00 until 8:30PM speaking on the new release.

Closer to Adams Morgan proper is Crooked Beat Records, at 2318 18th St NW. Crooked Beat features an impressive collection of vinyl and like the other 18th St stores Smash and Red Onion, they also offer a quality collection of CDs as well. Crooked Beat's CD selection is heavy on independent and punk with a more than cursory set aside for local artists. The vinyl section is kept up to date with the quality of new releases rivaling that of the classic. If you don't want to leave the house check out Crooked Beat's eBay action site. They also carry music DVDs and a small selections of magazines. They'll special order anything not in stock as well. I didn't have to special order, I bought I Just Can't Stop It by The (English) Beat. On a little ska kick I, guess. Crooked beat hosts in-store performances on occasion. This month catch up with locals The Carribean on November 15th and Georgie James on the 17th. Performances start at 7-7:30ish.

CD/Game Exchange won't pass as a true record store to the vinyl enthusiast or purist, but its on the this list because its a good place to find brand new, really old, popular, independent and local stuff all under one roof. And its uniformly inexpensive. Forget Best Buy and Target. Between the two CD/Game Exchange locations in DC (ours at 2475 18th St NW and one in Tenleytown) you should be able to find almost any new major label release, but pre-owned. You want Blackout by Britney, or anything by Justin Guarini (whhhhhyyyyyy!?!?!?!!) but don't want anyone to know, or can't bear paying full retail price? Just go to CD/Game. They're likely have the new chart-topper like Blackout for sale as a pre-owned anywhere from a week or so on out after its official release. Amazing how soon original owners get rid of those "gems" so early. And for older stuff, like Gaurini's you at least have a chance to find it at CD/Game. There is no guarantee that they'll have any particular CD, but they are very good at culling the other local CD/Game stores for you. A big draw for CD/Game Exchange are video games as the name implies. They offer pre-owned games for multiple formats, including PS3, XBox360 and Wii. Occasionally you'll come across hardware like MP3 players, game consoles and stereos. For a treat, walk to the back and check out the black labeled CDs that are 25 cents and the choice few winners that are 10 for a dollar. Again, no guarantees, but at 10 for a dollar you can just image what you might walk away with... (yes, paging Dr. Gaurini, you're needed in room 10 stat)

Count your lucky stars people, and then go spend you disposable income at one of these fine establishments. Not every city has it this good. and iTunes are boring! Go outside and walk, be instantly gratified! You'll love me for it later, I swear. And if you come across that Specials CD, let me know.