"We want to offer an alternative to the sterile environment of the old-school record shows," declares Mark Capon, co-owner of West Asheville's Harvest Records. "Instead of stuffy conference rooms, we want to provide a nice, warm space. Instead of individual dealers blasting tired classic rock, we have DJs, so people can listen to good music while they're flipping through the crates, maybe have a beer and sit on the patio."
Harvest organized the first Asheville Sound Swap earlier this year, along with Josh Thaxter, operator of the small in-house underground music dealership Tomentosa Records. The show was so successful that they're holding the Second Semi-Annual Asheville Sound Swap (that's right, the S.S.A.A.S.S.) this Sunday. The event coincides with the River District's semiannual studio stroll. Admission is free, the bar and Twin Cousins Kitchen will be open and DJs from low-power FM station WPVM will be spinning tunes.
The swap is an example of a resurfacing music-collector event: the record show. In the '80s and '90s, a thriving weekend culture of CD and record dealers traveled from town to town, setting up in hotel conference rooms and community centers, selling rare collectibles to area aficionados whose tastes could not be sustained by their local music retailers.
With the advent of the Internet, many dealers found they were getting better prices online without hauling heavy boxes of vinyl all over the country. While major record shows still maintained their cultural aura, like the legendary Austin Record Convention or the WFMU Record Fair in New York, many local shows started drying up. The Asheville Record Show, held for years at the Holiday Inn near the Biltmore Square Mall, was a casualty, fizzling in the early 2000s.
Enter Capon, Thaxter and Harvest co-owner Matt Schnable.
"We thought the time was ripe to bring a record show back to Asheville," Capon says. "What with the waxing interest in vinyl and all."
But how does the Asheville show differ from the usual record-collector experience, with its $200 doo-wop records on the wall and alternate pressings of Beatles records, picture-sleeve 45s and other items of little interest to the general public?
"A lot of people really like records, but they're not really collectors. We really wanted to make a show that's more about music fans than it was about rarity," Thaxter explains.
In other words, a more inclusive show -- one that can satisfy the needs of the hard-core vinyl collector, but provide some good music and afternoon-out entertainment value for the general music enthusiast as well.
"At the first Sound Swap, there were actually women there!" Thaxter says, laughing. "And they came on their own! If you've been to the typical record show, you know how uncommon that is."
The organizers have tried to recruit dealers who represent the diverse world of music and record acquisition, so expect tables with classic rock, country and soul 45s, black metal, '80s hip-hop, 12-inch discs, experimental music, indie rock, dollar records and used CDs.
"The more of a diversity of dealers, the better. No one wants to go to a record show with the same 15 vendors who carry the same King Crimson records. Let someone have those King Crimson records, but let someone else sell something totally different," Capon says.
Not that the old-school collector will go away from the show disappointed. "If you're looking for that $50 record that you can't find anywhere, it should be there. If you're looking for Beatles records, they'll be there. But considering the times, maybe you just want to comb through the dozens of crates of $1 to $3 records that most dealers will have alongside their higher-dollar items," Capon says.
Dealers will be coming from all over the East Coast, and the show will also feature the collections of some local collectors and dealers. And while the most enthusiastic collectors show up right at the opening to skim the cream of the crop, there are advantages to coming later in the day.
"I'll have a some boxes that will start the day at $3 a record, and then as the day goes on they'll steadily drop in price, until I'm practically giving them away," Thaxter reveals. "At the last show, several dealers started drinking beer about three o'clock, so by the end of the day they were really ready to wheel and deal."
what: Second Semi-Annual Asheville Sound Swap
where: The Grey Eagle
when: Sunday, Nov. 9. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Free. www.thegreyeagle.com)