There was no stopping music lovers as they lined up through the rain as early as 6 a.m. on April 13, 2019. Avalon Records owner Chris Lamb rallies the crowd before store open. // Photo by Mike Oh
By Mike Oh
Prospectors camped in the rain outside Avalon Records as early as 6 a.m. to dig through record crates. Lines bended around the store’s corner as the Railroad Avenue store prepared to open April 13 for Record Store Day.
“Each year the line around the block gets just a little bit bigger,” Chris Lamb, Avalon Records owner, said.
Lamb, 40, said he has been working in record stores since he was 15 years old. He worked at Avalon since 1999 after graduating from Western in 1997.
According to Lamb, Record Store Day started in 2008 to bring music lovers together in support of local independent record stores. On this day, artists and bands release special versions of their albums, ranging from box sets to different color variations and even unreleased music.
Collaborating with a local nonprofit radio station KZAX, Avalon turned up the day’s events with a concert series from local Bellingham artists, including Glitchlette, Paedar MacMahon and the Seattle-based band High Pulp.
“We really ramped up the level of what people can experience, the music, the spectacle of a record store at full tilt,” Lamb said.
Located next to Everyday Music, a chain record store, some Bellingham locals talked about why they choose Avalon first.
“I’ve known Chris since he was an employee here. I come here first because I support the local businesses and local people,” Jerry Barnett, who has been collecting records for the past 43 years, said.
Camping out since 5:45 a.m. with her friends and despite being first in line, Ferndale High School student Julia Smith came over to Avalon to try her luck after striking out at Everyday Music for “The Crow” soundtrack. It is currently re-selling for over $120.
“This is our second year, but we’ve been buying records longer than that,” Smith said.
The physical nature of vinyl makes the record a piece of art, according to Smith.
“You can look at a picture of a painting online and it looks really nice, but when you have that painting on your wall you get to enjoy the full message of the artist,” Smith said. “Obviously the music itself is the primary expression, but also what’s the color of the vinyl itself? All the stuff that comes in the physical copy, you really get to see the full expression that [the artist] intended.”
Though Lamb loves records, the state of nirvana music elicits is ultimately what matters.
“Music can transport you to the past, can elicit emotions, can marry itself to what you were doing at the time. I have albums and books indelibly burned together in my head. When I consume one I am taken to ‘The Other,” Lamb said.
Picking up a David Bowie record, Lamb lifted it up to his nose for a smell.
“You have to interact with it,” Lamb said. ”It smells like its 60 years old, cause it is. It tells a story.”
Record Store Day for Avalon isn’t just about selling records, but it also helps push the needle forward for local artists like High Pulp grinding out their musical dreams.
Describing themselves as “future funk fusion,” High Pulp’s seven-man band electrified the walls of Avalon with high octane, danceable, head-slapping space-age sounds.
They opened for Delhi 2 Dublin at the Wild Buffalo later that night.
“If I could have told myself when I was 15 … opening for a national touring act, meeting new people that the music is connecting with, it’s like ‘What more do you want?'” High Pulp drummer Rob Granfelt said.
“Local music in general is so important, especially places that are willing to provide it like this … People can show up, mix and mingle, make new friends,” Uriah Jakobitz, who camped out with Smith earlier in the day, said.
Connections through the shared love of music is what Avalon Records is all about, according to Lamb.
“The thing that sparks the biggest joy in my life is exposing someone to some music that they wouldn’t find on their own and having it be a formative changing experience for them,” Lamb said. “Music has that power, it’s magical.”