Seattle: In a city known for making music, local record shops are also good at selling it

Road Journals Blog—Some people judge the cultural vitality of a city by its museums, orchestra, opera, or other big-time performing-arts organizations. During my most recent trip to Seattle, however, I recognized another leading cultural indicator: the profusion of beloved indie record stores.

With my bass-playing 18-year-old Seattle niece Kristin leading the way, I visited a couple of old-style temples of recorded music, where vinyl and these shiny plastic discs called CDs (remember those?) rule.

Easy Street Records; enter here. | Jason Anfinsen/Flickr

At the Queen Anne location of Easy Street Records (there's a second store in West Seattle), Kristin headed toward the local indie-rock bins while I browsed the terrific jazz selection. Loveable and eminently knowledgeable music nerds in skinny black jeans manned the registers, fielding questions and chatting with customers about music selections or upcoming live shows. No music purchases for me, but I did pony up $15 for a cool, black Easy Street t-shirt with a bright red star.

We headed next to the Capitol Hill location of Sonic Boom Records. (A second store is located in Ballard.) The place has an usually strong, local indie vibe—possibly because it's just a stone's throw from low-key music clubs like Neumos and Chop Suey that showcase many Seattle bands. There are plenty of in-store performances, too.

At both Easy Street and Sonic I saw dozens of 20-something customers who, I'm sure, download music like mad onto their iPods. It was great to see their keen interest in the brick-and-mortar experience, too. Made me feel hopeful for the future of Seattle indie record shops. (For a 2010 report on them, check this Seattle Times article.)

Though Kristin and I didn't visit them, she mentioned other stores. Silver Platters is a three-shop local chain ("Fiercely independent since 1985," is their motto), with huge, well-stocked stores in Northgate and Lower Queen Anne in Seattle, and in Bellevue. Everyday Music is a small Oregon-Washington chain with a sizeable Capitol Hill location offering new and used CDs and vinyl, while Jive Time Records in Fremont specializes in vinyl.

I'm sure there are other Seattle indie record stores. Any favorite of yours that I missed? Let me know.

Christopher Hall wrote the cover story about Seattle for the May/June 2011 issue of VIA.

In-store appearance at Sonic Boom. | Bradley Stemke/Flickr

This blog post was first published in May 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.


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