What do two of the biggest DJs in the world do on their day off? Dig for vinyl — in Pittsburgh, of course.
Last November, I had the pleasure of interviewing DJ Shadow prior to his all-vinyl Renegades of Rhythm Tour with Cut Chemist, of Jurassic 5. Shadow told me that he had been coming to Pittsburgh to look for records since the late 90s, and he singled out Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill and Attic Records in Millvale as two of his favorites. Sure enough, both record stores popped up on Cut Chemist’s Instagram page the day before his and Shadow’s show at Mr. Smalls.
“Most cities don’t have one record store of their caliber, let alone two,” says Greg Eide, owner of Eide’s Entertainment.
It’s not just famous turntablists who recognize Pittsburgh as a hub for quality independent record stores. This past Saturday I ran into a couple from Youngstown, Ohio, who drove to Pittsburgh for the day to dig for records. Despite living as close to Cleveland as Pittsburgh, Heather Alvarez and Shawn Kelley prefer to visit Pittsburgh simply because the Steel City has more, and better, record stores than the Forest City.
Read on for a primer to Pittsburgh’s independent record stores, what makes each of them unique, and what they have planned for Record Store Day 2015.
513 Grant Avenue, Millvale
Song playing on the stereo: “Arena Negra,” by the Myrrors.
If you want it, you can bet the Attic has it. Fred Bohn Jr., who runs the store with his father, Fred Sr., says that they order new albums from more than twenty different distributors, both domestic and international. “We get metal from Sweden, UK-only pressings, and we order a lot of it,” says the younger Bohn. There’s also a huge collection of CDs for sale, not to mention the millions (!) of used LPs and 45s available in-store and in their nearby warehouse. And in a sign of the times, Bohn hopes to clear out some of the store’s CD space to make more room for vinyl.
1210 East Carson Street, South Side
Song playing on the stereo: “The Smartest Monkeys,” by XTC.
Dave’s has been located on busy East Carson Street for 19 years, and no member of the staff has worked there for less than 17. “It’s just like High Fidelity,” he jokes. There’s a large collection of new and used CDs, as well as used movies. The used vinyl collection is pretty thin compared to other stores in town, but the new vinyl section is well-curated and continues to expand. Dave’s has been voted “Best Local Store to Buy Music” by readers of the Pittsburgh City Paper for the past two years.
410 South Craig Street, Oakland
Song playing on the stereo: “You Doo Right,” by Can.
Desolation Row is literally just the front right corner of Caliban Book Shop, but that shouldn’t stop you from paying a visit. With such little space, there’s no room for filler. Distracted by a new Flying Nun Records compilation, I looked on with envy as another guest pulled a used LP by Ginger Baker’s Air Force. There are also new CDs for sale, and a small but thoughtful collection of books that includes many of the album-specific 33 1/3 series.
1121 Penn Avenue, Strip District
Song playing on the stereo: “Stay with Me,” by Faces.
Opened in 1972, in Etna, Eide’s traded for a while as Pittsburgh’s First Comics & Sci-Fi Shop. Today, Eide’s is a three-floor superstore located between downtown and the Strip. There’s an enormous selection of comics, memorabilia, posters, new and used records, new and used CDs, vintage magazines, books and pretty much anything else you can think up. Rock and metal are well represented, but country and hip-hop are not.
2136 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill
Song playing on the stereo: “Arms Full O’ Sweetness,” by Fats Waller