Fifty-thousand vinyl records. A hundred-twenty-one vendors. Six hours.
Prepare for Indiana Jones levels of crate digging, when the inaugural Records & Retro market comes to Orion Amphitheater 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The market is free to attend.
The event’s been in the works even before Orion, the world-class music venue that opened in Huntsville this spring, was finished being built.
Married couple Andy and Ashley Vaughan, the owners of Huntsville’s fantastic record store Vertical House Records, organized Records & Retro, inspired by an idea from Orion general manager Ryan Murphy, who had success with a record fair at the previous venue he ran, Florida’s St. Augustine Amphitheater.
For vinyl enthusiasts, a big draw of record shows is getting to dig through records they don’t get to see every week at their local stores. Local stores like Vertical House and Madison’s Black Dog Grounds & Sounds will have booths at Records & Retro. But so will Birmingham’s Seasick Records, Chattanooga’s Yellow Racket Records, Atlanta’s Waterloo Sunset Records and Hendersonville’s Elevator Vinyl among others.
In a treat for back-in-the-day Huntsvillians, Jay Ratts, the former owner of Huntsville’s dearly departed Sunburst Records, will have a booth too.
Rocker Jack White’s Nashville based record label Third Man Records will be at Records & Retro. Americana star John Paul White’s Single Lock Records imprint from Muscle Shoals too. Other record labels set for Records & Retro include Birmingham’s Earth Libraries and Florence’s Arkam Records.
The Vaughns found vendors for Records & Retro through connections made over the years of visiting other record stores as well as through Instagram. They also found vendors through a sales reps’ database.
“Several vendors are actually customers that come to the shop and have huge collections,” Andy says. “We hosted a (smaller scale) record show at Lowe Mill (the Huntsville arts center Vertical House is located at) so we had contacts from that as well.”
As the name suggests, Records & Retro has a twist: all things vintage. “We wanted to blend the traditions of a record show with the addition of retro vendors to add that extra element to the event,” Ashley says. “These range from folks who sell and repair analog equipment, and others who specialize in clothing, furniture, tchotchkes, comic books, etc.” A complete list of Records & Retro vendors can be found at Vertical House’s website.
In addition to aisles of records, cassettes and CDs, Vertical House also includes an embedded vintage store in the back of the shop, Ida Mae Vintage. Ashley’s been around vintage stuff since she was a baby, getting pushed around in a stroller at antique shops her parents brought her to almost every weekend. In high school, finding vintage T-shirts at thrift-stores became one of her favorite things to do.
“Even nowadays my closet is 90 percent second-hand,” Ashley says. “For most items, I’ll shop at an estate sale or thrift store before buying new, if at all possible. It’s definitely a part of just how we live.”
Back when the Vaughns started Vertical House Records in spring 2007, Andy was still working his graphic design job. Ashley was waiting tables. After launching the store in a 200-square-foot space on Lowe Mill’s second floor.
Dovetailing with the vinyl retail resurgence, Vertical House grew into one of the Southeast’s must-visit record store. They’ve moved into bigger spaces at Lowe Mill (address 2211 Seminole Drive) five or so times, the last being in 2013 to their current “railroad room” outside the arts center. Vertical House’s used and new stock can range from David Bowie, Queen, Prince and Aretha Franklin to Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Childish Gambino and Lizzo.
For their Records & Retro booth, Andy’s been holding back items he’s bought for Vertical House the last few months to curate an all-star selection. “Definitely a good mix of classic rock, pop, soul, psychedelic, punk, indie, metal, hardcore, folk, jazz, and blues albums,” Andy says.
That stash includes records by The Beatles, Hendrix, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, The Zombies, Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin, Robert Johnson and The Who. “The majority hasn’t hit the shelves in our store yet,” Andy says.
Records & Retro is taking place all over the Orion Amphitheater campus, which is located at 701 Amphitheater Drive N.W. at the MidCity development off University Drive. Vendors will be set up within the amphitheater’s main dome, its concourses and beyond. “Vendors are all mixed among each other to encourage guests to visit all of the areas,” Ashley says.
Humans can’t live on vinyl and vintage alone. So there will be food trucks near Orion’s north gate entrance. Huntsville’s Yellowhammer Brewing will have pop-up bars set up and Gold Sprint Coffee is providing free (!) coffee to fuel your perusing. Live bands, including indie roots rockers The Invisible Teardrops, and DJs will set the day’s soundtrack.
For the best selection, obviously it’s best to hit a record show early in the day. But the Vaughns planned Records & Retro to be a cool all-day hang not just a Black Friday-type madhouse.
In addition to a good day of sales, the Vaughns hopes Records & Retro allows attendees to meet new friends and reconnect with friends they haven’t seen in a while. They also hope the event blossoms into a new Huntsville staple.
Ashley says vibrant vintage retailing adds to a city’s culture by adding unique options for buying local. “Sure, it’s easy to get stuff online, but it’s so fun to go treasure hunting.”
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