Considering the music junkies we are, Rocks Off couldn't wait to check out Houston's newest independent record store, the aptly titled Vinyl Junkie, which opened its doors November 1.
Located at 4202 E. Canal in Houston's East End, customers might need to circle the block once before spotting the unassuming, signless storefront. But don't judge this shop by its facade; once inside, customers are quick to realize that owner Titus Haag knows his craft.
The store has the vibe of a warehouse, offering the bare necessities to house its vinyl gems. Its walls have been artistically adorned courtesy of local street artists, including Eye Sore and Ack!.
Rows of neatly alphabetized vinyl and used 7"s span the store, emptying into the open makeshift stage area, where Haag hosts live shows. A quick scan of the merchandise and we discover Vinyl Junkie is home to bona fide rarities.
Haag, a South Dakota native who moved to Houston just last year, works on his laptop on the store's homey couch as we browse his shop. "This is definitely a 'niche' store," he reflects. "It's not a store for everyone; actually, I think people will either love it or hate it."
Haag appears assuredly natural in his surroundings - as he should, considering he mans the store daily, with help from his wife. "We carry pretty obscure stuff, but for those who really know underground music, we have the records you won't be able to find at most other places around town."
Though Vinyl Junkie's inventory is heavy on hardcore and independent punk, there's an eclectic variety amongst the store's vinyl, which becomes understandable when Haag laughably admits, "I have everything from Death Metal to 70's Country, to the Dixie Chicks on my iPod. I think my store reflects that variety."
Haag, who began a mail-order vinyl business long before opening his retail space, prefers to obtain the music he stocks via bands and labels directly.
"I enjoy supporting bands who come through town," he says, "So I'll often buy multiple records of theirs at shows, befriend them, and network with labels directly. It's more personal this way, and I much prefer it."
Acknowledging the venture is a work in progress, Haag envisions gradual improvements of his store; he plans to incorporate an area stocked with music zines, comfy chairs and coffee tables, ultimately creating a sitting area where customers can "hang out, listen to music, and work on their art." Customers who'd like to take their potential purchases for a test drive are welcome to use Haag's turntable.
To reiterate, Vinyl Junkie isn't the place to purchase Billboard Top 20 artists - or most known artists, for that matter. "Some kid came in the other day, asking if he'd be able to find 'indie' artists here, like Interpol and the Hold Steady," Haag chuckles. "I told him I did have indie music, but he wouldn't find those artists here.
"He eventually left."
Alternatively, those searching for gritty underground finds need search no further. Haag will continue to operate his mail-order business, but his store offers a record-shop experience that's is sadly becoming rarer.
Customers who appreciate sifting through stacks of records and gambling on musical unknowns will appreciate Vinyl Junkie's throwback vibe.
VINYL JUNKIE IN-STORE SCHEDULE
November 19: King Louie, Hell City Kings, Secret Prostitutes, Talk Sick Brats
November 26: Dead In The Dirt, Delta Block, IPV, TBA
December 3: HRA, Krullur, Busy Kids
December 4: For Want Of, Diving, Football Etc.
December 16: Critical Damage, El Desmadre, HRA, Obama Nation, Heartless
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December 18: Temporary Insanity Fest record swap feat. Muhammadali, Busy Kids, Bottle Service, A Giant Dog, Come and Take It, Dead Tooth and live DJs (12-6 p.m.)
January 8: Hold Tight!, Muhammadali, Football Etc., All At Sea
January 16: Perfect Future, Sleep Bellum Sonno, Diving, Football Etc.
Ed Note: Happily, Houston's other independent record stores - Cactus, Sig's Lagoon, Sound Exchange, Black Dog Records and Vinal Edge - also cater to lowercase vinyl junkies to varying degrees. See more about Vinyl Junkie at www.vinyljunkiedistro.com.