30 January 2008

Orpheus and the death rattle

Ah, screw it.

I was going to write a very long-winded and tear-jerking elegy to Orpheus Records, one of the last great vinyl record stores in the greater DC area. I was going to sing the death-song of a musical mecca. I was going to provide an amazing amount of insider reporting and weepy, record-collector saliva.

But ehh, screw it.

Marc Fisher did a great piece in the Post about it here, and blogger brethren Vinyl District mirrored it here. I could pursue my sources and try to provide something new, but........eh, screw it. It's all been done. We've been to this funeral already, for other shops.

In fact, the store is uniquely valuable for that reason: Orpheus owner Rick Carlisle ended up with the bulk of the remaining stock from legendary Silver Spring record store Vinyl Ink, after George Gelastino died several years ago. George had closed his store on Bonifant Street to go exclusively online, and even THAT was a local tragedy for us old farts who love the classic vinyl-flipping ritual. Record-shopping in person. In the flesh.

Sure, we can still get our fix by purchasing records online, but it's the thrill of the hunt, dammit, we love the dusty fingers, the shock of the unexpected discovery:

(Oh SHIT, I was here in the miscellaneous 'G' section, hoping to find some old Brain-label Grobschnitt records, but here they have some early Guru Guru! Jesus!)

If you don't have the disease, you wouldn't understand. But shops like Vinyl Ink and Orpheus were really good for that.

Anyway, the bottom line is, the lease is up on the site where Orpheus now resides and, years after Rick moved the shop from Georgetown, he doesn't have another move in him. The neighborhood is gentrifying beyond recognition. And besides, Rick has been in this business for a king's age. So the shop will die slowly, over the next few weeks. Sale prices, etc.

So get down there while you can. Orpheus has been one of the only things that can get me to cross the river, for crissakes. So once the store is shuttered for good, I may never set foot on Virginian soil anymore. Unless of course Ben Chasny plays Iota again.

So, while the patient still lives:
Orpheus Records

3173 Wilson Blvd, Arlington VA
...mere shouting distance from the Clarendon Metro.


Reya Mellicker said...

Yours is a beautiful tribute, different than Vinyl District's or the Posts. Thank you.

I don't have the addiction to buying records, but I do have a book addiction. Buying from Amazon.com or even Powells is just not the same as pulling a book from the shelf, opening it to read a random page (bibliomancy), smelling it.

We still have Kramerbooks, an excellent independent bookstore, though it's small. Their buyers are excellent though, so you can't miss if you decide to buy something there.

The world keeps turning, doesn't it? Dang, man.

The Vinyl District said...

Agreed...a fine tribute indeed.

I'm sad - but there is hope...from the walk to Olsson's in Dupont then Second Story Books, up to Crooked Beat, over to Red Onion then left to Some Records. People are still doing it - buying records. And they're younger than me...and thrilled. (At least, as I saw yesterday.)

Got vinyl?

The Vinyl District said...

Er, that's SOM Records...(Sorry Neal!)

IntangibleArts said...

oh absolutely, VD: I'm so grateful for the new breed of small shops in NW...

I think Orpheus is a meaningful loss because it's one of the great shops from my really intense record-shopping days. So many of those shops are ancient history, for us old farts to weep over;

Vinyl Ink, Phantasmagoria, Record & Tape Exchange (college park, md), and on a good day, Yesterday & Today in Rockville...

But it could be worse. At least I can walk that route you mentioned and still kiss many dollars goodbye, and heft a messenger bag full o' vinyl goodies home. And THAT is a very good day.

SOM has been very dangerous for me, of late.

epota said...

Great and sad tribute. The recap on the Post also discussed the death of the experience as it relates to the album art and the discovery of unknown tracks.

There, for me, lies an almost greater tragedy than not being able to sift through the selection. As the CD continues ITS slow death, any opportunity to experience the artwork goes with it. At least CDs usually TRIED to match up with a smaller scale art display. What will happen when all that's left is an iTunes download? I have to download my art now? PUH-LEEZE!

Also gone is the multi-side release concept. Depending on the artist, the A side and B side could be entirely different listening experiences. CDs took that away, but you could still try to appreciate the artist's intended order of play (unless you, s-h-i-v-e-r... played on random shuffle). As an artist who has painstakingly chosen the order of songs for a few different releases in the past, it horrifies me when my songs -- or the songs of preferred artists -- are played out of context (well, if there IS a context to be had). OK, call me a prude.

The continuing rise of downloadable tunes will make it that much harder the artist to reach an audience with the "unknown" discoveries on a release. The masses will be buying the "hits" online and ignoring the rest of what's out there.

And we all know that the hits are rarely worth a hoot.

And I can't remember a time where I've been fumbling through the Cs, seeking out a new Circle import or a Can re-issue, only to enthusiastically declare, "Hey, look, the long lost Mariah Carey debut album -- what a find!!"

The Vinyl District said...

epota - I can't agree more with what you've said. And to that end over at my vinyl blog, we celebrate the art in tandem with the tunes. For me (and seemingly for others) the two go hand-in-hand...

IntangibleArts said...

Epota/Vinyl D: Abso-LUTELY!

Packaging & art were always a huge part of the experience. I started collecting records before I was 10 years old (dad, buy me that), and obsessing over images while listening to tunes influenced a lot of this slobbery mystique I feel about the whole thing.

(Distinctly remember getting Queen's "News of the World" when it was pretty new: thus, I'd be about nine or ten... playing it in headphones, and... AW WOW, like the ROBOT tried to touch that DUDE and KILLED him with his FINGER....)

And it just went bananas from there. Probably explains the career choice (magazine design)...

The Vinyl District said...

YES! I had the same Queen LP and was thusly influenced as well: Art Director. (And well, yes - I'm also 40.)

epota said...

Funny. I possess the same Queen vinyl. Creative director. Age 41.

IntangibleArts said...

Art Director, will be 40 this year....

alright, so now I'm freaking out ever so slightly. This is better than that Kevin Bacon thing.

epota said...

And Mr. Bacon also strikes me as an individual who might have "News of the World" in his collection. Perhaps?

Anybody have a clue on what the Bacon Brothers sound like?

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