Vinyl Sale In Kansas City's West Bottoms Gives Audiophiles What They Want For The Holidays

Nov 29, 2017

Remember sitting by the Christmas tree, peeling back the wrapping on what could only be an LP – but which one? And by which of your favorite bands? Then listening for days, flipping that record from the A side to the B side, memorizing the lyrics on the liner notes, devouring the graphics.

Admittedly, some of you might be too young for those kinds of memories. But take it from someone who’s collected John Denver records since she was seven: A new album pressed on vinyl is a gift you receive several times over, every time the music plays.

Joe Darling agrees.

“Putting the needle down on a record is just a really special experience,” he says. “We have access to so much digitally, but if people want to have some sort of tactile experience, I think the format that has the most stability is vinyl.”

As a part time bartender at Voltaire in the West Bottoms, Darling spins disks for diners from the turntable behind the bar. He favors old-school soul, R&B, funk, and disco and knows firsthand the lively conversations that spring not only from his selections, but from the fact that they’re on vinyl.

After moving to Kansas City from Chicago two years ago, he observed that while the metro has a robust community of music shops offering vinyl and even tapes, the idea of a record fair was nearly nonexistent.

Joe Darling, a part-time bartender and DJ at Voltaire, follows his June record fair with a holiday sale this weekend.
Credit Courtesy Joe Darling

“I’m seeing a little bit of a need, or at least an interest that isn’t being well represented,” he says. “There are lots of record stores in a pretty big radius around the area, so it’s just bringing some of those smaller shops and some of those independent dealers together.”

His first record fair, hosted by Voltaire in June, was a hit. So he’s asked some of the same record shops and independent vendors as well as a few new ones, to truck their wares back to the Bottoms again for a holiday sale.

A dozen collectors will be there, representing a wide range of styles and release dates. But Darling has asked them to focus on well-kept vintage and rare items that make good gifts for audiophiles. Heightening the experience will be local DJs with their own musical fare.

DJ Shoutshimmy, who has a first-Thursday residency at Voltaire, plans a set of all vinyl Latin soul. Dawayne Gilley of the Ship’s Dawayne’s Rare Record Party, specializes in 78s from the 1930s and 1940s. JG Wright, the area’s preeminent collector of European psychedelia and early electronica, is likely to put on music few people around here have heard. And DJ Elwood plays disco, boogie, and funk.

In addition to thousands of records, Darling says some vendors will sell posters and T-shirts. But, he says, expect “90 percent wax.”

Most of the items on sale will be from the 1960s through 1980s, but area labels Teenage Heart Records and Dismal Niche Records and Tapes will have records pressed recently by contemporary artists. Darling says he’s seeing more musicians going that route.

Whether or not an artist chooses to put new work on vinyl, he says, is “kind of a litmus test for the label or artists’ commitment to what they’re putting out.” That’s because vinyl is expensive.

But it’s worth it.

Vinyl, Darling notes, “has such a human component to it that downloading something from the iTunes store does not have.”

Voltaire Holiday Record Fair, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, December 2 at Voltaire, 1617 Genessee, Kansas City, Missouri, 64102. Suggested price of admission is $5.

Follow KCUR contributor Anne Kniggendorf on Twitter, @annekniggendorf.