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Record “Store” Review: COLLECT-I-BOWL Record Show at Brooklyn Bowl

March 4, 2013

I’d like to believe that there is a heaven, and that when I die I will be granted access to this wonderful place consisting of only the best of the best of everything that life has to offer.  In this heaven there will be a place to shop for records, and I imagine it will designed based on the COLLECT-I-BOWL Record Show at Brooklyn Bowl.

While not a record store, I’ve included the COLLECT-I-BOWL Record Show as part of my series on store reviews due in part to its frequency.  No need to feel disappointed if you missed yesterday’s show, they happen at Brooklyn Bowl four times per year, typically in March, June, September and December.  And after my successful crate-digging yesterday, I should be satiated on the vinyl hunt for quite some time.  Yesterday was my first occasion spending quality time at a record show and so, if you’re new to this way of shopping for vinyl (like I was), allow me to paint you a picture.

collect-i-bowl (2)collect-i-bowl (5)collect-i-bowl (1)collect-i-bowl (6)collect-i-bowl (8)collect-i-bowl (10)Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg is a bowling alley that caters to the music-loving set.  After entering, one walks to the left where the venue is split into two halves – a concert stage and floor on one side, bowling lanes on the other.  Live acts perform there regularly; you may recall my review of Kidrockers featuring DIIV and Widowspeak, which was followed up by a performance by DIIV that same night.  This setup lends itself ideally to a record show.  For COLLECT-I-BOWL, the entire dance floor is filled with vendors (over 40, according to the presenters) in the form of a rectangle around the perimeter of the room and a second smaller inner rectangle.  Vendors also fill the stage, creating the image of an endless room of vinyl.  Meanwhile, bowlers go about their day and everyone is entertained by “the legendary DJ Uncle Mike” who plays mostly well-known rock and punk songs, the kind of music that anyone who frequents this venue has to like.

With the ideal environment for record shopping in place, the open question remained the quality of the music offered.  On every conceivable measure, this show rates out on top.  I spent nearly 3 hours shopping, which was a perfect amount of time for unhurried focused browsing.  However, if I hadn’t been limited by my own time constraints, I could have easily spent the full 6 hours allotted to the show.  The collections were nearly universally organized neatly and smartly, by genre and alphabetically, making browsing easy and efficient.  The quality of the vinyl was generally high, and when it wasn’t the vendor did not pretend that it was something that it was not.  Prices were as good as you will find in any local store and always negotiable.  There was literally something for everyone – whether you wanted to sort through discount records or spend top dollar on the rarest of finds, there were multiple vendors to choose from.  I had in mind a certain price point (focusing on records in the $10-20 range) and genre (‘70s and ‘80s post-punk and new wave, along with filling in some other open holes in my collection as they caught my eye) and did fantastically well, finding albums that I never would expect to find in a store.[1]

The next COLLECT-I-BOWL will presumably be in June and you can bet that I will be there.  In fact, I was handed a flyer for a new record show to take place in Brooklyn on the last Sunday in April – the Vinyl Revolution Record Show – and there’s a good chance that after my experience yesterday I’ll be there as well.  The Brooklyn Bowl environment won’t be duplicated, but hopefully the general thrill of being around enthusiasts like me will be.  If I can make it to a record show every six weeks or so (and if my wallet can handle it), I may have found my preferred method of used record shopping.

Bottom line:  If you like record shopping, go to one of the COLLECT-I-BOWL Record Shows at Brooklyn Bowl.  Consider it a must.

P.S. I took a lot of pictures at yesterday’s show.  A few are above; click here and take a look at the rest.

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Quick stats:

  • Sells used, new, or both: Used
  • Genres: All, with a focus on rock
  • Non-vinyl for sale: Bootleg concert CDs & DVDs, vinyl coasters, vintage posters
  • Selection: 10 out of 10
  • Price: 10 out of 10 (not all vendors are a 10, but you could quickly see the few that weren’t competitively priced)
  • Atmosphere: 10 out of 10
  • Ease of browsing/shopping: 9 out of 10 (deducted 1 point for being a bit crowded)
  • Used vinyl condition: Varies.  Ranges from 6-10 out of 10
  • Yelp rating: N/A.  Brooklyn Bowl gets 4 stars

[1] A full list of what I bought: Beck: Mellow Gold (original pressing); Buzzcocks: Parts 1, 2 &3; The Cure: The Head on the Door; Catching Up with Depeche Mode; The Doors: Live at the Hollywood Bowl; Echo & the Bunnymen: Crocodiles (LP) & Never Stop (5 song EP); Elvis Costello: 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong (live bootleg); Husker Dü: New Day Rising; James: Village Fire: Five Offerings from James (debut singles); Lou Reed: Rock & Roll Animal (LP), Rock and Roll Diary 1967-80 (Best of compilation), Take No Prisoners (live recording); Midnight Oil: Blue Sky Mining; New Order, Movement (re-issue), Peel Sessions, FAC 93; Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine (re-issue); The Replacements: Pleased to Meet Me; Soundgarden: Ultramega OK; Squeeze: A Round and a Bout (live show); Television: Marquee Moon (original pressing); They Might Be Giants: They Might Be Giants (self-titled debut album) Lincoln (LP), Don’t Let’s Start (12” single).  Yes I am satiated.

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