I have been visiting Vinyl Fever ever since I move down to Tampa in 2004 so I was saddened by the news that the store will be closing in February. To say that I was surprised, it is a very different thing. Like every regular at the store must have noticed over the past couple of years, the line at the counter was often of one to zero. Quite frankly, I was surprised they stuck around for this long. And I was even more surprised that they kept on stocking some of the finest music.
Vinyl Fever was the first music store I visited in Tampa. My girlfriend first took me there when I flew in from New York in February of 2004. A couple of weeks later, after I made the move down south, I became a regular.
For a long time, while I was pretty broke, the $.99 bin provided enough fodder to fuel the Tales From the Cutout Bin features I used to ran in Deaf Sparrow. I could tell that some of the music critics from Creative Loafing and other local papers used to sell their promo CD’s there, because I was often able to find new releases marked as promos in the used bin, where prices varied from $3.99 to $4.99. I must have bought at least sixty records from that section in the span of eight months. About three years ago, while their hard music expert moved out of Tampa, the clerks were pretty clueless about these styles, so oftentimes I encountered brand new metal releases from cool independent labels in this section.
But best of all was their new CD and vinyl racks. What you found there you could not find anywhere else in the Bay Area. I frequent all the record stores in Tampa Bay and as a hard music fan the closing of this store is going to be a big blow. Bananas in St. Petersburg may be huge, but I spent an hour there a few months back and I could not find one good metal record. I don’t even know if they sell new releases. Everyone in the store looked over 70 so they probably aren’t aware that bands and labels still put out vinyl. Daddy Kool? Not so cool if you like metal or hardcore, or anything hard. And Mojo? They have a ton of vinyl but their new release section is tiny and the dude that works there acts like a little bitch. Ditto for Sound Exchange. They have three locations and you can sometimes find some good deals but new releases? Not really.
That’s where Vinyl Fever came in; gorgeous reissues of Goatsnake? Check. Belus by Burzum? Check. Available in CD and vinyl, by the way. Master’s Hammer? Say What? Yes, they had it. They fucking had it. Midnight? Sure thing.
Where else in the Bay Area could you go and find brand new releases by labels like Feral Ward, Profane Existence, Southern Lord and Nuclear War Now? Nowhere. That’s where. Sure, the store did not specialize in hard underground music, but sifting through their vinyl and cd racks you were always prone to find great stuff.
Last Monday, when my friend informed that the store was closing down and that all their stock was 30% off I got mixed feelings. On one hand I was happy because I had a gift card for $50 that somebody gave me for christmas and on the other, I was sad because the store would no longer be the momentary refuge that it has been for the past years.
In September of this year Rolling Stone Magazine elected Vinyl Fever among the Top 25 record stores in the country. Too bad that did not translate into sales. Everyone knows what the issue is. Technology. Economy. Mix the two and you have an atomic bomb targeting this business model. With their location lease expiration date approaching, the owner of the store argues that it makes no sense to renew it. Who can blame him? Not me.