In the age of Internet streaming, digital downloads and miniature attention spans, music as an art form has fallen by the wayside. To be sure, hometown hero Dave Matthews has filled amphitheaters with his signature band’s eclectic sonic melting pot for almost a quarter of a century, but it’s commonplace to hear less adventurous noise spill across Grounds.
While dedicated Cavs bellowed the “Good Ol’ Song” during Saturday’s narrow victory against Penn State, the Holiday Inn on Emmet Street housed a gargantuan collection of vinyl records, compact discs and concert DVDs. Some of the fare was quite old (selections from Billie Holiday rubbed cardboard elbows with early releases from Buddy Holly), and the display spanned a wide variety of genres and musical epochs that allowed avid collectors to learn more about a dying breed of popular media.
Armed with turntables and milk crates stuffed with dusty sleeves, various vendors served as ample bargain bins and experts on each facet of their inventory. The event wasn’t just a breeding ground for vinyl fanatics; this was a forum for heartfelt discussion about a beloved, irreplaceable part of daily life that holds much more than clicks, pops and scratches. These music savants discussed everything from the merits of picture discs as unconventional art displays to the transition from analog to digital formats and the dissolution of the album as a cohesive artistic work.
Eager sellers and enthusiastic buyers packed the conference room wall-to-wall. But no price tag can properly record the value of a musical education. Whereas modern blues-rock juggernauts the White Stripes and the Black Keys may have been draws for less daring auditory explorers, albums from lesser-known outfits (any Pogues fans in Charlottesville?) shared valuable shelf space with classic records (The Who’s pinnacle Who’s Next and Nirvana’s Generation Y love letter Nevermind, for example). For those more classically trained with an artistic eye, rare and collectible show posters married aesthetics with an unforgettable soundtrack.
With vinyl releases making a resurgence in indie and alternative music markets, an entirely new generation is dropping the needle. Most of the clientele, however, were definite baby boomers, still maintaining an aura of juvenilia (here’s looking at you, grandpa wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt) and an ardent passion for their youth’s accompanying score.
In a society predominantly run by double-clicks, 140-character tweets and virtual connection, nothing compares to the warm sound and feelings that come with good music. The Charlottesville Record Fair might have not have fit into the schedule of University students, but the principle still resonates. Our world documents everything we communally experience onto Facebook walls and the blogosphere. Around the same time a Charlottesville local rallied up a ragtag jam band, memories weren’t stored in text messages and emoticons. The heart of true connection, for many music lovers, lies in the lull of a spinning disc, an extensive catalog of LP records and the knowledge that experiences aren’t limited to what we ephemerally feel, but what stays within long after the song is through.