It’s been a busy year at the Life in the Vinyl Lane household and we wanted to take a long weekend for ourselves before heading to Reykjavik for Airwaves a scant five weeks from now. I’m not quite sure how we settled on New Orleans other than it was someplace I’d never been to, and Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane had only been to once eons ago. It has a rep for good music and good food, plus I could check off another state as I get closer and closer to finally having been to every state in the country (I believe Louisiana puts me at 41…), and to top it off we had a free companion fare, so why not? And of course this meant I’d try to squeeze in some record shopping too.
While I’d flagged a couple of spots on our online map, it seemed like everywhere we went we ran into a record store. Over the course of three full days we popped into five of them, and while I only bought stuff in two, all had their own character and were pretty cool. So without further ado…
1113 St. Mary Street
Google Maps didn’t show a record store at this address, but we decided to give it a shot nonetheless. And I’m glad we did, because while the retail space at this New Orleans store/label was relatively small it was extremely well curated. Specializing in electronic and synth-forward music, Disko Obscura still had a decent and ranging inventory. Look, you’re not going to find Eagles Greatest Hits Volume 2 or anything like that; but you’ll find plenty of Bauhaus plus a decent selection of their own releases, and I couldn’t resist those picking up Obscura releases by Ortrotasce, Warmline, and Pressures. I’m excited to get these on the turntable in the upcoming weeks so I can share them with you. If you’re into that kind of thing, Disko Obscura is a must-stop while you’re in town.
907 Bourbon Street
Chances are if you’re doing the tourist thing in New Orleans at some point you’ll hit Bourbon Street. Now, there are sort of two parts of Bourbon Street; there’s the part that embraces all seven of the deadly sins at once and by the look of it had probably invented and eighth and ninth that I hadn’t even considered, and then there’s the stuff just off that stretch that’s most just casual street drinking. Skully’z is in the part that doesn’t make you feel like you need to go back to the hotel and shower with steel wool, though you may still encounter a drunk screaming in the middle of the street before dinnertime. (♠)
Skully’z is small. Really small. But it’s a cool little joint and the dude working there pointed us towards some local punk and metal. He seemed somewhat embarrassed to initially tell us about Space Cadaver when he said “oh, but it’s only on tape”. Fortunately I was able to inform him I had a tape deck and at that point I think I had a friend for life. In addition to the cassette we picked up the debut by Medically Separated, The Guilt Øf…’s Isolation Room, and a local comp called Crescent City Carnage. You won’t need to spend much time at Skully’z, but you may very well leave behind a few hand grenades (♣) worth of money.
The last three were places we visited, but didn’t shop at. The reason I left them empty handed didn’t have anything to do with their selections or the friendliness of their staffs, but more the fact that it was about 90 degrees outside with a humidity at somewhere around 257%, where you’d basically sweat and the sweat on your body wouldn’t evaporate because it was like you were walking inside a boiling swimming pool. And I just didn’t feel like walking around with bags of records in that. So sue me.
4318 Magazine Street
Big shop inside an old Woolworth’s store (complete with a soda fountain counter… unfortunately not in operation) that also had some magnificent air conditioning, Peaches had a broad selection of CDs and vinyl. Holly bought one of their retro t-shirts and based on what little I saw I know I could have dropped a few hundred in there without much trouble.
NOLA Mix Records
1522 Magazine Street
Another relatively small shop with a pretty eclectic selection. Some good 80s stuff, reggae, rock and jazz.
Louisiana Music Factory
421 Frenchman Street
This was within walking distance of our bed & breakfast on the fringes of the French Quarter. Great selection of jazz and Cajun music that I fully planned on exploring, but after I’d picked up a half dozen titles earlier in the trip I simply decided I didn’t want to bring more on the airplane. If you’re interested in jazz, swing, Cajun or anything along those lines, this is a must stop. Just don’t let the shop cat out when you open the door!
(♠) Which we saw.
(♣) The hand grenade comes in a green plastic cup shaped like a hand grenade and with a long tube coming off the top, because you need as much space as possible for liquor and whatever sweet liquid they put in there with it. The container looks like it could be MacGyvered into a bong in 30 seconds flat.