Record club still rocking
LPs and 45s draw vendors, buyers Record club still rocking BY TOM KNAPP, Staff Writer
Emil Brandau, just 15 years old, wasn't around in the heyday of vinyl.
Born long after the advent of CDs and digital downloads, he has no nostalgic longing for the glory days of long-play records and 45s.
And yet, the teenager from Havre de Grace, Md., made the trip to Lancaster on Sunday to flip through the platters on sale at the Pennsylvania Music Expo, a monthly event -- widely believed to be the largest monthly show of its kind in the United States -- hosted by the Keystone Record Collectors.
"The sound is better," Brandau insists. "And albums are easier to collect. A lot of the older, more obscure stuff never came out on CD. Here, you might find a diamond in the rough."
The expo, a tradition some 33 years young, went through a rough patch a few years back when organizers couldn't find a long-term home.
Sunday marked the group's third anniversary at the Continental Inn, 2285 Lincoln Highway E., where the basement-level ballroom monthly plays host to diehard record vendors and buyers.
"We're very happy here, and we think they're happy to have us," show organizer Steve Yohe remarks. "And we're thriving -- we turned away seven vendors last month because we didn't have room for them."
The expo provides space for some 35 to 40 vendors, sprawled over 70 tables. This month, Yohe says, they expanded into a second room, making space for another five or so sellers.
"We're pleased with the way it's growing," he says. "We're thrilled with the response."
The event usually draws 500 to 700 enthusiasts, Yohe says.
Although the expo runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., some devoted bargain hunters show up by 6:30 -- or earlier, he notes.
"They line up outside. They come in while we're setting up," Yohe says. "There's no admission fee, but now we're asking that people who want to shop before 9 at least become members. It's only $15 a year."
The monthly event began as a swap meet, held in club members' homes. In 1980, the event became a fixture at Columbia Market House, then moved in 1992 to Blue Ball Market and in 1995 to Lancaster Catholic High School.
After a series of short-term locations, KRC settled in at the Continental in 2010.
Besides LPs, vendors sell CDs, DVDs, VHS videos and concert T-shirts. On one table, a snare drum waits for an offer. In a corner, oddly, a set of golf clubs leans under a $300 price tag.
KRC spokesman B. Derek Shaw says vinyl is making a comeback, often selling better than CDs these days.
"We have a lot of young people getting into vinyl," he says. "High school and college students, mostly.
"They're not buying everything in vinyl, but certain music -- think the Beatles or Zeppelin -- they want vinyl."
It's part of the mindset of being a collector, Shaw says.
"If they just want to listen to it, they'll download it," he says. "If they want to own it, they'll buy vinyl."
Chris Donohue, a 29-year-old collector from Lancaster, says he's been seeking out vinyl for more than a decade.
"You can find a lot of stuff cheap -- it's the way to go if you want to build a collection," he says. "You can pick up a lot and, if you're lucky, find a few rare ones."
Besides, Donohue says, "vinyl definitely has a warmer sound."
"If you treat a record properly, it has a very full sound," he says. "The low end is clearer, and it's not as muddy. And it's analog, not digitally recorded, so the sound isn't top-heavy."
"It's a more rich, full-bodied sound," Yohe agrees. "And it's not digital -- the needle actually touches the groove. Of course, you have to have a good turntable. If you don't, you might as well just buy a CD."
The LP format has other perks beside sound, he adds.
"The liner notes are so much easier to read," Yohe explains.
Expos are usually held on the second Sunday of each month. For information on the group and future expos, visit recordcollectors.org.