The Casbah, San Diego’s divey-est, grungest music venue hosted the Vinyl Junkies Record Swap. I saw a small ad in the City Beat for a record swap, DJ’s, Food, and drinks with a $3 cover or free with canned food donation. I’m not a vinyl junkie, but I do like the sound of records. I love the cover art, and I’m always up for good times in the name of charity.

At the door they refused our canned food donation despite what the Casbah website claimed. Our protests fell on deaf ears, but they cut us a side deal letting in 3 for the cost of 2 so we went in anyway to make it worth the trip.

This bad boy was the first album I saw.
This bad boy was the first album I saw.

If you haven’t been to the Casbah, a quick description. You walk into an open air hallway/patio area. A hard right takes you into the main area with the stage. Straight ahead is another room with some seating, arcade games and a dark maze of hallway leading back to the main room. Everything is maroon or black, covered in stickers and well worn. The whole place is really the ground floor of a motel-style apartment building. If feels punk legit.

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Today there were tables covered with crates of records everywhere with maybe a dozen total vendors. The vendors were hipster dudes, young rocker chicks in cut off Guns N’ Roses tees or schlubby, angry looking dudes with long hair who look like they spend a lot of time in basements discussing the merits of owning one-off De La Soul records or Lou Reed Euro imports on internet forums. And today they were the kings.

I never saw any food. The bar was open, and at some point, a guy walked around with some warm Negra Modelo’s. He gave me one, but only because I was willing to take a stack of Death Row Records stickers. Score on both counts. There were DJ’s, and the soundtrack ranged mostly from punk to hip-hop to punk with some occasionally 70’s classics tossed in. And there were some sweet trucker caps or carrying bags if you wanted to put your name on the Vinyl Junkies mailing list.

more-record-swapThe crowd was a mix of the curious, music lovers and true vinyl junkies. Most would assume the position. Arms locked on either side of the crate to prevent others from trying to reach in, hunch over staring at titles, flicking from one to the next with their index or middle fingers. More than once I was listening to the flick, flick, flick of someone perusing a crate when the flicking would pause. A low “Shheeeeee-it,” followed by a deep exhale or low whistle would fall on my ears. Created by someone who stumbled onto a treasure in the bargain bin. It was always low, almost inaudible as if to prevent others from hearing and trying to steal it away. Once a tall, skinny guy in head to toe denim exclaimed “Schooly -D! No way!”

Occasionally, some pushy dick would try and shove their way into the crate of vinyl you were looking through. If you weren’t in position and ready to defend your turf you’d loose your place. And trust me, once you stumble onto that first Carly Simon album cover in a crate you don’t want to miss out on another. Mostly, everyone was super chill. People who love music and love vinyl.

After an hour or two we got thirsty and hungry. We paid the vendors our hard earned dollars, collected our Neil Young and Blues Brothers albums and headed for the door. A worthwhile visit, and on the way out the doorman promised to get our food donation bag to someone in need. I’ll be back next time for the Top Gun soundtrack I couldn’t find today. Don’t judge.

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