When in Rome, you do as the Romans. When in Cali, you get your ass to Amoeba Music. An Amoeba haul is a special thing. It had been five years — half a decade! — since the last time I set foot in Amoeba‘s San Francisco store, right on Haight Street, more or less the birthplace of American counterculture, or at very least where it moved to from the Midwest because it was okay to be weird there. It is a shop we must remember we are fortunate to still have in existence. Places like Sound Garden in Baltimore, Vintage Vinyl in my beloved Garden State, and the three Amoebas in San Fran, Berkeley and L.A. are treasures. Landmarks. Their preservation may not be government-sanctioned, but they’re no less essential as living monuments of our age.
I’d gotten in after two in the morning. My flight from Boston to SFO was delayed… by five and a half hours. Something about a flat tire on the plane that then wound up requiring an entirely different aircraft altogether. Oh, we sat, and sat. Supposed to be a 5PM flight, took off just after 10:30. What a shitter, but at least it took off at all. I slept about 20 minutes on the plane — remember, with the time zone shift, a 2AM West Coast arrival is still 5AM to my very red East Coast eyes — and then crashed at the hotel, woke up this morning and spent the bulk of they day shaking hands at the convention that brought me out here, trading business cards and the like. All the while, lurking at the back of my mind was Amoeba Music, its call resonating like a dogwhistle nobody else around me could hear. I could’ve cried when I got out of the cab and it was there, just like I remembered.
Seems likely there was more vinyl around than five years ago, though I wouldn’t commit to that 100 percent, not really remembering one way or the other, but in any case, I still found plenty in the CD racks; the notion of traveling with LPs, the general expenditure and desire to actually listen to the music keeping me to the more compressed format, and no regrets. Here’s what I grabbed, alphabetically:
Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
Black Rainbows, Carmina Diablo
Electric Wizard, Time to Die
Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh
Parliament, Motor Booty Affair
Stoneburner, Caged in Flesh
SubRosa, More Constant than the Gods
Swans, To be Kind
Wino & Conny Ochs, Latitudes
Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate
Of those, it turns out the Black Rainbows was a double. I suspected as much, but I spotted it at the front of the clearance section and it was a dollar, so I figured even if I had it, another wouldn’t hurt. Getting stuff like the Acid King and Monolord was nigh on mandatory, the former because it’s San Francisco and that album is incredible and the latter because it’s a RidingEasy Records release and while I’m pretty sure that label is headquartered south of here, you don’t find that stuff every day on the Eastern Seaboard.
Conversely, I was looking for a bunch of stuff from Tee Pee — Mirror Queen, The Atomic Bitchwax, Death Alley — that was seemingly nowhere to be found, and I wondered if geographic distance between myself and the NY-based label didn’t have something to do with it. The rule is you take what you can get, and I was happy to do that. The Horsehunter was also absurdly cheap, I’m not really sure why. Between that and the Black Rainbows, it was much easier to justify paying upwards of $14 for new discs and $20 for the Labour of Love Latitudes session from Wino & Conny Ochs. I was on the phone griping to The Patient Mrs. as I walked around the store that somehow even though compact discs are “out of fashion” prices haven’t come down on them and she reminded me to think of it as a premium for being in a place so awesome. She was, of course, 100 percent right. Issue resolved.
Parliament‘s Motor Booty Affair to feed my continued funk addiction, and Stoneburner mostly because it was there, it’s Neurot and I don’t already have it. The Swans is the three-disc special edition of last year’s To be Kind (review here) that also comes with a live DVD as a bonus. Can’t imagine I’ll ever watch the thing, but it’s nice to have. Speaking of stuff I won’t actually put on, I know for a fact I haven’t listened to the Electric Wizard since I reviewed it (the promo was digital), but I heard something about them having a spat with Spinefarm over money or some such and that the album was subsequently out of print, so I figured better now than five years from now on eBay or Amazon. It will likely stay wrapped, but at least it’ll be in the library.
It’s been six years and I still recall enjoying Tekhton‘s first album, Summon the Core (review here), so to find a copy of the 2009 follow-up to that 2007 debut was cool enough to drive me toward the purchase, and Wovenhand are Wovenhand, which is all the justification that one needs. Speaking of bands who played Roadburn this year, as Wovenhand did, I nabbed 2013’s More Constant than the Gods by SubRosa mostly because I missed them at that festival and they’ve continued to haunt me ever since. I’m not sure if playing the record or having paid for it — like a church bribe — will exorcise that demon, but it seemed worth a shot. I’m sure I’ll let you know how it goes.
Tomorrow is more work stuff, starting bright and early and ending less-bright and late. I may or may not make it to Aquarius Records, as had been my hope, but if this turns out to be all the shopping I get to do on this trip, I can’t really complain. And of course, if you’re in SF, get your ass to Amoeba Music.