Record shops: two words that make a perfect pair. Always much more than spaces that sell music, record shops become spiritual Rough Guides in any town or city but especially when you go abroad. Map out a route of record shops and you’re already exploring. Track ’em down and your footwork orients you in your temporary new land: those stores become your compass, your inter-national grid, your urban ley lines.
But you need a start point so, remembering that one of his LA Weekly missives was about a trip to Warsaw, I checked the Henry Rollins LA archive and got the name of recommended shop #1. Add a DIY search online, grab a tip from some Warsaw insiders and lo, we have a short list. Time was nearly as short as the list so this summary is neither exhaustive nor extensive, but for the muso-fan Warsaw first-timer, it might just offer that all-too-crucial start.
Find the Muzant sign and you find nothing. It’s all subterranea, see. You gotta descend, into a basement emporium of 2nd-hand CDs, records, videos and music-related gear. Do it. Good prices, high browse potential, spot on for back-catalogue gap fills across all genres.
By far the coolest – and by that I mean, should I even be in here? – of the record shops today is Asfalt, a retail offshoot of the Asfalt hip-hop record label. Which probably explains why it feels too cool for neanderthalian guitar excess, but it’s an immaculate find. Step in off the street and you see a black-trim cafe bar with a nightclub vibe. Good coffee. Look up the stairs and there’s the store: small, clean, new and packed with vinyl. Not much in the way of rock, and even less much approaching METAL, but experimental-ish types get a look in, there’s a tonne of funk and jazz and, of course, a formidable array of hip hop, beats and electronica.
The online forum gave the address as Tamka Street, but Vinyl Tamka has moved to Chmielna 20, dead near the city centre. The doorway is 7-inch plastered so you’re in no doubt that This Place Does Records, and inside you’ve got a vinyl-heavy selection. Plenty of rock, prog, pop, metal, jazz and beyond, and a stack of rarities and special editions showcased on the walls.
I mentioned Rollins at the start, and this shop is the reason – you can check HR’s write-up here. Narrow is the word: one aisle, left-to-right/front-to-back vinyl, two-way traffic on a single-track road. Loaded with flickability.
For the record (sorry), these are all worth finding and Hey Joe warrants a revisit by itself, but if there was one store calling me back that day, it was Asfalt – something to do with the label, the aesthetic and the sheer new-ness of it all. To go back and plunge into some unknown deep-cuts funk or gamble on a pristine cassette near the counter just kinda felt right.
So, we did go back to Asfalt the next day. Saturday, 10am.
It was shut. OK, no probs, come back two hours later. Still shut. EH??? Word was that the Asfalt bods had done a festival the night before and so hadn’t made it to the store yet…
I said I wasn’t cool enough, didn’t I?
Good coffee, though. Again.
TUNELESS IN WARSAW