Seattle Sound Machine: Two Iconic Record Stores in The Emerald City

Words by Matthew Vanatta
Photos by Jake Hanson

We live in a digital world, fast-paced, and evolving every second the digital world has taken over every facet of our life from the way we shop the way we consume media. However, in the face of the digital revolution, a number of music enthusiasts are bucking conventional wisdom and staying true to the more analog roots of a medium that many say is best digested in the vinyl format.

Seattle is a music city, it has produced some of the most important North American Music icons in over the last century and continues to be a mecca for both established and emerging artists. While Seattle continues to change at a rapid clip one thing remains the same, the city and its residents cherish the music scene and its eclectic offering of independently owned record shops.  

While independently owned businesses continue to be enveloped by  Seattle’s continued development in the wake of the tech boom, there are a few indys that are holding out and standing strong in the wake of a tidal wave of change. These stores serve as a beacon of hope to music fans as they are both a place to collect and cultivate community, they are where music fans go to both learn and share, to play and listen.

Two of the most iconic record shops stand as testaments to the communities they serve, both in different and distinct parts of Seattle, each shop has been gathering place for music heads for a number of decades and while each record shop is as susceptible to Seattle’s ongoing change as any their small business, for now, they remain beacons for Seattle musicians and fans.

Ballard – Bop Street

Anyone who has ever take a summer stroll down Market Street has probably heard the sounds emanating from Ballard’s iconic record shop Bop Street Records. A Ballard and more appropriately Seattle institution. Started in owner Dave Voorhees basement after discovering a large cache of rare blues records on a trip to Texas, Voorhees reputation as a master of procuring the rare and hard to find spread like wildfire and he opened his Ballard storefront in 1984.

Bop Street isn’t big on frill or slick marketing, they are decidedly Ballard in their understated yet substance-based approach. Bop Street is a collectors dream carrying a large variety of rare and vintage LP’s, 45’s, 78’s, *-Track and cassettes, Dave hosts more than half a million titles in his landmark record store.

Bop Street is synonymous with Seattle music, it is a favorite amongst locals and is also a favorite Seattle record shop for many of the world’s most prominent touring musicians such as Questlove, Radiohead, and The Pogues.

West Seattle- Easy Street Records

West Seattle can seem like its own little micro-universe. Situated across the Sound from Downtown Seattle, West Seattle has its own unique vibe. With this comes a number of businesses that help make West Seattle a dynamic community, none so prominent as landmark record store Easy Street Records.

Easy Street is a record store first and foremost, but its offering is so much greater than that. Yes there is the café, where music enthusiasts can go eat and socialize amongst the amazing collection at Easy Street, and there are the in-store shows that feature some of the most talented national and local acts including everyone from Lou Reed to Shabazz Palaces, but Easy Street is really a cultural offering.

Since 1988, Easy Street has been holding it down in the Junction, while a number of music and record stores have come and gone, Easy Street remains a testament to the perseverance of the Seattle music scene and in 2010 Rolling Stone named it one of the best records stores in the United States.

Both records stores are a favorite amongst both local and traveling music fans, they are both iconic in their own right and they are both a necessary stop for anyone visiting the Seattle area.

 

* If you happen across our Wayward Bellevue location, you’ll notice some additions to our offering of cherished vintage goods. We are pleased to have partnered with renowned Seattle record shop, Bop Street Records, to bring a highly-curated selection of revolving vinyl onto the shop floor.

Bop Street hand-picked these selections, then carefully vetted each visually for imperfections under their store’s highly revealing lighting, made from rare-earth minerals. Then, each record was subjected to a play-test on advanced audio equipment to make sure it meets Bop Street’s exacting standards. Only those LPs that survive this gauntlet of visual and audio examination are qualified by Bop Street for sale at Wayward or in their store. Finally, the records are washed on professional record-cleaning machines and encased in custom-made audiophile sleeves to preserve the vinyl’s qualities. The results of this time-intensive process are LPs in their original or early pressings that reveal the authentic life-like musical performance each of these superb artists truly intended.

 

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