Monday, March 05, 2012

Olympic Records - Providence RI

Olympic Records, 580 Wickenden Street, Providence, RI
There is another new record store in the Providence Rhode Island area, and I wanted to check in and offer you my report. I knew Olympic Records was going to be my kind of place as soon as I walked in the door. On my right was a wall full of vinyl records, on my left three pinball machines, and The Replacement's Tim was playing on the store's turntable.Vinyl, pinball, The Replacements...I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. If Olympic offered a selection of microbrews it would be pretty close to my idea of heaven.

Vinyl only!
Olympic is very much a vinyl focused shop, I didn't see any CDs for sale, although I noticed a few on a rack behind the checkout counter hidden like a dirty secret. I dug through the bins a bit and spotted a lot of tempting stuff. I ended up picking up used copies of The Jam's Beat Surrender EP and The Incredible String Band's No Ruinous Feud, as well as a new copy of Fugazi's Steady Diet Of Nothing. I saw a lot of newish indie-rock vinyl from acts like Panda Bear, Animal Collective and Veronica Falls, as well as some reissues of older indie faves like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. It's been a long time since I've seen a copy of We're The Meatmen And You Suck! in a record shop, and I found it strangely comforting to see a copy hanging on the wall along with vintage pressings of albums by Ignition and The Sex Pistols.

Olympic does not yet have huge amounts of used vinyl, and there is plenty of room for growth in their bins. What is there is well chosen and looks to be in excellent condition, so you don't have to waste time sorting through a bunch of beat up Boston and R.E.O. Speedwagon LPs in order to find the good stuff.

Pinball! (L-R) Bally's Paragon; Bally's Future Spa; Williams' Black Knight
The store's owner, Kevin, is a very friendly guy, and he told me that business has been good so far. I was impressed when he used his iPad with a reader that plugs into the headphone jack to process my debit card. He told me this was the cheapest way he found to process credit cards. Neat. He was kind enough to spot me some change so I could play a game of pinball. I played a (very quick) game of Black Knight (I need to brush up on my pinball skills). I'll have to give Paragon and Future Spa a spin on my next visit. All three machines feature amazing classic pinball art and are in beautiful condition cosmetically and are in full working order.

With the more old-school shop Round Again Records just down Wickenden Street, Exit 2 off I-195 in Providence is an excellent destination for vinyl record fans.  I'd recommend parking near Olympic, making your way down the hill to Round Again, then crossing the street to enjoy some sustainable coffee from the Coffee Exchange before your return trip.

I remain somewhat skeptical about the so-called "vinyl revival," but I've seen two new record shops devoted mostly to vinyl LPs open in Providence over the past couple years, and they seem to be attracting a younger clientele, so maybe there is something to it after all.

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