Photos and article by Randy Jarosz
Note: play the video below while reading, for full effect.
Packed in a large room at Belvederes Ultra-Dive in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh, dozens of record sellers, professionals and enthusiasts alike gathered for the 10th Pittsburgh Record Fest. The night started at 7PM and was set to run until midnight, with drink specials on tap. Records of all types were on display starting at the $1 range to $45 for the Beatles “Yesterday and Today,” album with the controversial “Butcher” cover.
Cranking out obscure classic tunes like 1968’s “A Question of Temperature,” by the band The Balloon Farm, Demon Dave could be found spinning records on a turntable hoisted up by two old tube televisions sets, while a vendor plays air guitar as if he were really in the band. Record enthusiast Kevin Monahan of Mt. Washington could be seen flying through each record bin feverishly, already knowing exactly what he was looking for. Others would comb over each record and may have no clue what they were buying, like Aaron Miller of Pittsburgh, who picked up an album called “Environments,” from 1978. He was sold by the text on the record sleeve with quotes from reputable periodicals (see photo). Life Magazine called it “Better than booze and safer than pot,” High Times Magazine says it is “highly addictive,” and the LA TIMES claims it is “…The most imaginative use of recorded sound in the 99 1/2 year history of the phonograph.” It almost makes me want to hear this album for myself.
The record fest in its 5th year is held bi-annually. It is unique in the way it operates, only costing $3 for admission and free to anyone who is looking to sell or trade their records, compared to some swaps that cost upwards of $50 to sell. “A lot of other cities in the nation don’t have stuff like this, It’s something new,” explains Kevin Monahan.
The best part about the fest is its atmosphere, almost as if you were hanging with a bunch of friends in your parents basement. The dimly lit area with rotating DJ’s gives it that party feel. “It’s a great event, it’s really fun and it has been packed all night,” says vendor Brendan Wiant of Mt. Lebanon.