Long before iPods and digital-streaming services, listening to music meant unsheathing a vinyl record from its dust cover and cueing the needle of a turntable.
That’s how Connor Crevier got hooked. As a boy growing up in Kila, he came across a few impactful vinyl LPs. It turned into an act of aural discovery — the wail of Robert Plant, the rhythmic art-rock of Pink Floyd, the gritty rebellion of ‘80’s-era punk rock.
Listening to records was a different experience than anything headphones could ever offer.
“It’s weird to explain,” Crevier says. “It’s physical rather than in the cloud somewhere.”
Once endangered, vinyl is back, and with it the neighborhood record store.
While CD and digital-music sales took a hit from 2012 to 2013, vinyl sales spiked 32 percent, from 4.5 million records sold to 6 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It marked a stunning comeback after nationwide sales of vinyl slumped to barely 1 million in 2007.
The revival is catching on in Kalispell thanks in large part to Crevier, an unlikely leader in the rebellion against the detached digital music world. The 22-year-old vinyl enthusiast opened his first business, Old School Records, late last summer and it’s caught on as a popular neighborhood hangout where the vibrant pulse of rock ‘n’ roll culture can be found.
Crevier’s on-sale collection surpasses 10,000 records of all genres, from all generations. The rows include classic Ray Charles albums, Simon and Garfunkel and Bruce Springsteen, as well as many of the latest LPs being put out today. He buys, sells and trades for vinyl, CDs and cassettes, and has quickly found that he’s tapped into a community of music lovers who appreciate the unique quality of vinyl music.
“It’s doing better than I thought it would,” he says.
His pursuit began as a risky attempt at filling a simple need.
“It was something I noticed we didn’t have in town,” he said. “Every other bigger city seems to have a record store, so I didn’t know why we didn’t.”
He rented the empty storefront space at 134 First St. W. from his parents while working two other jobs. He built up his inventory by collecting every record he could find, scouring thrift shops and garage sales. Rather quickly, the business developed such a popular following that Crevier recently quit his other jobs to devote all of his efforts full-time to the record store.
Vintage vinyl has always occupied a specific niche among passionate collectors and music enthusiasts, even as the mainstream industry tossed aside the traditional LP along with other relics of a bygone era, like cassettes.
The experience of listening to music has evolved to today’s standard format of digital downloads or CDs. In 2013, there were 165 million CDs sold and 118 digital album sales in the U.S. But while both formats dwarf the number of LP sales, they still are suffering a downward trend that started over the last two decades when the digital era, including the proliferation of piracy, turned the industry on its head.
Vinyl, on the other hand, has been gaining a stronger foothold, helped along by bands that are supporting the old-school format. The most obvious example was Daft Punk, which released its Grammy Award-winning album “Random Access Memories” last year with a big push for vinyl listeners. Nearly 20,000 vinyl LPs were sold in its first week of sales last May, the most since 1994, when Pearl Jam sold 34,000 LPs of “Vitalogy” in its opening week.
Independent record stores like Crevier’s are also benefiting from the renaissance.
Not too long ago, a kid came in hankering for something to listen to but didn’t know what. Crevier introduced the adolescent to the basics of rock ‘n’ roll, much the same way he was enlightened. The young boy walked away with vinyl records of Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” and Led Zeppelin’s trilogy of superlative albums from 1969-1970.
“That’s what got me started liking records,” he says.
Now the kid’s a devotee, turning up in the downtown store to rummage through a trove of classics in search of more.
As Crevier says, “You get addicted to finding treasures.”
Old School Records is located at 134 First St. W. in Kalispell. Call 406-314-0330 or 406-393-2501.
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Old School Records: A music renaissance is taking place in a downtown Kalispell record store
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