Vinyl Fever enjoyed a nearly 30-year run as the bay area's most popular independent music store, and over the years I have enjoyed it more than any other record shop I visited or wore a name tag for (yeah, I worked at a few -- the much less cooler mall ones).
While reminiscing about Vinyl Fever's offerings, superlatives abound: the coolest imports, the newest artists, the oldest vinyl, the most intimate in-store performances and, above all, the friendliest clerks. Its personal touches, from employee recommendations to funny jokes with photos of rock stars and voice bubbles (like Sting lamenting when he used to be cool on a placeholder for the Police) -- exemplified why VF was more than just a store to music lovers.
I first started going to Vinyl Fever as a teenager. I lived kinda far away, in Largo, and didn't have a car, so I got excited when a car trip was planned by one of my friends -- it was like a mini-Christmas. We'd shellack our poofy hairdos with Aqua Net, pile into a Chevrolet Cavalier (or some other innocuous hatchback of the time) and make our pilgrimage to the Fletcher Avenue location -- finding all the vinyl of bands I loved wrapped in pristine plastic and bearing that glistening "Import" sticker. There were posters, buttons and T-shirts of bands that were never played on the radio at the time -- Dead Kennedys, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Gang of Four, the Smiths, Aztec Camera.
After that, Vinyl Fever moved to Dale Mabry across the street from Plant High School (in the '90s) and in the past decade its current location on Henderson Boulevard.
We got to know clerks by their first names -- Gabe, Kelly, Carl ... I think I have a couple of exes who worked there, too.
Thinking back is easy, but I'm still finding it hard to grasp that Vinyl Fever will close its doors for good at the end of the month. It's like a giant golf ball in my throat that I'm afraid to swallow.
Before the Fever shuts down at the end of February, stop in to share some tears and camaraderie with fellow locals and three of the scene's best bands/artists, Will Quinlan, Matt Hires and Guiltmaker at the Vinyl Fever Send-Off on Saturday, Jan. 29.
Employees DJ between sets and take requests while everyone pays their respects (their words; so clever they are). DJs start spinning at noon; bands go on around 3:30 on.
Be sure to snag a copy of Chris Preston's gorgeously tragic poster (pictured above right).
... Ah, folks, this is too much.
Vinyl Fever is (still is, dammit) at 4110 Henderson Blvd., Tampa. For information, call 813-289-8399.