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Tower District Records

IN THE April 29 ISSUE

FROM THE 2017 Articles,
andArts & Entertainment,
andMallory Moad,
andMusic
SECTIONS

by Mallory Moad

Platters, stacks of wax, licorice pizzas, fuzzy warbles–call them whatever you want, but they’re commonly known as records. If you thought this music format was dead and gone, think again. Better yet, ask Bob Lambert, owner of Tower District Records in Fresno. “It’s fair to say that vinyl is making a comeback, but it never went away.” It’s also fair to say that a lot of it can be found at this local gem.

tower

Bob Lambert, owner of Tower District Records

Lambert is a music lover and former public radio DJ who had a “nagging, recurring dream about being in/owning a record shop.” Inspired by a combination of boredom and an appreciation of vinyl, he opened Tower District Records in January, 2014. The recurring dreams ceased once they became reality. The current location of Tower District Records is its second. The first was outgrown in less than a year. When an attempt to expand by renting and combining additional space next door was nixed by the property owner, Lambert packed up his LPs and moved up the street.

tower

Shopping for vinyl

The store has an inventory of close to 25,000 records, and is constantly growing. Most of them are in used condition and come from a variety of sources: thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales, and record fairs. Individuals also bring in records to sell, both large and small collections. “That’s probably my favorite part of the business, seeing what folks bring in.” Store Manager, Nick Navarro agrees. “We see oddball stuff all the time. It’s definitely part of the fun of being in the business of used records.” Tower District Records carries all styles of music, including folk, classical, soundtracks, and comedy but the main focus is rock, jazz, R&B, and blues. A rack at the front of the store is dedicated to releases by local bands and solo acts.

tower

Local music

And while the Fresno/Clovis area has a number of popular retail outlets that sell records along with other items such as clothing, jewelry, and collectibles, Tower District Records is the only free-standing store with an emphasis on vinyl. This isn’t some dark hole in the wall with dusty boxes in piles, either. Everything is well organized, with records in bins and labeled by genre and artist (just like the record stores those of us of a certain age remember well). The atmosphere is laid back: you can sit and relax on a sofa as you groove to the eclectic variety of tunes that continually play or enjoy an apple or orange from the bowl on the counter. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, the friendly staff will refer you to other stores or online sources. Tower District Records is part of a record community so the emphasis is on support.tower

From the beginning, Lambert wanted his shop to be a component of Fresno’s art and music community. It is an ArtHop venue, with the work of local artists exhibited on a regular basis. The installation of a stage and sound system made Tower District Records an active participant in the live music scene. Musicians, both local and out-of-town visitors, frequently play on the Kirby Stage (named for the product that was sold in this storefront once upon a time). There have been photo contests, spoken-word performances, book signings, and even a presentation on the history of punk music in Fresno. Record Store Day was celebrated all day with bands, food trucks, and giveaways.
tower

But what about the increasing popularity of vinyl? What’s up with that? For the older generation, it can be a matter of nostalgia: memories of happy times and events of the past. For young people who have grown up with digital music, vinyl is something new, a tangible alternative to downloads. Music aficionados will say vinyl has a specific sound, often described as “warm” or “live.” Then there’s the experience of listening to vinyl: sitting down, giving it your full attention and just enjoying.

In the big scheme of things, the reason doesn’t really matter. As Bob Lambert says, “A good record is a good record” and you can find plenty of them at Tower District Records, his dream come true.

My name is Mallory Moad and I groove to all kinds of tunes (even oddball stuff).

Tower District Records
302 E Olive Ave.
Fresno, CA
Find them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/towerdistrictrecords

Mallory Moad is a visual/performance artist, vocalist in the jazz band Scats on The Sly and a proud Central San Joaquin Valley native.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Blake JonesNo Gravatar May 1, 2017 at 5:36pm

another great piece on local life, way to go Ms. Mallory Moad!
“Tower District Records is part of a record community so the emphasis is on support.”—Very true. These folks will do everything from sell you a record player to turn you on to some cool music you may not have heard before. Add this spirit to their ‘community center’ emphasis—the showing of the art, the presenting of live music, etc. etc.—and you’ll see why this is one of my most favorite places in town.

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