Smaller than an Amoeba

Amoeba Music is a California chain of independent record stores, which sounds counter-intuitive but somehow totally works. The Los Angeles location spans an entire Hollywood block and, in spite of only opening in 2001, has become an icon.

As you can imagine, the place is massive. “Amoeba” is the perfect way to describe how I felt, walking into this warehouse of cool. There are people everywhere, there are things everywhere, the first time you visit, you feel almost immediately lost. Not only is the building itself huge, the sheer number of products housed inside of it can be over whelming. Using what I assume is some sort of witch-craft, the staff keeps the store beautifully organized. It is a music-lovers paradise (unless you’re claustrophobic).

The best word to describe walking through the doors at Amoeba is “timelessness”. You can’t be quite sure what decade it is. The walls are lined with more posters, the shelves are stacked with more records, CDs, DVDs, blu-rays, books, and magazines than the average person goes through in a lifetime. Browsing the jazz room (yes, an entire room dedicated to jazz), I looked up at the walls. There was “Speed Racer” (cartoon, not movie) just above “Eastbound and Down“, each framing records by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. The place is an enigma in the best possible way.

That being said, the Amoeba Records experience probably isn’t for everyone. If you prefer the feel of a smaller, quieter, more hands-off shop, you’ve come to the wrong place. More than likely, if you’re a social shopper you’ll be fine, but I always get separated from the people I came with. There is simply too much to see and once I get wandering, there’s no stopping me. The staff is friendly, but not pushy. Still, if you don’t like talking to other people at all, you’re not going to have the easiest time (that’s a good rule, in general). I suggest that if you’re planning your first visit, be prepared to spend HOURS there. It is extremely easy to lose track of how long you’ve been roaming Amoeba Records. It’s like a vacuum that steals time and gives you cool stuff in return.

The Dos and Don’ts of the Record Store:

  • DO take your time. Make a day of it.
  • DON’T rush through. The whole point is to find that diamond in the rough.
  • DO keep track of what you’re carrying around. Otherwise you end up at the register with $200 worth of records and no clue how you got there.
  • DON’T move things from one area to another and just leave them there. If you’ve ever worked retail you know what I mean.
  • DO ask for help. Most of the time, staff are more than happy to help and extremely knowledgeable.
  • DON’T assume. This can only lead to frustration, which can only lead to crying on the floor surrounded by N*Sync CDs when all you want is the Backstreet Boys.
  • DO treat the place as if it were your own. There’s nothing worse than coming home only to realize your record is scratched because someone else mishandled it.
  • DON’T be a dick.

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