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Jamie Dillon has a bone to pick with Philly: The City of Brotherly Love can't put together a decent record fair, and there's really no excuse for it. "Philadelphia is an amazing town for records and should be able to support a huge fair," says the artist and Ohio native, "but there hasn't really been one."
It's a reputation he's looking to change. His audiophile crusade began last year when he was a member of Black Floor Gallery and helped put together a record fair that packed the Institute of Contemporary Art with almost 200 attendees as the doors opened. Now, as a member of Vox Populi Gallery, he's planning phase two.
Doubling as a fundraiser for Vox, the Philadelphia Record Fair will feature nearly 30 dealers and their extensive vinyl collections. Among the mostly private vendors from all over the East Coast are Mike Schutzman of Slipped Disc Records on Long Island, and John Robinson of Beautiful World Syndicate, which has locations in both West and South Philly.
"There are a lot of people like me that don't have cars who don't generally travel to fairs," says Dillon. "We have a lot of records in Philadelphia, so I wanted to bring all the dealers out of the woodwork to try and make the music available to more people."
Vox will sell T-shirts, totes and snacks (both veg- and meat-eater- friendly) and dealers will have a slew of rare and out-of-print 45s, LPs and 78s ranging from jazz, soul, punk, rock, reggae and gospel. Collectors can attend the event as early as 10 a.m. for a $10 fee — a small price to pay for first dibs.
Just don't go expecting any entertainment beyond people-watching. When Amy Adams, Vox Populi's executive director, suggested a DJ, Dillon shot the idea down immediately. "He said, 'No, this has to be record shopping only. Don't interfere with the art of record shopping,'" chuckles Adams, who is not a collector.
Dillon, an avid vinyl junkie, explains. "At record fairs, a lot of people bring portable turntables and you find something and you listen to it," he says. "It's kind of disturbing to have loud music."
Proceeds raised at the Philadelphia Record Fair aren't earmarked for any particular Vox initiative. Instead, the money will be used to maintain the Chinatown space and keep it a free-to-the-public venue for contemporary art. Since 1988, the nonprofit collective has hosted exhibits, lectures, gallery talks and performances for both members and guest artists.
Because many Vox members and patrons are serious record collectors, Dillon predicts the day will be at least as successful as his first fair. Of course, he doesn't measure success by turnout but by how excited people are about their newfound gems. "Record collecting is about collecting artifacts," he explains. "A lot of people are looking for the original pressing or the very first one that came out. It's like another collectible field. It's the record, the artifact of the past."
Philadelphia Record Fair Sun., March 30, noon-6 p.m., free ($10 for early 10 a.m. admission), Rotunda, 4014 Walnut St., 215-238-1236, voxpopuligallery.org