Vinyl records aren’t going anywhere, and it’s quite possible that COVID-19 has helped solidify their stamina forever. Or so thinks Alex Rodriguez, DJ booker at the Los Feliz hotspot called Pinky’s and co-owner of Record Safari in Los Feliz; and he should know. The Los Angeles-born, Bakersfield-raised music obsessive, who also happens to be the head curator of the massive Coachella vinyl record store, has worked in music most of his life, from DJing in two parts from California to running vintage shops in Bakersfield, to managing venues including the Glasshouse record store in Pomona. While the pandemic has proven difficult for retail spaces, especially small businesses, he says the record business was not one of them.
“During lockdown I think people were looking for things to do at home, and like bars, restaurants, music events, sporting events, all of that was closed, the only thing that was really open was the business of detail,” he said. “And I mean, how many times can you go to Target? You’re going to get bored and it’s always the same thing. But places like record stores, and like any collectible, every time you go there, there’s always different things to look at, so I think these kinds of crafted collectibles in general, whether it’s comics, toys, records, or antiques, it gave people something They could go to those kinds of stores and see different things each time and buy different things. gave something to do.
“I thought he was going to die once everything was reopened,” he continues. “I thought the crazy sales and resurgence was going to drop once people were able to travel again and go out to eat and go to bars and see concerts again. But this is not the case. I think a lot of people have become addicted to buying records. It’s definitely addictive…collecting anything is.
Rodriguez, who was born in the San Fernando Valley, is blessed with the opportunity to nurture his own addiction and help others satisfy theirs via new record store Atwater (which opened in July 2021 and features Paul Tollett from Goldenvoice as owner) and the Coachella retail project, both of which allow him to travel across the country in search of rare vinyl. There was even a documentary, also called Save Safari, fact of his travels and conservation.
Although he was immersed in daily record crate digging, Rodriguez’s music nerdom didn’t start with a turntable. He cites MTV as his initial inspiration, particularly artists who played metal and hard rock, and he remembers, like many of us, creating mix tapes of songs on the radio through an old boombox. For older DJs, it was a way to learn how to build playlists and create vibe and flow through track selection. For Rodriguez, genres were everywhere and his tastes remained eclectic.
He started deejaying in 1999 in Los Angeles and Bakersfield and moved here full-time in 2013. Playing music for others in public spaces, as this writer has attempted a few times, is a business expressive. It’s about reading a piece and connecting, reflecting the energy, and then taking it to a new place. Rodriguez has won fans all over town for doing just that. But even before the pandemic, he decided to slow down. “There are so many new DJs now, it’s like letting the kids have fun that night, not a guy who’s been deejaying for 20 years in LA,” he says of booking others.
After filming at Peanutbutter Wolf’s Gold Line in Highland Park, a bartender there who also worked at Pinky’s recommended him for turntable filling work. Pinky’s opened in fall 2019 and was forced to close due to COVID during the height of the hipster heat, reopening in fall 2021, nearly two years later. It’s picked up right where it left off, and currently, it’s filled with buzzing scenes and notable names behind the decks every night, including Johnny Jewel & Desire (of Italians do better), Alex Nicolaou of dull majesty, and Rose knows. The sounds are complemented by a new bar schedule via beverage director Aly Iwamoto, a Los Angeles native who has worked at The Varnish, Bavel, Death & Co and Thunderbolt.
“DJs are all capable of doing whatever they want,” Rodriguez says of Pinky’s sound selectors. “Most of the genres that are played in the room are funk, soul, disco, a bit of New Wave or house, electronic stuff and hip hop. We don’t really rock too much because it doesn’t really fit the vibe, more of a more danceable stuff.
There’s no designated dance floor at Pinky’s, but when we went there just before the pandemic hit, famed mixmaster Cut Chemist made an appearance on the decks and people were definitely moving and grooveing. There’s a patio courtyard just outside the bar (opposite the Atrium Restaurant, which shares the same owners) and music plays outside, where crowds gather on warmer evenings. While Pinky was vinyl-only, Rodriguez says it’s expanded into all formats since the pandemic, opening up the sonic reach of the space.
As for what to expect on any given night, Rodriguez says the mood is constantly changing. “I try to bring in different DJs to keep it fresh and try to make sure it’s always different. So, you know, if you show up on a Thursday, three weeks in a row, you’ll hear different music.
Speaking of diversity, he takes the same approach to stocking the Coachella record store, with artists playing at the festival, of course, but also new and old, popular and obscure, used and new records of all genres. He became involved with the Indio festival after doing it with Glasshouse, and later became a permanent member of the festival team. With the second weekend falling on Record Store Day, hiring Rodriguez proved easier than trying to work with individual record stores like Amoeba, which have their hands full of collectors on weekends like this. .
For Record Store Day (April 23), Rodriguez says he ordered “one to three copies of everything” for Coachella and his own store. But “just because you order doesn’t mean you’ll get everything”, and as anyone who’s tried to get a limited release during the annual collector’s “holiday” knows, scoring some of the best drops isn’t easy. He’s been stocking the polo field store since 2014 and he says sales have been steady, with the most popular hip-hop and pop artists in recent years, a fact that definitely reflects the festival’s pivot to pop music bookings. -Z.
Older festival-goers might miss this musical shift, but the record store encourages youngsters to check out vinyl, at least. The store also makes it easier by offering a cloakroom system where customers pay eight dollars (which also gets them a Coachella tote) and a hold on purchases until the festival is over. Prices range from $2 to “several hundred” for collectible titles.
“I’ve been buying records since 1994 and I’ve definitely seen their popularity go up and down a number of times,” says Rodriguez, who deserves credit for helping to keep them fresh, through everything he does. , including sharing great album covers and rare finds on Instagram. “It’s probably the longest stretch so far, and it just keeps going up.”
Pinky’s, 1816 N Vermont Avenue. (323) 763-0351. pinkyslosfeliz.com/
Save Safari, 3222 Los Feliz Blvd.. (323) 928-2290. instagram.com/recordsafari_la/