Pop Obscure Records
Technology-averse Millennials rejoice: lying among the unassuming establishments of Los Angeles Street is a place where you can finally feel at home. The owners invite you to hang out, detach, and maybe find some new inspiration — just remember to follow the rules on the door: no drinks, no food, no MP3s, and no Bieber.
Pop Obscure Records is the long overdue vinyl store that Downtown LA has been asking for. From the moment you walk in, you’re transported to the same era glamorized by Almost Famous — where rock ‘n’ roll was everything to music lovers.
Troubadour concert posters from the seventies line the walls of Pop Obscure. Below, an impressive collection of 10,000 new and used records is in stock, from artists like the Who, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and the Eagles. Even the collection of soundtracks: Footloose, Saturday Night Fever, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, speaks volumes about the store’s affixed-identity. With the Rolling Stone’s 1976 classic Black and Blue playing on the stereo, one can’t help but think: they don’t make music like this anymore.
Owners Dustin Lane and Sherry Lee, alumnus of the DTLA punk scene, chose their old Downtown stomping grounds for a reason: they knew Downtown didn’t want just another record store to feed fake hipster’s newly found fascination with vinyl. Instead, Pop Obscure Records is a carefully curated collection of timeless classics that span all genres.
“Our collection is not time or genre specific, it’s Downtown Los Angeles specific,” said Lane. In the months before the opening, he scoured garage sales and warehouses up and down the West Coast, amassing 10,000 records little by little. “Eighty percent of what’s in here is the result of hardcore curating,” he said.
Music virtuoso or music novice, you’re in good hands at Pop Obscure. Lane and Lee, self described “record store kids,” know a thing or two about vinyl — the former musicians have been collecting for over 30 years. Even during the CD boom of the 1990s, they felt compelled to stand by their collections of vinyl. Today, in a post MP3 world where streaming is the new fad, they still hold an affinity to analog sound.
“Vinyl is a warmer sound. It gives off a presence, a vibe,” said Lee, flipping through a stack of records. “People who restrict themselves to MP3s are cheated from half of the experience.”
Lee believes that experience has an important visual component — the album artwork. She is quick to strike up conversation with customers browsing record racks, not in attempt to sell records, but rather to engage and appreciate the story behind the music. As the resident visual artist of Pop Obscure, she is responsible for curating the shop’s other big attraction: the mezzanine level gallery. Currently Dennis Keeley’s show 25 years of Music is on display.
Written by Ryan Thompson
Photographed by Eric Caccioppo