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Friday, April 17, 2015

1-2-3-4, Whose Punk Record Store?

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 10:33 AM

click to enlarge Joel Gion of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and an employee at 1-2-3-4 GO! Records’ new location on Valencia St. in San Francisco, Calif. on April 8, 2015.
  • Joel Gion of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and an employee at 1-2-3-4 GO! Records’ new location on Valencia St. in San Francisco, Calif. on April 8, 2015.

Against the far wall of 1-2-3-4 Go! Records’ new store on Valencia, brown butcher paper is draped over record crates filled with exclusive LPs, 10 inches and EPs to be unveiled on Record Store Day. Across rows of bins holding used and new punk rock, indie, jazz and rock and roll vinyl, owner Steve Stevenson’s back is against the wall. Above him is a shelf holding records by The Buzzcocks, Against Me!, The Damned, Nirvana and a few others. Both his hands are covered in price stickers, which he adheres in rapid succession to the stack of GWAR’s America Must Be Destroyed reissues.

It has been a hectic six weeks for both Stevenson’s 1-2-3-4 Go! staff and the Lost Weekend Video crew. Both teams (and a few volunteers) have worked 14-hour days to convert Lost Weekend Video’s 18-year-old location into a shared space in time for 1-2-3-4 Go!’s grand opening tomorrow, on Record Store Day [Sat. April 18].

“It’s really a cockameny idea,” Dave Hawkins, co-owner of Lost Weekend Video said. “When everyone else is moving out, we’re moving more cool stuff in.”


As recently as February, Lost Weekend had been preparing to close shop. Over 18 years, the video store established itself as a neighborhood institution. It won numerous Best of the Bay awards, hosted live comedy in its basement venue, The Cinecave, and employed some of the Bay Area’s most storied rockers. The video store built an impressive collection of over 27,000 films, including art films, foreign flicks, and cult movies that can’t be ordered or streamed. Still, Lost Weekend Video’s business dwindled, dropping 60 percent over the last four years, as the rent in its neighborhood rose with the market.

Video stores had been on the brink for years. When Netflix delivered it’s billionth DVD in 2007, the end of neighborhood video stores didn’t seem far off. In the summer of 2010, Hollywood Video closed its last store, and in early 2014, Blockbuster Video followed suit.

When it came time to renew Lost Weekend’s lease this year, owners Adam Pfahler, Christy Colcord and Hawkins phoned the few independent video stores left in New York and Los Angeles in search of strategies to keep their doors open. They turned to the crowdfunding model that helped Adobe Books raise more than $61,000, move from 16th St. to 24th St., and reopen as an art collective. Lost Weekend organized their own $40,000 Indiegogo campaign to open a new location and comedy venue in Oakland’s Uptown district. Then, in the spirit of Le Video’s partnership with Green Apple Books, they invited Stevenson and 1-2-3-4 Go! to share the storefront.

Stevenson had been scouting locations in San Francisco, and when the opportunity to open in the Mission District arose, he jumped right on it.

“The location is perfect, it would’ve been stupid not to do,” Stevenson said. “Now that we can expand, I want to prove that cool stuff can still move onto Valencia.”

Last year, vinyl record sales jumped 52 percent, according to Billboard, while overall album sales continue to hit all-time lows. Any local band waiting for a record will tell you even the pressing plants are having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Andrew Kerwin, guitarist in Trainwreck Riders and Ovens, and an employee at 1-2-3-4 Go!, says that vinyl sales are exploding because they demand attention.

“No one drools over CDs,” he said. “But when you put on a 45, you don’t have time to sit down before its over. You have to listen to the whole thing the whole time. There’s something about the artwork, holding it, watching it spin; it’s really something special”

Customers line up to buy records and videos, but also come to the register to thank Stevenson and Kerwin for opening in the neighborhood. Next door, Dema has been open for almost two decades, and across the street, Aquarius Records has been open since 1969.

“Most of the things opening up around here aren’t interesting to artists or old timers,” says Kerwin, a 5th generation San Franciscan. “Along with Aquarius, Explorist International down on 24th Street and Thrillhouse farther down Mission, we’re really happy to be making this part of the Mission a destination for record shopping.”

Stevenson and the Lost Weekend crew are of the same ilk. In 2003, Stevenson had just finished managing Against Me!’s tour when a friend offered him a room in Oakland. He moved from Seattle and landed a job at Cinder Block merch selling T-shirts and posters for The Misfits and the like. He decided to open up his own record store in May 2008 when a small, cheap space in Oakland became available and seemed like the perfect opportunity. He had been operating 1-2-3-4 Go! as a record label since 2001 while living in Seattle, but finally had a place to build a store around it. The Oakland store gained a reputation as one of the Bay Area’s finest punk outfitters, and includes an all-ages venue.
click to enlarge No Sir plays at 1-2-3-4 Go's Oakland storefront. - MATT GILL
  • Matt Gill
  • No Sir plays at 1-2-3-4 Go's Oakland storefront.
Stevenson sports his loyalties outwardly. In a black Sub Pop T-shirt and black Oakland Athletic’s cap, he says that baseball helped pull the two stores together, too.

On the same side of the sales counter, in front of a separate register, Hawkins sports a Giants cap. Before opening Lost Weekend Video, Colcord and Hawkins had been working at Con Man music management, handling the likes of Green Day and Pfahler’s band, Jawbreaker (whose song we reference in the headline of this post.) Careers in the music industry had lost their luster to the trio, and in 1996, in their office basement, Hawkins asked Colcord what they were going to do next. They reasoned that their next love was movies, so Colcord suggested that they open a video store. Then Colcord left on a European tour, and Jawbreaker broke up.

“I had a huge collection of CDs that I took down to every record and video store around,” said Hawkins. “I started trading them all in for videos and by the time Christy got back, I had a decent collection.”

Valencia was a different place in 1997. Lost Weekend’s and 1-2-3-4 Go!’s location had been an upholstery shop at the time, and when Colcord, Hawkins and Pfahler moved in, the basement that now holds the Cinecave was full of old half-finished furniture.

“There were junkies shooting up in our doorway when I would open,” remembers Colcord. “There was even more human shit on the street. Of course we’re nostalgic for the way things used to be, but anyone would be nostalgic for being 28.”

For the next 18 years, it was the most fun job anyone could have, says Hawkins.

“You used to be able to be an artist and work here to get by while you focused on your art,” he said. “Now you don’t have a choice, you have to chase the money, otherwise you can’t survive.”

Hawkins, always enamored with the silver screen (though not the touch screen, he’s staved off buying a cell phone), likens opening a small business in the 20th century to the television show “Deadwood.”

“The sheriff and his deputy or whatever walk into a tiny two-block town, look around and open up a hardware store,” he explains. “That used to be America, you used to be able to do something like that and really be able to make it. You could have an entrepreneurial spirit without making another app that’s just the ‘Uber of this,’ or the ‘Airbnb of whatever.’”

What’s really at stake, he believes, is the opportunity to learn how to make your own business. In 2012, retail sales jobs totalled 4,668,300 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 10 percent projected growth by 2022. However, the bureau says that online sales have had a detrimental effect on certain in-store retailers, primarily book and media stores.

“The internet cut out the middleman for the consumer,” Hawkins said. “But the consumer forgot that the middlemen are millions and millions of Americans.”

But Colcord is optimistic about the future, even if it doesn’t include Lost Weekend Video.

“People forget that time will change people too,” she said. “Apps to stare at tits will go away and when these people grow up they’ll start trying to change the world. They’ll be onto something amazing. They’ll be marinated in San Francisco’s gay, liberal, pro-whatever spirit and it will change who they are, or they’ll leave. In ten to fifteen years, it will be amazing. San Francisco will make them better, and they’ll make the world better.”

The partnership is working for Lost Weekend, says Colcord. Its livelier on weekday afternoons, and people jump between lines at the register. The Cinecave holds events almost every night, and there are still Jawbreaker stickers plastered on bicycle frames and traffic signs around the Mission. Some customers reopen Lost Weekend accounts, and some customers who haven’t been to the store in years are happy to see that it's still open. Colcord says it’s not enough to save the store all together, but it’ll buy it at least another year.

“All the love and support is fantastic, and we really do appreciate it,” she says. “We’ve lost a lot of power as consumers, but if you really do love your neighborhood and you have the option, choose wisely where you spend your money.”

1-2-3-4 Go! and Lost Weekend Video have their grand opening tomorrow, April 18. Here are some more record stores in San Francisco open on Record Store Day:

1-2-3-4 Go! Records
1034 Valencia St.

Aquarius Records
1055 Valencia St.

Street Light Records
2350 Market St.

The Music Store
66 West Portal Ave.

Amoeba Records
1855 Haight St.

Groove Merchant Records
687 Haight St.

Rasputin Music
1672 Haight St.

Rooky Rickardo’s Records
448 Haight St.

Thrillhouse Records
3422 Mission St.

101 Music
513 Green St.

Recycled Records
1377 Haight St.

Explorist Intl.
3174 24th St.

Jack’s Record Cellar
254 Scott St.

Vinyl Dreams
593 Haight St.

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Kyle DaSilva

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