You’re My Excuse to Travel: A day of record shops, breweries, and college nostalgia in Richmond, VA

Richmond, Virginia is a city with anachronistic tendencies, which I saw up close as a student at VCU.   My daily commute passed Confederate war memorials and psychedelic murals, centuries-old architecture and modern design.  My introduction to The River City’s musical lifeblood was similarly varied: during my freshman year, I heard rumors of how my dorm had birthed both GWAR and Lamb of God; while as a sophomore, I lived in the Jackson Ward neighborhood, once known as the “Harlem of the South.”  Out of my second-story window I could see the Hippodrome Theater, where stars like Ella Fitzgerald once graced the stage when it was known as The Deuce.

Just down the road is Steady Sounds, my first college digging spot.  The Broad Street shop has a number of specialties, including psych, soul, and hip-hop, and there’s a weekly vinyl happy hour on Wednesdays.  For my lovely girlfriend / photographer Clara and I, it’s the first spot we hit.

The scene inside today is particularly loud and lively, with discussion of all kinds being shouted from bin to bin.  The clothes racks and glass display cases of Blue Bones Vintage mingle with the records, and there’s a loft up above with more to sift through, just watch your head with that low ceiling.  It’s always good to see owner Marty, also formerly of Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, who’s behind the counter most days.

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On this stop I scooped up:

Kaitlyn Aurelia SmithThe Kid (Western Vinyl)

Flying LotusLos Angeles (Brainfeeder / Warp) 

OhblivLewse Joints VI cassette

Odd NosdamLIF cassette (Alpha Pup)

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From there we quickly hit Urban Farmhouse and then Champion Brewery, a Charlottesville favorite with a newly added Richmond branch.  Rather than coming off as a modest satellite taproom, Richmond’s Champion is an impressive spot with high ceilings, two floors, and some serious nightlife potential.  Their mural-adorned performance stage had been graced by renowned local beat-makers DJ Harrison and Ohbliv just the night before.

After a quick tour and a pint we ventured on to Plan 9 Records, another institution that calls both Richmond and Charlottesville home.  Plan 9 is my true first record store – as in, I remember begging my mom for Limp Bizkit and Korn CDs there as a kid (she always said no and in retrospect, I don’t really blame her).  While the number of locations has diminished, this mini-chain has found ways to survive, and nostalgia is hardly the reason that Plan 9 is my number two shop in RVA.

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On this outing I went home with:

GoldmundSometimes (Western Vinyl)

Laurel HaloDust (Hyperdub)

Honorable mention goes to Robinson Street’s Deep Groove, which we did not hit on this trip but I do miss dearly!  There are plenty of other stores I didn’t even mention; digging your way through Richmond is far more than a day’s work.

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