Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Record breakers

    As vinyl sales skyrocket, Oakland’s record stores boom

    HandsFor two hours, more than a hundred people went in and out of Oakland’s Econo Jam Records, as it hosted a First Friday exhibition opening for Oakland artist Kelly Ann Nelson.
    The store had the energy of a party: the music was bumping and, people bopping along with it, smiling and chatting with one another. 
    There were varied size groups of people — many couples holding hands. Some people were alone, checking out the art and the records; just about everyone was smiling. A group of friends cheered their friend on as she bought a stereo receiver. 
    Some groups of friends were out for a night in Oakland at First Friday, stopping into Econo Jam simply because it was a fun spot with good music and interesting art.
    The featured artist’s work stays up all month. If the artwork is sold, a different piece is put up for customers to contemplate and buy if they wish. 
    Econo Jam hosts events on the first Friday every month, at an event collectively known as Art Murmur. 
    Art Murmur happens in Oakland’s Kono (Koreatown Northgate) district. It’s an immersive art and community experience on Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street. Econo Jam has a prime spot for this event, right at ground zero, almost directly at the center of this famous Oakland event that started in 2006. 
    “It’s a great night for people to find out about our store that hadn’t known about it before,” said Tom O’Shaughnessey, founder and owner of Econo Jam.
    “The art and music scenes are very connected,” he said, “and it’s natural that bands selling records at Econo Jam have members that do other kinds of art, like paintings, drawing, sculptures etc.”
    “I know so many artists that have really good art work. It makes it hard to choose. Oakland has a solid artist community and that’s one of the reasons many people moved here.”
    O’Shaughnessey moved to Oakland in April of 2003 from upstate New York, and he knew he had found a new home. 
    After arriving in Oakland, O’Shaughnessey immediately set out on a mission to open a record store. Getting a loan for the money took time. For seven years, he sold records at art and underground music concerts. He used the name Econo Jam from the start and developed relationships with customers, record distributors, and artists that have lasted to the present time. 
    “I love Oakland,” he said. “It’s a city with so much diversity and Oakland also has a great independent arts and music scene.”

    Ready, Set, 1–2–3–4-Go

    BrowseAnother great Oakland record store is a mile up Telegraph at 40th street: 1–2–3–4 Go! Records, owned by Steve Stevensen. 
    Employees from both stores, including the owners, are known to hang out and browse at the other store. 
    Both O’Shaughnessey and Stevenson said that business has picked up and that it works to their benefit to be helpful towards each other. 
    The goals and circumstances of both owners moving to Oakland and opening record stores are very similar — which has made developing camaraderie easy. 
    For Stevensen, owning a record store has been a dream since he was 14 years old. 
    He was tipped off about the location being available by a friend and said that the “owner of the building has been a great ally to us and he wants cool things to happen for this neighborhood.
    “I’ve lived in North Oakland for the 13 years I’ve lived here and it’s been amazing to see the transformation of 40th street,” he said. “The idea that there would be any retail on this street would have been unthinkable 10 years ago.” 
    LineStevenson said their space has not yet been affected in any negative way from the gentrification that Oakland has been going through. 
    “Things are happening so fast in Oakland and it feels like we are only at the tip of the iceberg of gentrification,” he said. “Time will tell.”
    One of the unique things about this record store is that they host concerts in a separate back room. It’s similar to seeing a show at a comfortable small nightclub.
    Thus, 1–2–3–4 Go! is known as a great spot to see bands play at an earlier time and in different setting, compared to most concert venues. 
    It is cozy and the space surrounding the stage goes almost all the way around the band. The stage is only nine inches high, just enough of a lift to view the band above people in front of other audience members.
    The bands that play are sometimes touring bands, but emphasis is placed on local acts. The concerts start at 7 p.m. and go until 11, and the shows usually coincide with the release of a new record. 
    Early shows are great for people that want to see live music but have to get up early to go to class or work. 
    For example, in March, 1–2–3–4 Go hosted a concert for The Peacers, with several students from the Peralta Colleges in attendance. 
    The Peacers are a local band that play a very “rock n roll” brand of punk. 
    The songs are mid-tempo and not hardcore; they’re a self-described “good times punk” band. 
    The crowd seemed to think so as well: a few audience members did the jitterbug, alongside other couples dancing. 
    At the concert, Berkeley City College student Linda Gershang said she that she really appreciated being able to go see live music, shop for records, socialize with people, and still get enough sleep to be able to make the early morning class the next day.

    Their Own Kind of Music

    Both of these record stores put out records on their own record labels, some from local Bay Area bands. 
    O’Shaughnessey and Stevens agreed that doing the labels has been worth all the extra hours it takes the workers to get all the mail orders done. They both are proud to be putting out music by artist’s they believe in and support. 
    Econo Jam’s label has just started, with one release, while 1–2–3–4 Go! has run a label since 1999 and boasts over 70 releases.
    1–2–3–4 Go!’s label started up a decade before the store even opened. Their first release was a double record by the infamous San Francisco band Hickey. 
    The record has sold-out and is now a collector’s item. The label has grown ever since.
    Econo Jam’s first record came out in 2015, released by the local underground metal band Akatharsia. Other records are in the planning stages for release.
    Econo Jam is also one of the only record stores in the Bay Area that sells new and used stereo equipment, as well as the standard records and tapes.
    They also have a “listening station” with a couch and a stereo system set up so customers can listen to records when visiting the shop. 
    If you’ve never visited these stores, check out what these stores have to offer. They both also sell books and music magazines. They are great places to buy gifts for music lovers. 
    And if you aren’t currently a person that buys records, then well, you might be due for a visit.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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