Why write a book about Atlanta record stores? The truth is that you get a singularly unique perspective on a city’s history, its culture, and its personality when viewed through the lens of a record store’s front window. I have often said that if you want to understand a society or a culture, just take a look at its pop culture, and music has always remained right there on the frontlines.
Atlanta is world-renowned as a hip-hop mecca, but a rich underground rock scene has been thriving here for decades. The hub of that world is the city’s record stores. Featuring decades-old institutions to shops that existed just long enough to leave an impact, Atlanta Record Stores is a rock-centric take on a hip-hop town, unfurling the secret history of music underdogs—outliers living among outliers—telling their stories in their native tongue. From Jarboe of SWANS to William DuVall of Alice in Chains and Neon Christ to Kelly Hogan, Gentleman Jesse Smith, Atlanta Braves organist Matthew Kaminski, and those surly characters behind the counter at Wuxtry, Wax ‘n’ Facts, Criminal, Ella Guru, Fantasyland, and more, all were drawn by the irresistible lure of vinyl records—all found their communities and their own identities, leaving an indelible mark on the culture of Atlanta.
Click below to pre-order your copy of Atlanta Record Stores: An Oral History. $23.99 (postage paid).
On June 12, as the Record Store Day shopping frenzy winds down in Little Five Points, head over to the the parking lot behind the Star Bar (437 Moreland Ave NE), where Neon Christ, GG King, and Upchuck are playing a free show from 6-8 p.m.
Atlanta’s hardcore luminaries Neon Christ were founded by Alice in Chains singer William DuVall in 1984. Back then DuVall played guitar alongside vocalist Randy DuTeau, bass player Danny Lankford, and drummer Jimmy Demer. “Our first practices were in Little Five Points, just steps from where we’ll play June 12,” DuVall says. “We played festivals here in ’84 and ’85. My record collection as a teenager came almost entirely from Wax N Facts. We didn’t even consider playing anywhere else.”
DuVall also did a brief stint playing in Santa Cruz, California’s seminal hardcore group Bl’ast! between 1986 and ’87.
Neon Christ’s members are reuniting to play live for the first time since February 8, 2008, when they took the stage together at The Treehouse in Lawrenceville. The show is also a victory lap on the heels of releasing the 1984 discography LP as a Record Store Day exclusive via Southern Lord and DuVall’s DVL imprint.
For this show, NX will tear through its earliest thrash and hardcore songs such as “Parental Suppression,” “Bad Influence,” “Ashes to Ashes,” and more. This is the material from their original two 7-inch releases, culled together and remastered for 1984—much of which the band stopped playing that same year. Before splitting up in 1986, NX’s had evolved and channeled its energy into longer, heavier, and slower songs. On June 12, though, the group is going full-on high-energy.
Press play on the new video for the group’s theme song, “Neon Christ.”
Before the show, NX will be at Criminal Records from 5-6 p.m. for a meet-and-greet, and to sign copies of 1984. “We wanted to do a quick in-store appearance for Record Store Day, but Covid restrictions would keep us from doing a proper punk rock show,” says Demer. “So we decided to make it outdoors, and all ages, and free. And instead of doing a couple of songs, we’ll play a full set.”
Music behind the Star Bar starts promptly at 6 p.m. Each band is playing a tight 30-minute set with an even tighter changeover between sets. “If all goes as planned, Neon Christ will play at 7:30 p.m. and end 26 minutes later,” Demer says. “Don’t blink, you’ll miss it.”
Don’t dick around and miss this one. After the Treehouse show in 2008 the group said it was the last time NX would play live. So 13 years later, this is a rare treat, and it could be your last chance to see them on stage. “We’ve only played two or three times since we broke up in 1986,” Demer says. “This one feels like a homecoming. It’s full circle, back to Little Five Points.”
This show also marks the first time that GG King has played live since the crushing new LP Remain Intact arrived in March via Total Punk. Press play below.
And check out Upchuck’s self-titled EP from January 2020, too. It’s a scorcher.
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In 2008, RSD was created to help drive traffic to record stores, which, at the time, were an endangered species. Times have changed, and vinyl now reigns supreme among music heads. The local shops that the annual hallmark holiday was invented to save now struggle to make room for the flood of limited edition RSD releases that fill the racks each year.
This year, RSD is spread across three Saturdays — August 29, September 26, and October 24. Georgia is still a hotbed for COVID-19, so things are being handled delicately across the board. If you are venturing out in search of that highly coveted Hawkwind At The BBC 1972 2xLP, Billie Eilish Live At Third Man Records, or anything else from Anoushka Shankar to June of 44, wearing a mask and maintaining at least six feet of distance between your fellow record shopping friends and fiends is a must.
No matter where you go, there you are, standing in line for a minute no matter where you go. But that’s never stopped you before. The following list is a field guide of best bets for your Atlanta RSD experience. Be safe, be cool, and check out the list of RSD official drops here.
CD Warehouse generally opens at 10 a.m., but if there’s a line they’ll open the doors early. Plenty of RSD drops in stock. 50 Barrett Pkwy. Marietta. 770-425-3472 and 2175 Pleasant Hill Rd. 770-623-1552.
Comeback Vinyl‘s physical shop will be closed for all in-store shopping and RSD pick ups. The store will be selling RSD title at Comebackvinyl.com beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Keep an eye on their website, email newsletter, Instagram, and Facebook page for a list of titles, prices, and how many of each release they have in stock. 1 South Main St., Alpharetta. 678-580-0583.
DBS Sounds is the place to be at 4 p.m. when CeeLo Green stops by at 4 p.m. to sign copies of his latest album, titled CeeLo Green Is Thomas Callaway (BMG / Easy Eye Sound). He’ll be signing CDs and LPs. 10 a.m. 7 p.m. 6610 GA-85, Riverdale. 770-997-5776.
Fantasyland Records is stocking as many RSD releases as they can get their hands on, and the shop is opening an hour early (10 a.m). There is no validation required for the entire parking deck for all three RSD dates in August, September, and October—park wherever you’d like on all three levels! Masks are required for entry, and social distancing while waiting in line is a must. Customers may purchase one copy per limited edition RSD title. 360 Pharr Road N.E. 404-237-3193.
Mojo Vinyl is operating at limited capacity from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m. Five customers will be allowed in at a time between 10 a.m. and noon. After 12 p.m. the doors are open to everyone. Wearing a mask is required for entry, and hand sanitizer is provided at the door. Outside, wearing a mask and no less than six feet distance must be maintained between each customer. The line should form from the side porch and run down the driveway. Take an Uber or a Lyft, or park at the two large lots at the soccer field next door. Each RSD title is limited to one copy per person— first come, first served. Bring a list, be prompt, and remember that we’re all in this together. 26 Webb St. Ste. 2, Roswell. 678-523-5042.
Moods Music, Little Five Points’ premier neo soul, hip-hop, dance, acid jazz, Afro-Cuban, house, funk, and rare grooves music shop is opening an hour early (11 a.m.), and the store is stocked with RSD drops. 1131 Euclid Ave. N.E. 404-653-0724.
Sweet Melissa Records opens at 9 a.m. and is stocked with plenty of this year’s RSD drops. 146 South Park Square Marietta. 770-429-0434.
Waterloo Sunset is stocked with some but not too many of this year’s RSD drops. Stop by for the sidewalk sale featuring $1 LPs from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. 900 Battery Ave. Ste. 1010. 770-989-1967.
Wax N Facts is opening an hour early (10 a.m.) and serving up RSD drops buffet style. Customers may purchase one copy per title. Five customers at a time are allowed in the shop. Bring a list, and be cool. Wearing a mask is required for entry. 432 Moreland Ave. N.E. 404-525-2275.
Wuxtry Records: The usual rules apply. The shop is open from 11 a.m. till 6 p.m., and is fully stocked with RSD titles. Wearing a face mask is required for entry, and the shop allows eight customers in at a time. 2096 N. Decatur Road, Decatur. 404-329-0020.
Did we forget someone? We tried to be as thorough as possible with this year’s list of participating record shops. Drop us a line and let us know.