On February 15, 2014, I went to very first annual Bay Area Record Label Fair, or BARF for short, at Thee Parkside in San Francisco. I had been to a few of the San Francisco venues for shows, but never to this one. Thee Parkside is in Downtown San Francisco on 17th Street only a few blocks away from Bottom of the Hill. Seeing how it was the first one, I really didn't know what to expect from this fair. But I have to admit that if you can make it to the next one you really should go, especially if you are an avid vinyl collector like I am. Not to mention that admission was free and there was a full bar inside the venue and one outside!
The actual fair itself was located outside where I assume is the place where people smoke between acts during shows. It was a small place, but it was filled with booths where record labels were selling their products. A lot of different labels that put out a bunch of different music were there so this was a meeting of different groups of people like skaters, punks, hippies, and hipsters. But it was peaceful because everyone there was at this fair because of their love of music. These were the labels that showed up:
Fat Wreck Chords
I went to most of the tables to look around, but I bought stuff from three of them. The prices at all of the booths were significantly cheaper than they are at labels' online stores. The first one that I stopped at was the Alternative Tentacles table. They were selling some of their catalogue on vinyl and cd and t-shirts with the label's logo on them. The really cool aspect about this booth though, other than just talking with the people who work for the label, was that underneath the table they were selling random vinyl from Jello Biafra's personal collection. So I rummaged through all the three boxes and purposely picked the weirdest looking album I could find just based on its album art.
My next stop was the Asian Man booth. They must have had their full catalogue because there was a ton of vinyl there. I made it my mission here to try to complete my Andrew Jackson Jihad LP collection and I was successful. I literally told the person in charge of the booth, "I'm looking for anything Andrew Jackson Jihad has released." I ended up picking up two of their LP's.
My third stop was the one I was trying to save my money for, which was the Fat Wreck Chords booth. For those of you who don't know, once a month Fat Wreck Chords opens its doors for the public to come shop for a few hours. They usually have exclusive pressings of recent releases there. At this booth however, they just had standard releases except for a couple of special releases from the store. They seemed to have one LP of each release they have put out recently. They were also selling 7-inches, stickers, beer cozies, jackets, and other stuff with the Fat Wreck Chords logo on it. I ended up buying an LP and a 7-inch at this one while going completely over-budget, but it was totally worth it.
What was also really cool about BARF was that there was a free show inside the venue that started about an hour into it. The opening act was a DJ called Al Lover. He had a thirty-minute set. Call me "old fashioned," but the whole time I was trying to figure out how this was considered an actual performance.
Anyway, next up was a band called Cocktails. It was band made up of three guitarists (one of which also played keyboards, too), a bassist, and a drummer. They had an indie-rock vibe, but they consider themselves "slop pop" and they were pretty good. They had especially good vocal arrangements.
The third act was a band from Oakland called Twin Steps. This was by far the weirdest act of the day. The band consisted of a guitarist (clean, not distorted), a bassist, a drummer, and a lead singer who also manned the drum machine before the songs started. The lead singer, during the songs, would grab on to people in the audience and drag them down to the ground, while screaming/shrieking into the mic. You have to hear this band to really comprehend what I'm saying, but trust me it was odd, and at the same time very entertaining.
The headlining act truly blew me away. The band was called Dog Party. I had only read about this band, but never listened to them. I really enjoyed their performance. If you don't know the band, its two sisters one who sings and plays guitar and the other sings and plays drums (I have huge respect for musicians who drum and sing at the same time). If you haven't listened to them, look them up. They rock! I tried to snag one of their records from the Asian Man booth after their set was over, but the booth actually ran out of their material.
Overall, BARF was a fantastic experience. It's a great, intimate event where (independent) music lovers can congregate and talk music over a cold beer, talk with people who actually work for the labels, find good deals on records, and be entertained by some free live performances in a really fun city. There couldn't have been more than 100 people there. If you can make it out to the next one, I highly recommend it. It's an enjoyable way to kill an afternoon.
I was very surprised to see that the majority of booths were selling cassettes, too.
I also took some of pictures at the event. Check them out here.