In the not so distant past there was a time when listening to music came, generally, in one of three forms. The first: following artists to local venues small and grand to listen to live unpolished sound. The second: tuning in to radio stations, where rockstar disc jockeys spun their favourite tracks to a seismic audience. The third: of course, picking up vinyls from your local record store after several minutes or hours of searching, and making your way home with the goods to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Whilst the first form, and less so the second, stood the test of time (despite transforming in a countless amount of ways), the same cannot be said for vinyl.
With the rise of the CD player and the dawn of the digital age, the music industry was shook in a way that had never been seen before, the way that we accessed music had been revolutionised. Gone were the days of buying replacement needles, updating amps and doing everything humanly possible to keep vinyl records in their pristine condition. What was the point in all that malarky, when you could just buy a CD and put it into your far more practical player? If you were lucky enough to own a new car you wouldn't even have to wait to get home. In, play, listen - that simple. Or of course later down the line you could plug a pair of headphones into your desktop, type in Napster.com and listen to your favourite songs, for free, at the touch of a button.
The world over predicted the complete demise of the vinyl industry. Gone forever, never to return. No one could be blamed for prophesying such a thing. In 1986 US Vinyl sales stood at around $1.2 Billion, by 2005 that number had shrunk to a mere 25 million USD.
Who would have thought 19 years into the 21st century, the age of tech, artists would be releasing records exclusively on vinyl. Nobody would have predicted the success of online vinyl markets like Discogs, MusicStack and Reverb and you would of been stupid to think that Adele’s 2015 album ’25’ would push 160,000 vinyl copies in 3 years; but the truth of the matter is that vinyl, still to this day, offers something that digital or CD can’t.
Lark Lane Vinyl Fair is a shining example of this slow but strong resurgence. Hidden away in the cultural heart of Liverpool’s Lark Lane, finding refuge in an old police station, the vinyl fair is held a few times a year. The organisers describe a spectacle… “Over 30 sellers from across the North West. Loads of vinyl. Some CDs. DVDs. Wot nots… & DJs, IT’S A DIGGERS PARADISE!!!” ...and that it is. With music from every genre you could think of, from heavy electro to complex Jazz albums from the 20s, there’s something for everyone here.
We sat down with Paddy (or P45), the organiser of the Lark Lane Vinyl Fair to have a chat about the comeback of Vinyl and the music scene in Liverpool - past, present and future. From being a young lad living on Lark Lane that was heavily dedicated to vinyl, Paddy has now taken the reigns of the fair which has brought joy to the ears of many. Paddy's laid back character and general warmth has nurtured the fair to become what it is now; a well-established event that showcases an eclectic range of music from all over the globe. If you don't go for the vinyl, go for a chat
A palpable sense of authenticity is felt stepping foot into the Lark Lane Vinyl Fair, a sense of adventure perhaps, the excitement of having a chance to find that record you've been searching for. This is something Paddy recognises, fondly recounting the feeling of “unexpectedly stumbling upon that gem you’ve been after for months & months and haggling down with the vendors in order to get it for the right price.”
It is very much a passion project for Paddy. Working in healthcare as a pharmaceutical rep means travelling around the country. The fair gives him the opportunity to find records in places you’d least expect, not being burdened with guilt as to the amount he has bought. “In some of these places they’ll have a tiny record section & the vinyl’s will be so packed in, blood would literally be drawn from my fingers just from flicking through them!”
Paddy’s unquestioned passion for vinyl and music in general becomes apparent almost immediately. With 15,000 to 20,000 records you'd be forgiven for calling this hobby an addiction, but in the vinyl community it is hard for it to not be. Paddy doesn’t, however, hold on to all of his vinyl’s: “You can’t cant get too attached to records or hung up on the ones sold or not bought; I've left some records that were in the back but when I checked they were on discogs for £2000. But its not about the money for me & I think for a lot of the vendors who come here, it's more about the community of it. Reaching out to other collectors, trading stories & records!”
If you’re in the Liverpool area and haven’t heard about this fair it is likely because it has little to no online presence “the majority of customers are not tech savvy so I don’t really get into Facebook & all that, but it is always nice to see younger people coming in, and I think it's definitely this sudden revival or reawakening that has spurred younger people to take more of an interest in the scene as well.”
Despite this disregard for the online world, Paddy has made sure to keep himself, and the fair, entangled in the cities vibrant music scene, running a pop up shop at Liverpools Sound City back in May. “Sound City is amazing. It really has everything from Viennan Jazz, to Spoken word, to some of the heaviest metal. And where the festival is held (Baltic Triangle) it really breaks down the barriers that most other festivals hold, allowing you to watch a performance, and then right after have a chat with the musicians.”
Lark Lane Vinyl Fair and vinyl records share a common theme. Authenticity and intimacy to music, something that no music streaming platform or HMV can offer. This perhaps goes a long way in explaining Vinyl's resurgence which continues year on year.
Nothing beats OWNING (as opposed to effectively renting C/O apple music and Spotify) a physical record which you've put blood sweat and tears in to finding and later playing.
Fuck instant gratification.
Long live vinyl.
The next Lark Lane vinyl fair is on Sunday 17th Novemeber.
Moving to Liverpool? Student? Creative type on a budget? Dealer? Doesn’t matter. Here you find yourself starry eyed in the L 1 5 not knowing who’s who or what’s what, fear not. You’re gonna be okay, because we have provided a succinct and experienced overview of everything you need to get yourself grounded on the strip. How nice of us.
Smithdown begins at the Edge Hill Junction, bordering Toxteth and initially running parallel to Lodge Lane. First up we have Ragga’s Caribbean café, featured on the hit YouTube ‘Munchies’ series, this place serves up some of the finest Caribbean food in the city. Family run, the authentic recipes of Ragga himself have allowed the brand to establish authentic Caribbean food as a competitor to the Indian/Chinese monopoly on weekday take-away options. With regulars in the likes of Aystar and Raheem Sterling, they’re doing something right.
PoK Recommends: Festival Dumplings x Callaloo x Wings.
Southwards from Ragga’s is about a kilometer of mix n match odd shops. You have the Webster Triangle area on the left with the £1 houses, some antique shops and new developments, and the graveyard/graveyard house on the right (big up the house party landlord). The student/young professionals strip of Smithdown begins at the Aldi/Asda junction with ‘The Dales’ and all that entails.
Late Night, the aptly named run-of-the-mill corner shop doing exactly what you expect, except slightly later than all the others. Consequently, the store is something of a Mecca for many a moonlit gremlin seeking glucose.
Two down from Late Night are the premises of the Smithdon himself, Mr. Lau and his Chinese/Fish-n-Chip shop. Now, I care deeply about the environment and disdain the treatment of animals through common farming practices, however, the 50p per piece Salt and Pepper wings sold at this shop are different, something you haven’t had before, indeed maybe life changing. I may never be able to move away from Liverpool through fear of being too far away from these wings; Mr Lau take a bow.
Mini Amsterdam is not a nice shop, but being named what it is, it supplies much of what you may inevitably find yourself looking for. Much how the copy and pasted template Rugby ladslads initiate each other through homoerotic ritual, the Smithdown stoner will, in a similar fashion, make a trip to this shop only to walk straight out and never return thanks to perhaps the strangest owner in existence. Go figure.
Thankfully, right next door to Mini Amsterdam resides the nicest woman in the world, Liz. Liz runs the CottonBox tailor shop, and can handle all the custom garm/alteration jobs you can throw at her. We also just recommend going in for a chat.
Basha’s is home to the bossman of Smithdown, who until 2am serves up the finest middle-eastern cuisine around. The Halloumi wrap-Milkshake combo is a big winner with us (ask for the mint tea taster while you wait).
Following the junction, we have The Handyman bar and venue. A cool spot to catch food and vibe in the day or see a local band in the evening, in a central and convenient location at the heart of the community.
Next up, we have more of a regional institution than anything else, The Brookhouse pub. Named after the original pub which preceded it on the location of the brook which still runs from behind the now-car-park, all the way through Sefton park into Otterspool. Tales of students attending The Brookhouse go back nearly half-a-century, to the founding of the student accommodation on Greenbank Road, before even Carnatic was a slum (RIP).
Studio Thirteen, run and owned by Jack Jenkins, is more than just a barber shop, it seeks to provide an entirely different experience for those wanting the flamiest of trims and challenge the perception of what a ‘trip to the barbers’ can be. Few people strike as much fear and respect in equal measure in me as owner Jack who has, inspired by the finest hair studios in Russia, built his brand from the ground up and delivers near surgical-level haircuts to a large and loyal client base here in greater Liverpool and beyond.
Beyond the railway overpass, Smithdown transforms from a student based Leeds-Festival-walkway vibe to the more suburban and family oriented residential area of Allerton.
Our list of great locations in the area and beyond may never end, but sadly this article must.