The rise of auction Web site eBay, despite its convenience, has muted one of the great joys of being a collector: the physical thrill of the hunt. In New Orleans, that means combing through the stacks at Louisiana Music Factory, The Magic Bus, Jim Russell Rare Records or Rock 'n' Roll Collectibles, hoping to discover the recent arrival of that obscure Stax 45 or used copy of Jim Dickinson's Dixie Fried that you've been chasing for years. And there's nothing like the crap shoot of weekend yard sales across the metro area, where there's always the possibility of a stack of unappreciated 78s sitting next to a toaster.
Personally, my favorite music-hunting memories revolve around record conventions. There's something undeniably thrilling (and challenging) about entering a huge space filled with tables and tables of goodies, all ripe for the taking, and usually ripe for some good-natured haggling over their price with the sellers. Factor in the unspoken competition against other collectors eager to pillage the same loot, and it's the record-geek equivalent of the ultimate scavenger hunt. That said, it's always been puzzling that New Orleans' rich musical history and heavy concentration of music aficionados hasn't produced a large-scale record convention in the Crescent City. (Texas outfit Infinite Records usually produces a few small record shows a year, held in Metairie.)
This weekend, that finally changes, and hopefully starts a biannual tradition rivaling the granddaddy of all record shows: the Austin Record Convention, held twice annually in the spring and fall. It's no accident that the debut of the New Orleans Record and Music Show is scheduled the week after the Austin Record Convention -- and the week after Jazz Fest.
"The obvious strategy is to try and capitalize on Jazz Fest and establish the record show as an extension of Jazz Fest," says Skip Henderson, the show's producer. "Austin is the big kahuna, and we don't want to go up against them, but draw from that crowd of folks. We have people distributing flyers in Austin for our show. I've only lived here for seven years, but it's amazing to me that New Orleans doesn't have a guitar show or record show."
Henderson knows a thing or two about guitar shows. For 12 years, he produced highly successful guitar shows in New York City. One of the hallmarks of the New York guitar shows was their devotion to charity; all the door proceeds went to the AIDS Resource Foundation for Children. The New Orleans Record and Music Show benefits two similarly deserving entities: Special Olympics of Louisiana and the University of New Orleans' Music Department.
"The template works so well for the synergy between nonprofits and events like this," Henderson says. "All the money that comes through the door is going to Special Olympics, and all the money generated by renting tables to (record) dealers is going to UNO." (Admission to the show is $3.50, with $20 early-access passes available.)
Henderson is pleased with the initial response from dealers, but is still looking for contributions from the community to help make the show's debut a success. "We're looking to get collections donated," he says. "It gives people an opportunity to get a tax write-off, which is perfect for people who might have a ton of records stashed in their garage, but don't even own a turntable anymore. People can even bring records directly to the show. We hope to have the May show just be a record show, and the November show to be records and everything else: photographs, paintings, anything related to music."
So if anyone out there has original promo posters for, say, Johnny Taylor's Lifetime box set, The Grateful Dead's Europe '72 and NRBQ's God Bless Us All, please bring them to the New Orleans Record and Music Show -- and look for the geeky blond guy roaming the convention.