“…. if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.”
-Penny Lane, Almost Famous
It might have opened on April Fools Day, but Amoeba Music’s new location –which shoppers got to peruse for the first time yesterday, April 1st– is no joke. In fact, the store’s fans will be happy to see it looks a lot like the former location. After announcing the big move a few years ago, and dealing with COVID 19 delays at the new space, Amoeba Hollywood hopes to once again be L.A.’s go-to spot for music and movies, streaming be damned.
In some ways it’s more “Hollywood” than ever. The new location isn’t too far from the original, now on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and Argyle Ave. in the El Centro residential and retail complex. Remember fighting for a parking space in the old spot’s underground garage? Or giving up after 15 minutes and hoping to get lucky in the tiny extra lot down the block, only to get impatient and look for street parking or sneak into the Arclight’s lot across the street? At the new spot, there’s validated parking in the El Centro parking structure and there’s a metro-rail stop across the street at Hollywood & Vine. Nice.
With substantial vinyl, CD and DVD/Blu-ray selections, the store also maintains some extensive book and poster selections as well as a “curated” t-shirt section, turntables and vinyl accessories and music-themed collectibles. Obviously this is all necessary for the store’s survival these days.
I remember going to the San Francisco location in the late ’90s and wishing we had one in my town, then getting my wish near the end of 2001. Covering the old location for LA Weekly on opening day, I recall walking from our former offices on Sunset Blvd. to the colorful space and being completely blown away. I found what would become like a second home. Countless signings, live events, Record Store Days and friendships with staff followed. Lance Rock, a colorful local DJ who went on to become a children’s TV star, became one of my closest. It was a full circle thing when I covered an event for his show Yo Gabba Gabba on Nickelodeon at the store years later.
I know I’m not alone in my appreciation for Amoeba, and Aron’s and Tower (look ‘m up kids) before that. Record stores have inspired me, turned me on to new things, gotten me through hard times and helped me celebrate good ones. I grew up with Music Plus, The Warehouse, Licorice Pizza and later, the Virgin Megastore, but it was the indie shops like Vinyl Fetish, Headline Records, Bleeker Bobs, Shattered Music (where I worked for a Summer), Poo-Bah’s and Aron’s that beckoned over the years. Aron’s and Amoeba even helped me pay the bills as a young music journalist who was lucky enough to be on the big record label promo lists. Miss those days. Sigh…
By the way, there’s still a trade-in/sell counter at Amoeba Hollywood, though we’re guessing it’ll see more vinyl and collectables than CDs now. And there’s a small stage too (backdropped by an original Shepard Fairey mural). Of course, live events are on hold til we crush the virus.
If you’re wondering about current COVID-19 restrictions if you go this weekend, the owners say it’ll be at 50% capacity, which means you’ll probably have to wait in line outside, six feet apart and (of course) masked to get in.
“We are so ready to safely re-open our doors to our amazingly supportive and loyal customers who have kept in touch with us during this unfathomable time,” Amoeba co-owner Jim Henderson says in the store’s opening day press release. “Nobody could have anticipated the challenges this year brought for the world and we’ve been eager to get back to what we do best – hosting the world’s biggest selection of music, movies and ephemera for the community of Los Angeles and beyond. We’ve missed seeing our staff and everyone who visits us in person more than we can express and look forward to starting our third decade in Hollywood in the new space and creating more memories together.”
Sure, most of us use Spotify or Apple Music for our music needs, but the record store experience is valuable, and Amoeba aims to continue to give it to us in a big way. For those of us who look back fondly at the days of IRL music shopping, its nostalgic but it’s also –and I know this sounds dramatic– life affirming. Music represents escape and expression and affirmation about who we are, and for boomers, Generation X and millennials especially, having a place to be surrounded by it was and is a formative thing. Even for my Gen Z daughter, Amoeba has meaning. It’s where almost all the posters that currently wallpaper her bedroom came from. We spent her birthday there a couple years ago picking ’em all out (she chose images of Debbie Harry, Freddie Mercury, The Beatles, and David Bowie as Aladdin Sane). Then we caught a movie at the Arclight and got dinner on Cahuenga. A perfect day… Here’s to more perfect days ahead.
Amoeba Hollywood, 6200 Hollywood Blvd. Open 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Daily. More info at Amoeba.com