33third . 5111 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. 90019

The newly revitalized segment of Pico near La Brea boasts boutiques, the re-lit marquee of the Del Mar Theater, an Oki Dog clawing at the fringes like a wayward Imperial Storm Trooper, and Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. And now, as in years past, a grassroots mom-and-pop record shop. Opening on the very day Rhino closed — thus cosmologically balancing the fortunes of L.A. DJs — 33third offers stacks of new and old souljazzfunkrockpop, as well as turntable replacement parts, apparel, graf tools and a stage for in-store action. The store — which began life as a dot-com outlet — is tall-ceilinged, airy and bright enough to watch sunlit dust erupt from constantly disturbed piles of records.

Says co-founder Matthew Stibbe: “The location has actually been a record store for 33 years; initially, it was Crane’s Records, then it was taken over by Walker Martin and changed to Martin’s Records. For about 15 years, this was the premier hip-hop record store in Los Angeles before Fat Beats and Stacks]. Everyone from Wu-Tang Clan to EPMD performed or just hung out here when they came through L.A. Our overall goal is to make it more than just another music store.” Recent in-store shows have included Oh No, Roc C (both on Stones Throw Records), Self Scientific, and M-1 of Dead Prez.

Is it quixotic to claim “community” as the explicit aim of a record store? Yes. Yes, it is. These are vinyl LPs living in the shrunken age of iPods and downloading mass media en masse. And indeed, 33third’s evolution from dot.com to storefront — clicks before bricks — may seem a bit backwards. But as Stibbe explains it, e-community has its limits: “The true nature of a person can’t be expressed through sentences typed and exchanged over computers. As far as online vs. offline [experiences] go, they’re completely different in relation to people’s interactions. Talking to someone online, you may never know who they really are. The difference between online and offline personas is sometimes amazing.”

Indeed, just as time and porn may hammer sexual frustration into a wafer-thin foil of depleted hormones and indifference, so too does getting and having intangible things hammer community connection into a tissue of indifference and alienation. The record store is the keystone in the arch of a neighborhood; it’s a hot dog on the way past the thrift store and the popcorn double feature, and then back home to think about it all, to create, listen, and do it again.

LA Weekly