Friday, February 19, 2010

#2 Amoeba Music

#30 Hollywood Walk of Fame
#29 Yamashiro
#28 Hollywood Billiards
#27 Genghis Cohen
#26 Piano Bar
#25 Shmutzville
# 24 Loteria
# 23 The Griddle
# 22 Proximity
# 21 Hollywood Freeway
#20 Kitchen 24
# 19 The People
# 18 Sushi Eyaki
#17 Raymond Chandler
# 16 Jumbo's Clown Room
#15 Skooby's
#14 The Arclight
# 13 The Well
#12 Runyon Canyon
# 11 Canter's
#10 Hotel Café
#9 Body Factory
#8 The Troubadour
#7 Barney's Beanery (The Real One)
#6 Thai Food
#5 The Jukebox at Café 101
#4 The Lights
#3 Village Pizzeria

#2 Amoeba Music

I am a cynical person. (really???) I tend to distrust authority and tradition unconditionally, and I rarely see the best in things or people until they give me good reason to do so. Contrary to what Conan O'Brien said in his final Tonight Show Speech, I think this is a good thing. If we all blindly trusted authority and went along believing that everyone was true and honest in their words, we would still be living in an anti-science slave economy. We need to question things.

What does this have to do with a records store? Well, if there is one place on Earth I feel that all facets of this country come together and do good together, it's Amoeba. I know this sounds silly, but on the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga, art, business, life, vitality, and love all come together under one giant roof, creating my favorite indoor place in the country. Amoeba is heaven.

Amoeba is the size of three football fields. It is laid out with used cds on the west side, new on the east. Vinyl is in the front, jazz and blues the back, and the DVDs are upstairs. From a music fan's perspective, it is the best place I can think about shopping for music. There are other great stores in this great city—Fingerprints in Long Beach comes to mind—but when I'm looging for something, I know Amoeba has it. And for eight bucks.

But it's not merely the insane selection and prices that I love about Amoeba, it's everything else. The staff is insane. Case in point: about a year ago, I go in there looging for the solo work of Tim O'Reagan, the drummer for the Jayhawks. Unable to find it in either J or O, I ask a staffer behind the info desk. "Bargain CDs under O, should be 3rd aisle on your right." WHAT??? Seriously? I don't know if he's a fan or not, but not only did he know who I was talking about, but that it was in stock and where? Are you nuts?

Or the "Music we Like" catalog that comes out every now and again. In it, staffers from all three Amoeba's (older smaller stores are in San Francisco and Berkeley) offer suggestions around things they dig. So if you find a staffer whose tastes fit yours, you can find new music in brand new ways. And because Amoeba is the greatest place on Earth, there is no better source to acquire new music than from the people inside.

Everything about Amoeba is my favorite thing the world. The free live shows that are there like every night, the music they play while you shop, the layout, the prices, the cheap-ass box sets, the crazy selection of amazing DVDs, the people inside, the FREE FUCKING PARKING, the hours (record stores open til 11 are awesome), the back room, the fact that I once found "Cleveland Browns Greatest Games" there, and then months later found "History of the Cleveland Browns," the walk from my house, the yellow paper bags they give you, the branding, and everything they represent about how great this country can be.

Most stores become terrible in a directly proportional arc with how big they get. Things become homogenized, prices soar, branding becomes intolerable, and the staff becomes robots—Amoeba is the exact opposite. It needs to be big to be great, and it thrives. Prices remain, not only fair, but also the best; the staff is always cool, nothing is homogenized, and they seriously, and genuinely love music. Call me a fucking sheep, but I trust them so much as to say, their mission is not about cutting profits (which I'm sure they do at a remarkable pace) but about loving music. I really believe that.

I have spent close to two grand there in the last two years. As soon as the move and my trips are behind me and I have money again, I will continue to spend it there. I love Amoeba, and despite it being a few red-line stops away, I will be dying that I can't walk there. Amoeba is the greatest thing about LA.