Departure lounge ramblings on music, places, climate change and stuff outdoors

Are guitar shops as good as record stores?

What I love about record stores is that you can walk in just to pass the time, get transfixed by a tune, and leave clutching the best new music you’ve heard in ages. I did that a couple of days ago in Rough Trade East in London. All it took was an innocent question asked of a fellow music lover (who just happens to get paid to sell records in that very establishment) about the beautiful sound coming from the store speakers. Five minutes later I was walking back to the office with the latest album from the Buffalo Springfield-esque, Israel Nash (can the surname really be just a coincidence?).

Guitar shops are different. You’d have to be both very wealthy and obsessed to buy a new instrument on every visit. But the chat is often just as illuminating.

Take tonight, for instance. I trundled along to Pentatonic Guitars, near my wonderful, habitual Greenpoint hotel, The Box House, to trade in my Tanglewood for an acoustic electric. There were only four to choose from and one was way outside of my price range, so the transaction itself was fairly simple, and I am now about to enjoy an evening with my new six-stringed accomplice.

But along the way I also gained an insight into, variously, rat catching dogs and why people carry their canine friends in Brooklyn; house painting in the humidity of a New York August; and the benefit of knowing that life is good. That’s not to mention the pleasurable ramble through the pale ales of the British Midlands compared with those of the American coast, as well as a lesson in the perils of a cider-induced hangovers, all the while hiding from a summer thunderstorm.

So are guitar shops as good as record stores? I don’t honestly know and anyway, I’ve got a new-old guitar to break-in and some Israel Nash songs to learn…

* Thanks to Rough Trade Records East and Brooklyn, Israel Nash, Pentatonic Guitars, and Greg, the happy painter, for the inspiration

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