From Coachella to Pinky’s Bar, Alex Rodriguez’s Record Safari never stops

Vinyl records are going nowhere, and it is very possible that COVID-19 helped strengthen their endurance forever. Alex Rodriguez, DJ-booker at the Los Feliz hotspot called Pinky’s and co-owner of Record Safari in Los Feliz, thinks so anyway; and he should know it. The LA-born and Bakersfield-bred music observer, who also happens to be the chief curator of Coachella’s huge vinyl record emporium on site, has worked with music most of his life, from DJs in both parts of California to running vintage stores in Bakersfield, to manage venues, including Glasshouse’s record store in Pomona. While the pandemic proved difficult for retailers, especially small businesses, he says the record store was not one of them.

“During the shutdown, I think people were looking for things to do in their homes, and when bars, restaurants, music events, sporting events, everything that was closed, the only thing that was actually open was retail,” he says. “And I mean, how many times can you go to Target? You’ll get bored and it’s all the same thing. But places like record stores and like all sorts of collectibles every time you go, there are always different things to look at. So I think that kind of made collectibles in general, whether it’s cartoons or toys or plates or antiques – it gave people something to do. They could go to these types of stores and see different things every time and buy different things. So when they were at home with what they bought, they could play with it or listen to it. It gave them something to do. “

“I thought it would die when everything reopened,” he continues. “I thought the crazy sales and resurgence would take a big toll when people could travel again and go out to eat and go to bars and see concerts again. But it has not. I think a lot of people are have become addicted to buying records. It’s definitely an addiction … to pick up on anything. “

Record Safari

(Courtesy Record Safari Los Feliz)

Rodriguez, who was born in the San Fernando Valley, is fortunate enough to be able to feed his own addiction and help others satisfy theirs through the new Atwater record store (which opened in July 2021 and counts Goldenvoice’s Paul Tollett as owner) and the Coachella retail project as well. , both of which allow him to travel across the country in search of rare vinyl. There was even a documentary, also called Record Safari, made about his travels and curation.

Despite immersing himself in record digging on a daily basis, Rodriguez’s music obsession did not start with a record player. He mentions MTV as his first inspiration, especially the artists who played metal and hard rock, and he remembers, as many of us do, making mix-bands of songs from the radio via an old boombox. For older DJs, this was a way to learn about putting together playlists and creating a mood and flow through number selection. For Rodriguez, the genres were everywhere and his tastes have remained eclectic.

He started deejaying in 1999 in LA and in Bakersfield and moved here full time in 2013. Playing music for others in the public space, which this author has tried on a few occasions, is an expressive endeavor. It’s about reading a space and connecting, reflecting the energy and then taking it to a new place. Rodriguez won fans around town for doing just that. But even before the pandemic, he decided to slow down. “There are so many new DJs now, it’s like letting the kids have that night, not a guy who’s deejayed for 20 years in LA,” he says of booking others.

After spinning at Peanutbutter Wolf’s Gold Line in Highland Park, a bartender from there, who also worked at Pinky’s, recommended him for the job of filling turntables. Pinky’s opened in the fall of 2019 and was forced to close due to COVID at the height of hipster hotness, and reopened in the fall of 2021, almost two years later. It’s been picked up right where it left off, and at the moment it’s packed every night with bubbly performing artists and notable names behind decks, including Johnny Jewel & Wish (of Italians Do it Better), Alex Nicolaou fra Sad Majesty, and Rose by. The sounds are complemented by a new bar program via beverage director Aly Iwamoto, a native LA whose work on The Varnish, Bavel, Death & Co and Thunderbolt.

Pinky’s poppin ‘(Lina Lecaro)

“The DJs are all capable of doing what they want,” Rodriguez says of Pinky’s sound selectors. “Most of the genres that are played in space are funk, soul, disco, a little bit of New Wave or house, some electronic stuff and some hip hop. We do not really do too much rock because it does not really suit the mood. , it does more dance-like things.

There is no special dance floor at Pinky’s, but when we attended just before the pandemic hit, the esteemed mixmaster Cut Chemist appeared on the decks and people were moving and grooving. There is a patio just outside the bar (opposite the Atrium restaurant, which shares the same owners), and music is played outside, where crowds gather on warmer evenings. While Pinky used to be vinyl-only, Rodriguez says he has expanded to all formats since the pandemic, opening up the sonic scope of the room.

As for what to expect on a given night, Rodriguez says the mood is constantly changing. “I try to bring in different DJs to keep it fresh, and I try to make sure it’s always different. So you know, if you show up on a Thursday, three weeks in a row, you’ll hear different music.”

Record Safari

(Courtesy Coachella Record Store)

When we talk about diversity, he has the same approach to stocking Coachella’s record store, with artists playing for the party, natch, but also new and old, popular and obscure, used and new records from all genres. He became involved in the Indio festival after doing so with Glasshouse, and later became a regular part of the party’s team. When the second weekend fell on Record Store Day, it turned out to hire Rodriguez rather than try to work with individual record stores like Amoeba, which has its hands full with collectors on weekends like this one.

For Record Store Day (April 23), Rodriguez says he ordered “one to three copies of everything” for both Coachella and his own store. But “just because you order does not guarantee that you will get everything,” and as anyone who tried to get a limited release during the annual collector’s “holiday” knows, it’s not easy to score some of the hot drops . He has been stocking the polo shop since 2014, and he says sales are stable, with hip-hop and pop artists most popular in recent years, a fact that clearly reflects the festival’s focal point for Gen-Z booking pop music.

Older festival goers may be unhappy with this musical shift, but the record store encourages young attendees to at least discover vinyl. The store also makes it easy to do so, offering a coat-check-like system where customers pay eight dollars (which also gets them a Coachella bag) and a team of purchases until the end of the party. Prize points range from $ 2 – “hundreds” for collectible titles.

“I’ve been buying records since 1994, and I’ve definitely seen their popularity go up and down many times,” says Rodriguez, who deserves praise for his contribution to keeping them cool, via everything he does, including sharing amazing album jackets. and rare finds on Instagram. “So far, this is probably the longest stretch and it just keeps climbing.”

Pinky’s, 1816 N Vermont Ave.. (323) 763-0351.

Record Safari, 3222 Los Feliz Blvd. (323) 928-2290.

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