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By Alex Distefano
Photo by James BunoanBrian Flores looks about a minute away—give or take a 10-second hesitation or two—from dropping $100 on a vinyl record that maybe 15 other people in Orange County have heard of when his cell phone rings. Standing on the tips of his toes, he searches the crowd—a congregation of fellow record nerds, mostly men with pot paunches and scraggly beards that easily number into the hundreds—and, upon glimpsing a hand frantically waving at him from the far corner of the room, casually returns the record to the box where he'd found it.
"Excuse me," he says, nodding at the record dealer—no 10-second hesitation this time—and starts off with a half-jog toward the corner, where his business partner, Gary Farley, is handling a Record Emergency of sorts at their own table: he needs Brian's input before negotiating a sale.
It's all nonstop anxiety and down-to-the-wire suspense here at the Greater Orange County Record show, where Southern California's ancient audiophiles, middle-aged vinyl junkies and dirty, destitute hipsters gather every few weeks to buy, sell and trade everything from 75-cent packs of Andy Gibb trading cards to a $600 set of rare, original Factory Records cassette tapes. Or at least it is for just about everyone except me: as easily impressed by the sight of Goldie Hawn's Goldieas I am clueless that the Sharpees are not, in fact, the same band as the Sharp Ease, I feel like the lone, bargain-priced CD that somehow got tossed into a bin filled with rare, original pressings of, oh, Goblin's first LP, maybe? I don't know.
But for record collectors like Brian and Gary, who've been coming to shows like this one for longer than a decade, the apparent illogic of exchanging a C-note for something that can be rendered useless with a mere scratch not only makes sense—but was also never even in question.
So it also made sense, then, that when Brian began floating his desire to open a record store and started fishing for partners during the Orange County show six months ago, he found Gary, an OC native and manager at Huntington Beach's Electric Chair—"I built their collection," he says—who'd always dreamed of owning his own store.
That was in mid-October of last year. The two signed a lease on a space in Costa Mesa just a few weeks later, and on Dec. 10, Brian and Gary officially opened their own permanent, daily Orange County record show, Third Eye Records.
Sandwiched in a nondescript strip mall between a telemarketing firm and a recently vacated roofing store, Third Eye is much like any other independent record store—record sleeves and posters stapled to the walls, Xeroxed fliers taped and pasted here and there—only slightly more focused. You won't find much hip-hop, rap, reggae or recycled classic rock at the store—or any at all, in most cases—but it does feature a highly concentrated offering of indie rock, including helpful, six-degrees-of-separation references on section tabs such as the one for Black Heart Procession ("See Three Mile Pilot") and a small-but-specialized Goth section curated by Gary, a former Goth DJ for Transmission at the Lion's Den.
The only downside to Third Eye? Location. It's a problem, Gary admits, given Newport Boulevard's tricky one-way directions and the fact that Third Eye sits parallel to the boulevard a good 75 feet away from street traffic. But where there's a will, there's also a wad of cash, so they say, and in the case of a few of Orange County's most prominent indie DJs, that will has proved very profitable.
"How could I resist making a beeline for Third Eye?" says Costa Mesa-based DJ—and Kitsch Bar resident on Thursday and Friday nights—aDJective. "I knew I had to get there soon before every other cool DJ in the area—and let's face it, Costa Mesa has a lion's share of cool DJs—picked it clean."
On his first trip alone, among other finds, aDJective picked up a Sonic Youth "Starpower" 10-inch on lavender vinyl, the Cure's "Love Cats (Extended Mix)," Kraftwerk's Autobahn,Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Orangeand K-TEL's SuperBadisBackcompilation. "I had only dug through a quarter of the store before I realized I'd already spent more than $100 in two hours," continues aDJective.
In the future, Brian and Gary plan on hosting in-stores—as well as building up their CD selection and offering movie rentals—but in the meantime, whether you're a collector, DJ or just curious, drop by Third Eye Records. I hear there's a $150 Robyn Hitchcock single with your name on it.
Third Eye Records, 2428 Newport Blvd., Ste. 7, Costa Mesa, (949) 650-0043. Open Tues-Sun. Call for hours; Greater Orange County Record Show, UFCW Union Hall, 8530 Stanton Ave., Buena Park; www.asavinyl.com/record_show.htm. Next show is April 24.