Bay Area Record Fair illustrates a diverse, thriving musical community

Luigi Savino/Courtesy

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Beneath the uncharacteristic heat of an early San Francisco afternoon, two UC Berkeley students sat at their plastic table adorned with warped vinyl records, spunky pins, myriad stickers and a colorful sign that read “KALX.” Unlike the local labels that were brandishing their merchandise at the second Bay Area Record Fair, or BARF, Josephine Shetty and Lorraine Petel were simply getting the word out about Berkeley’s long-running radio station.

As KALX’s publicity directors, Shetty and Petel felt BARF was the perfect way to meet people in the local music scene and expand their already diverse listenership. While the Bay Area’s local music scene is prominent and recognized among its members, there is still a massive pool of listeners who have no idea how or where to begin getting involved.

“There’s a lot of great stuff happening here in the Bay Area,” said BARF organizer, Jessi Frick, in an interview with The Daily Californian. “And we hope that BARF helps bring some of that to the forefront.”

Frick, the co-founder of local label Father/Daughter Records, came up with the idea for BARF in late 2013. “I moved to SF from New York, where (local) labels had many opportunities to engage with each other and the general public. But I didn’t see much of that happening here.”

Working in conjunction with local promoters Professional Fans, they constructed an event where Bay Area labels could interact with one another while reaching out to music fans, thus perpetuating the local scene. Together, they held the first Bay Area Record Fair in February, at Thee Parkside on 17th and Wisconsin streets. “It was so packed, we decided to go to the route of turning it into a block party for the next fair.”

That block party took place Sept. 27, along the block of Wisconsin Street adjacent to Thee Parkside. Like a DIY punk’s dream farmers’ market, local labels and record sellers from San Francisco to San Jose set up shop with a musical selection as diverse as the Bay Area itself.

And while the question may seem incredibly vague, every vendor had a definitive answer when asked, “What exactly is your thing?”

“Anything weird from all over the world,” said Kai Wada Roath of Golden Rake Records, while showing off a foreign punk record that included a recipe for Mongolian beef.

“We’re kind of a mess,” said Avi Ehrlich of Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club, an activist record label and comic publisher. “I brought the cart on the bus to get here,” he said, motioning to the cart on his right, filled to the brim with colorful and chaotic artwork.

“At the end of the year, we donate a percentage of our profit to four or five state and national parks,” said Jon Fee and Daniel McKenzie of Parks and Records, their vinyl displayed on perforated tree trunks.

“We do weird shit,” said 17-year-old Erfran Moradi of Fourth Row Records while organizing a briefcase of cassette compilations.

As record collectors and local music lovers dug through each distributor’s eclectic selection, Lorraine Petel recalled her hometown of Miami. But in her sunflower dress, battered workers’ jacket and Ray Ban sunglasses, she looked like a Bay Area native.

When asked what made her want to move to Berkeley, Petel smiled and motioned to the diverse and thriving community behind her. “This,” she said, defiantly. “The Bay Area music scene.”