Entering Atomic Wax was nostalgic; a record playing in the corner and seeing Aerosmith, Bessie Smith, B.B. King, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Kenny Burrell and so many others, I was expecting to see Patti Smith dancing along with Jimi Hendrix or Los Lobos. Raul Garcia, owner of the vintage shop, then greeted me.
The glimmer shining off the vinyl is indistinguishable from the lights you might see from at a show at Tricky Falls, or the glimmer you might see as the sun sinks behind the Franklin Mountains.
Finding a new record is a lot like finding a treasure chest, or running into the one that got away; it’s an artifact that is so unique and rare. “It’s like serendipity or an epiphany almost. You know and that’s a magical vibe,” said Garcia.
The store that started off as a man-cave has very quickly become a favorite stop for antique collectors and record hunters across El Chuco.
As you approach the vinyl hunters’ paradise, you will start hearing various genres of music: One day there will be a jazz melody wafting through the air. The next day, you’ll hear an obscure punk record welcoming you. The next it’ll be hip-hop. Then Bob Marley will greet you the next day.
Most Atomic Wax frequenters can tell you, there is never a boring day at this record shop. Raul Garcia has become the kind face so many have come to see as the procurer of some fantastic vinyl.
Garcia said about starting Atomic Wax, “It just kind of started to grow and it coincided with the vinyl and I decided to nurture it a bit and it’s continuing to grow so I’m sticking with it.”
The vinyl part of the music industry has been booming over the last couple of years, but that hasn’t made it much easier on the local independent sellers. Fortunately for vinyl fans in El Paso, there is plenty of local variety between Atomic Wax, All That Music, and Mother of Pearl. There are places all over the city where one can go digging for all genres of music from Sonic Youth to John Coltrane, to Madonna and 50 Cent.
What makes the vinyl scene so strong in El Paso? As Garcia explained, vinyl is something so much more real and satisfying as opposed to downloading a song on an iPod or even like a CD. “There’s just something cozy about spinning your records.”
A great beauty I have always seen in music is the very same I have seen in the Sun City. It does not merely cross over all borders, but shatters them entirely. There’s no bias, just a rhythm that is beyond comprehension. And perhaps that is what makes a place like Atomic Wax so special.
Vinyl is a format of music that takes more time, more money, and it takes patience. You don’t get to shuffle an album and pick which song to listen to immediately. Vinyl is what forces artists to make an entire album they can be proud of instead of just a list of songs that will sell well on iTunes.
Vinyl depends on people that dig between crates looking for albums that haven’t been pressed in a decade. And it is record stores like Atomic Wax that keep vinyl going and the music industry earnest.
There is something so special about physically holding your music. One of my favorite albums ever was Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ This Year’s Model, an album that was so much more than just a list of songs. It was a piece of art put together, constructed.
So why vinyl? “Just a love of music.”
– By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca