Much has been made of the new additions to this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival -- a four-course meal, a make-up studio and high-end food, among them. Little, however, has been made of what’s missing.
Small Arizona indie retail chain Zia Records has been a Coachella mainstay since the late 2000s, bringing a full-on pop-up shop, complete with artist meet-and-greets, to Empire Polo Club. But no more, as Zia in 2014 couldn’t make the trek, said GM Brian Faber. In its place is a vinyl-and-cassette shop run by promoter Goldenvoice.
Faber said the company wanted to be at Coachella, a large undertaking that had sometimes been a break-even affair for the store. Just last year Faber spoke excitedly to Pop & Hiss about the prospect of working long-term with Goldenvoice now that the latter has a deal to keep Coachella in Indio through at least 2030.
“To be honest, it was just bad timing for us to be involved this year,” Faber wrote in an email on Saturday. He noted that Zia has been expanding, having recently opened a store in Tempe, Ariz., and having just purchased a new warehouse. Company resources, therefore, were at a premium.
“Had it been a summer or fall festival we most likely would have been there,” Faber said. “We really miss all the folks that would come and see us every year at each of the events.”
The challenge, then, fell to Jon Halperin, Coachella’s merchandise coordinator and the talent booker for Goldenvoice’s Pomona club the Glass House, to construct a Coachella record shop in about two months. With a lot of help from Alex Rodriguez, who oversees the record store at the Glass House, Coachella was able to maintain its tradition of hosting a record store.
“In Coachella fashion, [Goldenvoice] said let’s do it ourselves," Halperin said.
There were some changes.
For one, there wasn’t time to coordinate the signings and meet-and-greets that have been a Zia staple. Second, Goldenvoice opted to sell only vinyl and cassettes, with the exception being those releases made available on Record Store Day, an annual promotion designed to get music fans to shop local by unleashing hordes of limited content to small stores.
Halperin leaned on Rodriguez to curate a rather adventurous selection of vinyl -- music that one wouldn’t necessarily expect to find at a summer festival. There was, for instance, a copy of Pentagle’s folk-rock “Cruel Sister” in the bins, as well as selections from local stoner rockers Goatsnake, punk rock band the Slits and plenty of experimental jazz.
Is all of this going to sell?
“I wanted people to say, ‘I went to Coachella and found this cool record,’” said Rodriguez, who instead of following Zia’s wide collection of music and merch wanted it to feel like an old-school record shop. He’s proud, for instance, that among the 9,000-plus LPs there’s plenty of “weird stuff."
Even without Zia, Coachella still catered to those looking for Record Store Day exclusives. Coachella put its stock on sale on Friday, and Halperin said many items had sold out in the first two hours that gates were open. One of the first items to go? The soundtrack to “The Muppet Movie,” which hasn’t been available on vinyl in 35 years.
The record shop won’t be back for Coachella’s country cousin Stagecoach, which launches next weekend, as Halperin noted the country audience is more indebted to CDs than the Coachella crowd. But is there a chance Zia may return in 2015?
“Goldenvoice was very understanding of our circumstances this year and I feel confident that Zia will work with them again in the future,” Faber said.