Back in October 2012, I traveled to Berkeley, Calif., to see the touring production of Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach. I’ve been to San Francisco twice before, but this trip would be the first to Berkeley.
When it comes to record stores with international reputations, Amoeba Records is on the short list, along side Waterloo Records in Austin.
On my first trip to San Francisco in January 2010, I got all the tourist stuff out of the way so that my subsequent trips would pretty much revolve around visits to Amoeba, and the trip to Berkeley would be no different.
In fact, I would end up visiting two locations: the one on Haight St. and the original location on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley.
I didn’t really know much about Berkeley before I arrived, save for the fact there’s a college campus in town. I also didn’t delve too deeply into the history of Amoeba Records itself. I just knew it was a must-see destination for music junkies.
So I was afforded the opportunity to compare the two Amoebas — one I’ve visited twice before, the other for the first time.
In terms of square footage, the Telegraph Ave. store is at a slight disadvantage than the Haight St. store. The San Francisco store is fairly cavernous, whereas the Berkeley store optimizes as much space as it can.
As a result, the classical section in Berkeley isn’t as expansive, and modern composers aren’t given specialized real estate as they are in the San Francisco store.
There’s also one thing that edges out the San Francisco store over the Berkeley store — a small but dedicated section to J-pop.
That’s not to say the Berkeley store is the boonies. The stock is still incredibly thorough, and surprises lurk when you dig deep.
I do have to give the Berkeley store a point for location — it’s not the Haight. I’ve gone on record many times saying the feral children of San Francisco (read: homeless people) strike more fear in me than the ones in New York City. Those crazy motherfuckers will cut you, and they’re teeming all over the neighborhood of the San Francisco Amoeba.
On Telegraph Ave., you have to contend with hippie street vendors and slow-paced sorority girls reeking of white privilege.
Still, I’m going to have to cast my vote for the San Francisco store if I were forced by threat of garage rock to pick one.
All that’s left to do is visit the location in a city I like less than San Francisco — Los Angeles.