Portland is a vinyl town. Sure, coffee, bikes, and beer get all the headlines, but record hounds know the real truth: This is a city of DJs, and it’s powered by 12-inch slabs of wax.
Naturally, Portland has an embarrassment of riches as far as places to score your next vinyl fix, and there are too many great record stores to mention thema all here. But if your turntable setup is crying out for something new to play (or, better yet, something old and rare), you can’t make a wrong step with these terrific shops.
You’re not a Portland record collector until you’ve made the pilgrimage to Crossroads Records (8112 SE Foster), which boasts the biggest, baddest, best selection of used vinyl in the city. Crossroads is a multi-vendor mini-mall of record sellers, each one hosting a table of specialized wares. This is the place to go for deep crate digging, with ultra-rare obscurities sharing bin space with crowd-pleasing go-tos. It’s easy to lose the entire day browsing Crossroads’ countless bins—and each vendor is organized separately, which makes searching for one thing in particular a blissfully time-consuming affair—so block out a chunk of the afternoon and get ready to lug home an armful of choice LPs.
Music Millennium (3158 E Burnside) is another local gem, with new and used vinyl sharing bin space; you can also pick up CDs, movies, books, and other stuff. With in-store live shows, a beer-and-wine bar, and countless ties to the community, Music Millennium is, in many ways, the living room of the Portland record-loving set. Used vinyl prices are fair, and new stuff is often discounted; more importantly, the selection’s great—and they can special order just about anything that’s in print.
What Little Axe (4142 NE Sandy) doesn’t have in size, it makes up for with a mind-boggingly well-chosen selection at ultra-fair prices. These guys are seasoned record hounds, and the store always has remarkable stuff you never see anywhere else, with an emphasis on little-heard gems from all around the globe.
Mississippi Records (5202 N Albina) is another of the city’s foundational record stores, and although its namesake label is now operated out of Chicago, this Portland landmark is still the place to score great folk, blues, and international music. You can also get rock, punk, and soul classics for terrific prices.
Tomorrow Records (700 SE Hawthorne) is still the (relative) new kid on the block, but it’s already become an indispensible part of Portland’s vinyl eco-system. With a broad selection of genres—they have particularly deep bins of jazz, prog, psych, and rock—and a variety of vintage gear for sale, Tomorrow is a more-than-worthy addition to the city’s crowded record market.
This barely scratches the surface of Portland’s vinyl scene—hop on to portlandmercury.com and learn about more great shops like 2nd Avenue Records, Musique Plastique, Clinton Street Records & Stereo, Speck’s Records, Everyday Music, Jackpot Records, and countless others. Also get hip to the Night Owl Record Show, a twice-yearly record fair at the Eagles Lodge (4904 SE Hawthorne), where local and out-of-town vendors congregate to sell their hottest, rarest pieces of used vinyl. The next one’s on October 12.
Portland’s a great place for musicians, too. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the best spots in Portland for scoring your next instrument.
Old Town Music (55 SE 11th)—All things new and used, with an emphasis on vintage guitars and amps.
Trade Up Music (4701 SE Division, 1834 Alberta)—Both locations have big selections of used stuff, at very fair prices. They’ll also repair or buy the gear you’ve already got.
Mothership Music (3611 NE MLK)—Great used gear, plus records, clothes, and live shows, too!
Revival Drum Shop (902 SE Sherman)—The new location of Portland’s definitive percussion store boasts more drums than you can bang a stick on.
Artichoke Music (2007 SE Powell)—Your one-stop shop for acoustic and folk instruments.
Black Book Guitars (3624 N Mississippi)—Rare used guitars, some of them previously owned by actual famous people.
Control Voltage (3742 N Mississippi)—If you’re in the habit of making otherworldly sounds, you must visit this haven for modular and analog synths.