The Alliance area was under a wind chill advisory on the evening of January 26, but the vibe inside Rodman Public Library’s auditorium was just plain cool.
Librarian Byrun Reed was spinning records on the library’s turntable as half a dozen others listened to the music, drank coffee and talked about whatever subject happened to come up during a meeting of the Alliance Vinyl Club.
The group included another librarian, an artist, a retired lawyer, a musician/music shop owner, and a graduate student. A special guest for the evening was Bob Ethington, a drummer on the Akron music scene since the 1980s who recently retired after 35 years as a library manager for the Akron-Summit County Public Library.
“I just sort of turn into a DJ,” said Reed, who started the Alliance Vinyl Club in 2019. “I like vinyl records. You get an idea, most of the time, of what the artist’s vision was with the large record jacket. You can read everything. On CDs, you can’t really read the liner notes to see the names of the musicians who played on the recordings or things like that. All that stuff has always been really important to me.”
In the beginning, Reed planned on discussing how collectors could take care of their vinyl records and how they could use databases to catalog their collections. However, he quickly found out that those who were attending the public meetings were more interested in listening to the music.
“When I first came up with Vinyl Club, there were a couple other libraries across the United States doing the same thing,” explained Reed. “We had a record player here, so I thought let’s give it a shot and see what happens. After the first couple of times doing it, I realized that people just want to hear something different and hang out.”
To start the January meeting, Ethington made a few remarks about his experiences playing in various bands, including Unit 5, a new wave band in the 1980s, as well as his other stints with Ralph Carney, Tin Huey, Kinski Spiral, and Half Cleveland. He currently plays in Golems of the Red Planet, Pin 2 Hot, and Glenn Lazear.
Then the music started.
Of course, Ethington played some of his own music from Unit 5. Throughout the night, several other pieces were played, some as mainstream as Johnny Cash and others as obscure as the El Michels Affair, an instrumental piece that featured Turkish guitars and was pressed on a vibrant powder blue platter.
“I love records,” said Stephanie Lambert, a regular at Alliance Vinyl Club meetings who said her discog — a listing of records in her collection — numbers approximately 170, including the El Michels Affair, which she found in a shop in Massillon. “They’re pretty. Records are both visual art and auditory art. There are actual gorgeous records being made, and as an art medium, it is being pushed to the limit by some of these new pressers. It’s just phenomenal.”
The music also included pieces by The Supremes, The Mills Brothers and an obscure artist from the 1970s named Elliott Murphy that was brought in by Ethington and was the big hit of the night.
During the evening, several different conversations were brought up, including a discussion about the music scene around Kent State in the 1980s, the value of a guitar pictured on one of the album covers, and what classifies music as honky tonk.
There was some discussion about local history and local geography, about the future of live music amid a pandemic and about the various songs that spun on the turntable.
“People just want to listen to good music and talk,” explained Reed. “Even though we’re in a formal setting of an auditorium at the library, the act of listening to records with people is the same as if we were in someone’s living room. It seems like the music helps people let their guard down a little bit and feel more comfortable to talk.”
Bill Kennick, another Alliance Vinyl Club regular, says he attends for the atmosphere and the fellowship.
“There’s just a hint of greatness here,” said Kennick. “It has an energy – intellectual, spiritual, and musical. There’s some pretty hip people who come here.”
John Rasile, a local musician who owns Rasile’s Musica Centrale, says he is pleased that vinyl albums are making a comeback.
“We need to thank the people in the hip hop community for keeping the record player and records alive,” said Rasile, who says he has approximately 500 records in a collection that dates back to the 1970s. “You can buy a turntable again. For a while, it was a rarity. So people sampling those records and using them as DJs, that’s what kept it going.”
Rasile said what keeps him coming back to Vinyl Club is the people, including the special guests, which in the past have included Cleveland Plain Dealer writer John Petkovic and authors Weird and Gilly, who wrote a book about Mick Ronson, a guitarist with David Bowie.
“You just never know what will come up,” said Rasile.
Vinyl Club is held every fourth Wednesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. No registration is required and those attending are encouraged to bring in an album and share a song or two with the group.
“I know I bring a different type of music than what a lot of people might be familiar with,” said Reed, noting his tastes tend to run lately in folk, bluegrass, and country, but he also works in some rock and jazz. “But I am also hoping that people will respond and bring their favorites in as well so we can appreciate each other’s favorite music and each other’s company.”
For more information about Alliance Vinyl Club, call 330-821-2665, ext. 216.