Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Rock 'N' Roll Flea Market, DTLA

This past weekend, my friend Jason invited me to join him on a trip to enjoy the Rock 'N' Roll Flea Market. I had never heard of this event, and as he explained it to me, I realized I just had to go to report back to you all. The market, housed inside the Regent Theater on Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles, is a monthly flea market that takes over the concert theater floor—and balcony! Every first Sunday of the month, vendors from all over LA set up expansive booths to showcase their vintage and music goods. Vinyl records, oddities, clothing and memorabilia, graphic art, and so much more are sold to happy music and vintage lovers for five spectacular hours.

The market is a brand new development, launched in December at the newly restored Regent Theater, formally a grindhouse and adult movie venue. After closing in 2000, it was purchased and refurbished into a magnificent concert and event theater in 2014. The theater also houses an expansive bar, not to mention being attached to newly opened Prufrock Pizzeria and The Love Song Bar (both complimenting the interior design of the theater.)

Okay, enough history. This area of Downtown is getting a major overhaul, and I was eager to walk around to enjoy the newly opened bars, restaurants, and old, beautiful buildings.

They even happened to be filming something across the street, a common occurrence in these parts. The big, barrel lighting filling half the street, cordoned off and you know... making it a pain in the butt to park. But I still love the sight of it, so I tried to snap a few shots before bustling across the street. I met up with Jason for a quick bite (I'll write more about that in a different post), before making our way over to the theater. Jason ran to put more quarters in the meter where he parked, so the front of the Regent and I got to know each other with a quick little photoshoot.

Prufrock Pizzeria serves brunch, and your entry into the Flea Market (normally a steal at $2!) is free if you make a stop in at Prufrock beforehand. It even has its own entrance to the lobby, as does The Love Song. I wish this time around I was able to stop in at both (Pizzeria before, Love Song Bar afterwards, perhaps?), but having a friends Super Bowl party to get to, I knew we couldn't dilly-dally.

It was early enough that a line hadn't even formed. The event begins at 10 AM and runs until 3 PM, but it didn't start to get crowded until around noon. I know this will change, as this is only the 3rd month this has been going on. But I enjoyed the ease this time of strolling up to the entry table, getting my wristband and a few flyers while chatting with the guys manning the till. I'll pretend it'll always be as simple and pain-free as it was right then.

In we went, through the small, elegant lobby to the venue floor below. The theater bar glittered to the right as I took in the spread of goodies that lay before me. Every picture I snapped of the room from afar came out terribly—I think I was just too excited to get down to the tables to really stop and focus a good shot! Within seconds, Jason and I just split apart, veering here and there and trying to take it all in. This place has that effect on you... something catches your eye, and suddenly it's just you and your find. Everyone else around you is having that same experience, so I don't think Jason minded much that we lost each other for awhile.

A handful of stairs leads you down to the majority of the tables, which were covered in vintage displays, boxes full of old, new, and collectible vinyls, or glass cabinets of curiosities.

I may have walked out of there with that Red Fox skull. I'm not a collector — in fact, it was my first [real] skull ever! But I was so taken with the spread of incredible pieces, I knew I wasn't leaving there without something unique. And the red fox skull was in magnificent shape. My favorite stall was the one nearest the stairs: Bearded Lady Vintage & Oddities, which has a storefront located on Magnolia Blvd in Burbank. The guys watching the table were incredibly friendly—actually, everyone there was!—and they were happy to talk about all their pieces, make bargains, even hand out a couple of fun, Bearded Lady branded pins to a local like me.

Everything else there... let's just say, it was far and away beyond what I had expected. I've been to vinyl markets before. Tables and tables full of boxes, jam-packed with too many vinyls that no one really wants, too cheap to say no to, but too scratched to really play or enjoy.

Not here, though. The balance of vinyl-only stalls to vintage clothing, pop art, or knick-knack displays was perfect. There was so much to see, all of it worth a quick stop at the table to poke around, ask questions, or, of course, walk away with something wonderful. Many of the vendors took credit cards, as well, which made it less stressful for me, as I tried to make those two $20 bills I brought stretch as far as humanly possible.

Another booth that caught my attention was the technicolor poster collage put together by La La Land Prints. Custom concert and comedy show posters, all commissioned by the labels or the artists, and created by one man: Kii Arens. I could not take my eyes away from these posters. Every one was spectacular, and I scoured the racks trying to find one that I could convince myself I just had to have.

Kii Arens' grandson was working the booth, and I quickly struck up a conversation with him about how a lot of these pieces came into being. Some are commissioned to sell at merchandise booths during concerts or events... but most are created to give as gifts to crews at a specific venue, as a thank you from the artist or musician. I just loved that idea. It didn't take long before I found my little gem... a neon kaleidoscope print of Lady Gaga's early, 2009 Monster Ball tour, highlighting her stop at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles in December of that year. I went to one of those shows by myself and danced my little heart out. I knew when I saw that poster, I had to walk away with it.

Then, I could avoid it no longer. The VINYL RECORDS. Let me just say, there were more boxes than I would have ever been able to get through, even if I had the rest of the day. I just had to commit to a box and make my way through it. Some vendors had pricey, collectibles that I knew were out of my price range without ever having to flip through the sleeves. Then I found the jackpot. $2 records, or 3 for $5... all in pretty rockin' condition.

I was particularly drawn to the 80's records, which Jason kept pulling out to show me. I have so many modern vinyls, or really old ones from the 50's—I'm trying to expand my horizons. This meant snagging up some Cyndi Lauper, Pat Benatar, and a bunch of soundtracks: Pretty in Pink, American Graffiti, and The Big Chill. All movies with music that arguably outshine the movie itself!

As I cradled my haul awkwardly in my arms, it was clear I had to call it a day. The options were endless, and if I wasn't careful, I would have spent my rent money on beat-up Frank Sinatra records and vintage novelty pins from the 1970's!

How odd and cute is that "Osmonds" pin below? It was going for way too much, but boy, was I tempted!

I can't wait to go back to this event next month. New vendors are set to be incorporated every month, so the stalls and offerings are bound to vary greatly. I can already tell this is going to be a frequent stop for me, and next time, I'm bringing everyone I can convince to join me.

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