It's the third Sunday of February, and record collectors pack the Arbutus Fire Hall to spend the day digging through crates of vinyl. There's the occasional box of CDs, but most folks at the Maryland Music Collectors's monthly show are interested in big records with little holes (LPs and 78s) or little records with big holes (45s). Some dealers have turntables sitting on top of their crates—so customers can listen before buying—and one song fades into another as visitors circulate around the room catching snippets of doo-wop, garage rock, bluegrass, and soul.
The music enhances the good-natured camaraderie on display, as this tribe of mostly middle-aged white men—think Steve Buscemi in Ghost World—swap back-in-the-day stories. There's talk of Holy Grail quests ("After looking for years, I found a mono copy at a yard sale in Dundalk"), first loves ("Rush at the Capitol Centre blew me away!"), and the glory days of area shops such as Record & Tape Collectors, Waxie Maxie's, and Recordmasters.
They circulate from table to table, lured by displays of Beatles memorabilia, Prince recordings, classic jazz and blues titles, novelty items (a Munsters record is selling for $90), and local rarities by the likes of The Ravyns and Bootcamp. There's even a DVD of Elvis's last Baltimore concert, a 1977 show at the Civic Center, for sale.
At a table selling heavy metal, a woman—one of maybe a half-dozen in attendance—looks up from a Nora Roberts paperback as her partner returns from browsing with a handful of CDs. "Look what I found," he says enthusiastically. She glances at the discs' morbid looking covers and asks: "Do we have to listen to them on the drive home?"
"I guess not," he says a bit deflated. Satisfied, she resumes her reading.
Outside a Clay Aiken concert at Towson's Goucher College seemed like the perfect location for the Idol Across America tour bus to visit and build some excitement for the 10th season of American Idol. But recent snow storms have made parking difficult and the bus is relegated to an off-campus lot near the Sheraton.
"We usually have a lot more people here," says tour manager Jessica Davis, glancing around the barren lot for potential visitors.
It's about 6 p.m. when Rick Carter and a few other passersby stop out of curiosity. "I was here at work, and came outside to go to my car and here it was," he says. "It was a bit of a surprise."
Inside the bus, which has visited cities nationwide, from Phoenix to Philadelphia, florescent lights strobe and a cacophony of TV clips sound off and on. Glossy photos of former contestants and autographed posters line the shiny white walls. Carter and three other business types use their smart phones to snap photos of glass-encased show memorabilia including judge Randy Jackson's boots, host Ryan Seacrest's Burberry suit, and former contestant Carrie Underwood's flowing dress.
To cap off the experience, a couple intrepid fans take their shot at fame by entering the "This is American Idol" contest and recording a mock intro to the show. The winner will join Seacrest on stage in Los Angeles.
Before he leaves, Carter stops to pose with a cardboard cutout of the season's current judges, flashing a giant grin.
"My wife is a huge Idol fan," he says, before heading out to his car. "She'll be jealous."