Whilst the music business goes through incredible turmoil, I’ve recently visited two of my favorite independent music outlets, Real Groovy in Auckland and Aquarius Records in San Francisco. My younger son Dan writes record reviews for Real Groovy’s magazine and keeps me in the loop. They have a tremendous collection of CDs, vinyl, DVDs, and keep a great collection of the latest New Zealand bands, although it is hard to get sixties stuff and the more currently offbeat. Still, they have a great attitude and are totally customer-centric. If you live in or are visiting any of New Zealand's main cities, it’s a great place to while away a winter evening or a Sunday afternoon.
And then there’s Aquarius, a real blast from the past. It’s situated right at the end of the Haight-Ashbury, and if they don’t have what you’re after, then it’s not worth listening to. This is the best store I’ve been in for discovery and exploration. Aquarius brings you everything that is hip, offbeat, crazy and fun, and have been doing so for almost four decades. They have a great range of US material but also amazing sounds from kids who produce their own music in their homes in Africa, Scandinavia, Asia. The staff-written reviews remind me of New Musical Express in their sixties heyday. Informative, stimulating and designed to introduce you to cool stuff you’ve never even heard of. Both these stores throb with authenticity and a genuine love for new and old music - and both are must go-sees.