KUSF’s ‘Rock ‘N Swap’ Puts Unusual Up Front

Shoppers browse boxes of records. PHOTO BY ZOE BINDER/SF FOGHORN

What do the Beatles, a Baroque viola, and the Butthole Surfers have in common? They were all talking points for vendors at this year’s KUSF “Rock ‘N Swap,” San Francisco’s largest record fair. The event, organized by KUSF, USF’s radio station, hosted 54 sellers in McLaren Hall on Sept. 11.

Vendors from all over California brought their latest collections to the fair for the first time in almost three years. Each table was stocked with hundreds of records or CDs — an overwhelming sight to an inexperienced record collector. While students, faculty, and staff could browse for free, outside buyers could stop by from 10 am to 3 pm with $3 admission, and early birds could start shopping at 7 a.m. for $20.

A selection of CD’s available for purchase at the record swap. PHOTO BY ZOE BINDER/SF FOGHORN

Some shoppers made good use of the five-hour event, lifting records up to check out their cover art, inspecting them for scratches, and striking up conversation about them. Others made it in and out of the room in an hour, quickly fingering through records and only stopping for treasure. 

The selection at this year’s fair was right on the money for Eva DeThomas, a second-year computer science major and KUSF’s web director. “I really love blues and jazz and literally every vendor here has a huge jazz collection — it’s crazy,” she said. DeThomas was shopping with Pie Paing, also a second-year computer science major, who wasn’t quite finding what he was looking for. “The metal I like is really peculiar, so I haven’t found it here,” he said. 

Life-long record collector and Oakland native Jason Silverio’s collection might have tickled Paing’s fancy. “I like to sell weird stuff,” Silverio said. “I was just talking to an international student from Thailand who’s really into Frank Zappa and I was like ‘right on, I have lots of that.’” Silverio likes to keep his records cheap, he said, because “too much talk about money gets away from the music.” He had a whole box full of $1-5 records, but his most expensive record, Duran Duran’s “The Wedding Album” went for $100. 

Mark Roman, a Los Angeles collector who has been selling at the Rock ‘N Swap since the early 2000s, had a different view on prices. Displayed on a separate rack behind him, the album “Phyllis” by Phyllis went for $1200 dollars. “The record was printed with a private press in the ‘80s, so it’s a gem you can’t find anywhere,” Roman said. 

Roman’s collection had everything from soul to psychedelic rock, but nothing from after 1989 or 1990. “My music knowledge stops around then, mostly because I can’t fit any more music in my garage,” he said. Despite that, Roman said young buyers were still interested in his collection, even though they “know way more about music” than he does.

KUSF DJ and fourth-year advertising and design double major Sydney Sharp had the chops Roman talked about. As she placed the needle on a Rolling Stones greatest hits album at KUSF’s turntable station, she said that being a DJ is more about being open to different kinds of music than it is about skill. “I try to have a theme every week and make it niche, like Japanese city pop one week or ‘90s college rock another week to mix it up,” she said. 

Other KUSF volunteers and DJs took shifts manning the turntables as buyers scuttled in and out of the building into the afternoon. Miranda Morris, KUSF’s general manager, said she was happy with the turnout. “We don’t make tons of money and the money we do make is used to buy t-shirts for the station, pizzas for staff meetings — all the money we make comes back to the station,” she said. “It’s great to have the show up and running again.”

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