Record Store Review: Grasshopper Records

Enveloped in a neck-protecting aura of Wu-tang posters, busted amps, Star Wars figurines, and portraits, the vinyl-only Grasshopper Records (1167 Dundas St. West) feels like your coolest friend’s apartment if everything in it went up for sale. Decked out with two black pleather couches and a club chair with armrests wide enough to hold your coffee, the invitation is to hang out and browse rather than come in knowing exactly what you’re looking for.

Hugging the right side of the bare brick and mortar shop, you’ll find Jazz and Soul/Funk/Disco making room for two (count ’em, two!) Hip Hop sections, an ever-growing New Arrivals, and a nod to Island African music next to Reggae/Dub/Roots/Dancehall. On the left side of the store, Pop/Rock overshadows Country and Sitar Jams/Indian Ragas, while Metal is gloriously Glam-heavy, but underrepresented. At the far end, the aptly named Weirdo Shit section offers singular items like Pop-Shopping, Vol 1: Juicy Music From German Commercials 1960-1975, as well as spoken-word LPs by T.S Eliot and Dylan Thomas. And drawing a line amongst it all are 13 crates marked “$5 or less,” full of fodder for the sample-hungry or those tight of budget.

Owner Derek “Grasshopper” Madison is happy to be doing business in Little Portugal, a part of Toronto known for its thriving nightlife. “That’s why I stay open until midnight or later,” he said. “I want [Grasshopper Records] to be a late record store. I lived in New York for a while, and all the record stores went to last call. A lot of good ones did, anyway. I love a late dig.”

A voracious collector since the age of two, Madison began by inheriting his mother’s Beatles albums, to which he later added Kiss’ Double Platinum, the first he ever bought with his own money. Now, roughly 20 per cent of Grasshopper’s stock comes from the 16,000 records Madison keeps in his (presumably spacious) apartment.

“Music is good food,” he said. “My new thing in the last five years is, if it’s a record I’ve never seen before, I grab it. I want to know what’s out there. I like big art, I like big sound, so you’re getting the whole frequency [with a physical LP] compared to a digital download. I want to feel it under my fingers.”

When asked what a guy with so much music listens to these days, Madison mentioned Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!, Lou Reed’s Street Hassle, and Zacht Automaat, an elektrische duo prone to driving beats and Sun Ra overdubs that he calls “the best thing happening in Toronto.”

You can look forward to more autograph sessions and in-store shows in 2013, including, but not limited to, returning local favorites TV Freaks, Steve Kado, and Sailboats Are White.

DJ Grasshopper spins Mondays at The Red Light (1185 Dundas St. West).