With the 12th Brussels Vinyl Record fair opening in two weeks, time is about right for us to republish our complete list of notable record stores in Belgium. We begin with Antwerp and Brussels, with the rest of the country following next week. Love you.
This tiny vinyl-only shop on Rue du Midi/Zuidstraat, Brussels’ unofficial crate-digging main drag, was opened in September 2012 by a guy called Touki. Touki sells a bit of everything, though he has a particular penchant for punk and hardcore records, most of them second-hand.
Another punk and hardcore outlet (there’s plenty of demand), Elektrocution is run by local headbanger hero Michel Kirby, one-time guitarist for Mental Disturbance and Deviate (the first band signed to legendary I Scream Records). He currently plays with the groups Length of time, Goatcloaks and Arkangel, and his shop attracts a loyal fan base. Crates stock everything from electro goth, industrial and neo-folk to heavy and thrash metal, and customers here are well-known for being rather… special. Black everything, basically.
Veals & Geeks
Veals & Geeks, an old faithful on Brussels’ vinyl freaks’ route that opened in 2008, has a bunch a well-curated crates that tilt towards the krautrock, prog rock and new wave. The store is staffed by very nice people (rare) and attracts a regular influx of curious tourists due to it being on the way to Manneken Pis. The back-stock is just enormous, with lots of new records coming on a regular basis. The quintessential record store (in the contemporary spirit), Veals & Geeks also sells books, magazines, vintage types and all types of hard-to-find specialist memorabilia. What’s more, it sits right opposite Lady Paname, the city’s foremost purveyor of kinky wear.vealsandgeeks.com
Juke Box fits the romantic, clichéd ideal of the typical, dusty old record shop – a small, messy room with records spilling from every corner. The oldest record shop in Brussels, Juke Box is run by a guy called Jean-Pierre who’s about 65-ish, and who also runs the annual record fair in Galerie Ravenstein which takes places in June this year. This is a good place to find rare records if you’re ready to fork out as Jean Pierre feels no compulsion to charge reasonable prices as the reputation his shop enjoys means clients just keep coming back.jukeboxshop.be
Geert Sermon opened his iconic record store, a cramped space nestled in the heart of the city’s St Gery district, back in 1997. One of the driving force behind 2013’s new beat documentary The Sound of Belgium (he compiled the box set that accompanied the already classic movie), Geert is a former DJ who mostly peddles in dance and house records – all of them new releases. The kind of place where regulars get white labels, imports and exclusives set aside for them, the shop is the hangout for most local DJs (not that they buy anything). Fact is, ask any DJ worth his record collection and latest mix about Doctor Vinyl and chances are he’ll have a story to tell. Belgian electronic music, and Brussels, would be nothing without this man and his legendary store.doctorvinylrecords.be
This very interesting little record shop is far out. Literally. Located in Vivier d’Oie/Diesdelle in the posh Brussels neighbourhood of Uccle, it’s as far from the beaten record-hunting track as you can get. The owner is a character that looks a bit like eccentric Dutch poet Jules Deelder and who’s been open for a few years now. He also sells books, comics and vintage stereos as well as other hi-fi gear and there’s a very decent jazz selection. It’s a bit of a trek to get to, which makes the digging all the more rewarding.
Brussels’ de facto home to the alternative set, Caroline Music is the grand old dame of Brussels record stores, having first opened in Ixelles/Elsene back in 1972. After a decade located in the city’s Passage Honoré, the store merged with fellow downtown record store Goupil-o-Phone back in 2012 to set up a new shop on Boulevardanspachlaan, their current two-floor location. Your archetypical record store (think High Fidelity), this is the kind of store where you’ll end up spending an hour talking to the guys behind the counter, coming out with a much bigger stack of records than you had originally planned for. The kind of store that sends you a text message when your order has arrived. The kind of store we need more of.carolinemusic-bxl.be
Located on one of the hectic side streets that hugs the Bourse/Beurs, family-run Record Collector gets its fair share of passing tourist trade. It’s a bit like Juke Box in that it fits the nostalgic image of an old school record store – old, dusty and jumbled with records piled onto every available inch of floor space. Although the selection is rather general, from jazz to funk to pop, it’s got an impressive back catalogue of records that’s always sure to pull up the odd gem or two.the-collector.be
Every now and then, a new addition comes on to the scene that gets the office talking. Make that new addition a record store and, well, we’re pretty much sold on the affair. Escalade. The name alone had us dreaming. Nestled in the basement of concept store For, the recently-opened imprint specialises in house, techno, disco, funk and hip hop records.escaladerecords.be
Arlequin has two outlets: one in St Gilles (which replaced the old one in Ixelles) and the other one 20 metres from the Manneken Pis. Perhaps the most organised record shops on the list – all artists get their own section – both Arlequins are far easier to navigate than their slipshod sisters. There’s an emphasis on reggae although both outlets stock strong collections, with an especially good selection of well-priced new wave records. Don’t expect too much assistance from the store’s staff though as they usually like to keep themselves.arlequin.net
Located above IMS Melkmart (one of the city’s finest international newssagents), the tastefully decorated Tune-up is adorned with musically inspired art, and has its own café. The owners, Carlo (a former DJ) and Michel, are really sweet guys who sometimes hosts live gigs. It’s a bit of a hotspot for the steady stream of hardcore Antwerpenaar crate diggers (for some reason, record collectors in Antwerp are really that: hardcore) and he counts the guys of Deus, Zita Swoon and Suki Love among his loyal customers. The selection of goods is general and the prices are hardly bargain basement, but not too steep either.tuneuprecords.blogspot.be
Wally’s groove world
This is Antwerp’s answer to Doctor Vinyl, only better organised. The shop used to be located in the basement of USA Import, a legendary new beat label, and the guy behind the counter is Koenie, a DJ and famous fixture on Belgium’s nightlife landscape. He started his mixing career in the ’80s and was once resident DJ at Cafe D’Anvers. This is the place to go for second-hand electronic music records – not many record shops can say that – and Koenie is quite experienced (and also quite intense, if you don’t mind us saying).wallysgrooveworld.com
This place is run by a couple of really friendly people. Co-founder Staf de Vos says that he only looked up the meaning of the term ‘fat cat’ after he had already named the shop, and he insists he’s a nice guy and not a money-grubbing arse hole. We are inclined to agree, as are the hordes of record lovers who flock regularly to his city centre shop. It’s been around 15 years, and the stock is 50/50 vinyl and CDs, both new and second-hand. The selection features the lot: from rock, sixties psychedelia, punk, hardcore to reggae, soul and funk.fatkat.be
Coffee & Vinyl
Lars Cosemans used to run a popular spot called Vinyl Records in the city center but moved to Antwerp’s Zuid neighbourhood to open this concept-heavy enterprise in 2011. It’s perhaps the only place that combines a bar and café with a vinyl shop and art gallery. He buys and sells new and second-hand vinyls and second-hand only CDs. The staff have a reputation for being none too pleasant, but the concept gets our vote. They’ve got a record of the week thing on Facebook and a turntable so you can try before you buy.coffeeandvinyl.com
Only slightly larger than your average living room, this claustrophobic vinyl-only record shop is located at the end of Antwerp’s tourist-heavy antiques street, Kloosterstraat. It’s been open for more than 20 years. The records are well-classified and easy to find but stacked away in tiny boxes, making it a bit of a pain for digging. Come here for rock, reggae, house, soul, funk and disco. There’s no computer in the shop and no online sales – everything hand-to-hand, nice and old school – just the way owner Pascal likes it.