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October 27, 2006

Loitering—October 27, 2006

It was a gray October day and I was in search of a live Naked Raygun CD. I had a few of their studio-produced albums, but wanted something more dirty and visceral to add to my collection. Hyde Park Records and a few North Side shops had all failed to come through, which wasn’t surprising, as the band is local and broke up in 1992.

As I walked dejectedly back to my apartment from the #6 bus stop, I noticed little Dr. Wax, planted on the east side of Harper Court. Blaring French hip-hop and countless sexy posters on the window lured me inside.

Since 1988, Dr. Wax has been a prime flocking spot for music-lovers throughout Chicagoland. Its three locations (in Hyde Park, Evanston, and Edgewater) have all been extolled for their attention to multiple genres, their knowledgeable employees, and their willingness to buy your unwanted music. The Hyde Park spot in Harper Court is certainly no exception to these credits.

The sheer number of albums per square meter of this store is staggering. Looking through the shelves of CDs, tapes, and records, you are bound to find genres of music that you never knew existed. Dr. Wax provides at least a taste of everything from Cajun to classic rock, from Neo-Soul to New Age. Looking for that one Elephant Man album? They’ve got it. Got a hankering for some Klezmer? Look no further. How about Pakistani pop? Check. A few shelves of DVDs offer great deals on Westerns, Comedies, music video collections, and more.

But be warned—while exciting, the array can be somewhat panic-inducing. This store’s focus is more on selection and price than on neatness of presentation.

If you do find yourself addled, seek the help of one of the friendly employees, or of the miraculous Touch Stand directly to the left of the counter. This machine will assist you in searching for and sampling virtually any artist on a label, whether or not Dr. Wax carries it. You can also comb through discographies, album notes, and reviews. The staff is more than willing to have a particular album ordered, if they do not already carry it.

I immediately asked the girl at the counter about the exquisite music playing in the background. A number of signed portraits of Diane Reeves, N’Dambi, and Julie Dexter hung on the wall above her. The girl grinned at my inquiry and answered, “Zap Mama!” She proceeded to explain Zap Mama’s Congolese/Belgian roots, then left to find out which album was playing. Scarface, Jimi Hendrix, Young Dro, and The Mars Volta beamed at me from the surrounding walls. “Download and Burn” was tagged im huge letters on the wall above a couple of public computers open for use.

Meandering over to the punk section, I found, sure enough, a plastic-wrapped copy of Naked Raygun’s Free Shit, a recording of the band’s last live show! I had to keep myself from joyfully hugging the girl when she found me to inform me that the album playing was entitled Seven. She obviously enjoys her job. “It’s fun. I get to listen to music all day and we get new album releases earlier than everyone else.”

If you have a CD, record, or tape that you’d like to sell or donate, or if you’re interested in scouring the bountiful shelves of music, visit Dr. Wax from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.