For 25 years, community station KOOP Radio 91.7 FM has been a vibrant voice of independent Austin. The station’s program roster covers everything from pop, rock and punk to hip-hop, bluegrass and Jamaican sounds. With dozens of shows slotted in one- to two-hour blocks, the station is home to a mighty volunteer staff of passionate music enthusiasts. From its beginning in December 1995, KOOP has maintained an open-door policy for on-air talent. Anyone willing to put in the volunteer, training and apprentice hours can be considered for a show.
Could that be you? On the second Tuesday of each month, a cohort of KOOPers gather in the lobby and coffee shop lounge of the Carpenter Hotel to mingle and share tunes on vinyl. It’s a casual way to meet some of the station’s staffers and volunteers and bond over a shared love of obscure and eclectic sounds.
If you want to mix it up with some of the city’s top record collectors and amateur musicologists: Looking for a fun date night? A hip little hideaway in the center of the city? A new group of friends who might understand the way your love of golden-era hip-hop intersects with your love of U.K. proto-punk? Pack a few of your favorite albums and stake out a spot on one of the cozy couches or peruse the hotel’s house collection for cool tunes to share.
The sound: What do you want to hear? The music mix is as wide-ranging as the community radio station that hosts it. Sign up with your artist, your song title and your name and leave your vinyl with the KOOP host, who will queue up your tune and get your attention before they play it. The full playlist for each night is posted on the KOOP Instagram account.
The vibe: There’s no banging bass, no dance floor and no need to dress to impress. Instead, the early-evening event has a relaxed feel, with ample comfortable seating and volume levels conducive to conversation. The lounge is adjacent to the hotel’s Hot L Coffeeshop, which serves up a solid selection of espresso drinks, pastries and snacks.
But if you want to make it a proper date night: Drop a few tunes, then head down the hall to the hotel restaurant, Carpenters Hall, which has made Austin360 food critic Matthew Odam’s list of the top restaurants in Austin for two years in a row. Reflecting "the general zeitgeist of casual cool dining that has swept the country over the last decade," the restaurant features a "smart menu with excellent housemade pastas sprung to life with local ingredients, flavorful grain bowls and toasts, a classic mayo-slathered turkey club and modestly adorned grilled meat and fish," he says.
The venue: The lobby, lounge and restaurant for the boutique Carpenter Hotel are nestled in a historic building originally built in the 1940s to house Austin’s carpenters union. As the hotel owners updated the space with a more modern ambiance, they were careful to preserve the original wood and brick architecture, giving the space an old-Austin feel. The property’s motto, posted to their website, is "a neighborhood spot that just happens to be in a hotel."
Erin Corrigan from Carpenter Hotel says: Vinyl night is a chance for lovers of vinyl, deep cuts and classics to show off their collections in the communal lobby of Carpenter Hotel. The hotel has an extensive collection that is always available for guests to play, and #BYOV night highlights it, as well as KOOP's dedication to the weird, the unexpected and the niche.
If you go: The vinyl night kicks off at 6 p.m. and wraps up around 8 p.m. Paid street parking around the hotel is surprisingly easy to find, but the hotel also has a parking lot that is free to guests of the hotel, restaurant and coffee shop.
Pro-tip: While alcohol options are limited at the coffee shop, the restaurant down the hall boasts a full bar with an extensive wine list featuring natural and responsibly sourced varieties.