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Record Store Day
by Donny Kutzbach
I have an ongoing love affair with record stores. As a kid growing up in Western New York, I would save for weeks in anticipation of a trip to Record Theater’s old “basement” location at University Plaza. What seemed like miles of aisles of bins, all mine for the taking…or at least as much as 15 bucks could get me.
By my teens, I would fever for a trip to Elmwood where near the corner of Forest Avenue stood the local Mecca of rock and roll cool: Home of the Hits. It was an oasis stocked with punk rock t-shirts, impossible-to-find import records, and a staff who looked like they very well could have fallen off the jackets of the albums they were selling.
I could go on and on. Maybe part of vinyl’s big comeback is rooted in all that nostalgia for the past but there’s more to it than that. There’s also the better sound quality, the full artwork, and an overall tangibility and experience that goes into putting a record on and actually listening to it. Whatever the case, the music industry’s source for sales tallies, Nielsen Soundscan, reports that well over two million vinyl records were sold in 2009. It’s also noteworthy that many tiny indie labels—long the lifeblood and niche for small record shops and fans of vinyl—don’t even report sales figures to Soundscan. This is still a relative drop in the bucket compared to overall music sales, but as compact disc sales are steadily and rapidly declining, and widespread piracy and availability of digital music online has so many listeners reluctant to pay, it does show that there are still people willing to pay for music when it’s presented and done right. Vinyl is the weapon as the music industry and its brick and mortar retailers make a stand.
Enter Record Store Day. Now in its third year, the annual celebration on the third Saturday in April is when independent retailers celebrate their culture and labels big and small issue special edition releases. The big winners are ultimately the fans, the listeners, and the collectors. There’s so much being offered this year, including newly issued releases from Devo to Dum Dum Girls, from John Fahey to Joy Division, from R.E.M. to the Rolling Stones. Among the most sought-after items this year include an ultra-limited, hand-printed sleeve edition of the forth-coming new album from the Hold Steady, Heaven Is Whenever. And the late, great punk rock superhero whom the Hold Steady once canonized as “Saint Joe” gets another miracle under his belt, as Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros’ Global a Go-Go and Streetcore get their US vinyl debuts in small quantity. Wilco fanatics will drool over a four-LP box set version of their live offering Kicking Television loaded with extra tracks and bonus material. The Velvet Underground’s Live 1969 arrives re-pressed in two volumes. Tom Waits’ creepy, creaky, and claustrophobic masterpiece Mule Variations celebrates its 11th anniversary with a new album version, and Japandroids 2009 epic Post-Nothing surfaces as a limited edition, 180-gram, white vinyl LP. Prog/psych/world rock avatar Peter Gabriel has a pair of split 45s coming with the Magnetic Fields’ Stephen Merritt and with Bon Iver, where Gabriel covers the B-side artist and vice versa.
A host of other exclusive and interesting singles arriving Saturday include an Against Me! two-song seven-inch called “I Was a Teenage Anarchist”; Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball,” live at Giants Stadium, and “Ghost of Tom Joad,” live featuring Tom Morello; a long-lost 1960s recording from Moby Grape; and a new offering from Superchunk.
And in case vinyl is not the thing for you, there’s enough fine and limited compact discs headed to Record Store Day retailer’s shelves. Buffalo’s own Ani DiFranco offers her Live at Bull Moose CD, recorded live last year on Record Store Day at Bull Moose in Maine, the original ground zero of the vinyl holiday. A complete listing is available at the official site: www.recordstoreday.com. Local retailers participating are the two Buffalo locations of Record Theater (www.recordtheatre.com) and Spiral Scratch Records at 2531 Delaware Avenue.
And the perfect solution for your Record Store Day hangover? Sunday is the twice-yearly Buffalo Record Show at the Leonard Post VFW at 2450 Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga, where dealers from all over the Northeast bring out their rare and collectable wares. Viva la vinyl!
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