Eight years ago, when Record Store Day set sail on its maiden voyage, the independent record shop was well on the way to becoming an artifact of a bygone era.
New World Record and Home of the Hits – two of Buffalo’s flagship indie music retailers – were either closed or on their way to being so. Record Theatre, the Lenny Silver-owned chain of record shops that once operated six storefronts in Western New York, as well as a thriving One-Stop – was down to two stores.
CD sales were plummeting. Vinyl sales were a niche market. The idea of driving to a retail site and shopping for a hard copy of an album? In some quarters, this was labeled a superfluous, if not downright ridiculous endeavor. Music was now almost exclusively viewed as a service, not a commodity.
On Saturday, when Record Store Day marks its ninth anniversary, six stores in the Buffalo region will be actively participating, two of which opened in the past year. Vinyl is no longer a niche market aimed exclusively at older music fans who refuse to let go of the past; it is an area of the music industry driven almost exclusively by consumers under the age of 30. And more artists than in any year since the event started are releasing products exclusive to the day.
The rebirth of vinyl, and the boost to independent record stores that was born alongside it, has suggested that there is a healthy portion of the music-consuming public that is not having its needs met by the present-day all-digital, streaming-centric, cloud-based music distribution model. People want something more than bits and bytes. Or at least, some people do.
People also want that sense of community independent record stores once provided. There was a time when cool indie artists passing through town for a gig would stop by a record store to shop, autograph stuff or indulge in an in-store performance.
Customers came to these, shopped while the band was playing, hung with friends from the scene, maybe even had the opportunity to meet a hero. Over the past few years, we’re seeing all of this beginning to happen again.
This year’s local activity underscores the rebirth concept.
• At Record Theatre’s 1800 Main St. location, John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls will be joined by Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs, John & Mary) and Cassandra Kubinski, beginning at 11 a.m. The three musicians will sign copies of their Record Store Day exclusive release, the “Not So Different” single, sales of which benefit the Institute for Autism Research at Canisius College.
• A bit to the north, at Record Theatre’s University Plaza location (3500 Main St.), the live music starts at 10 a.m. and continues until closing time, with performances by Governess, Pappy Stardust, Fluse, Bold Folly, Wolf, Bryce Monroe March, Handsome Jack, MeNyou, Peacebridge, Revenge Therapists and Crooked Generation combining to suggest that the idea of the independent record store as a hub for the local original music scene is far from an archaic one. Community Beer Works will be there as well, doing its part to continue the “buy local” theme.
• Spiral Scratch records, enjoying its new digs at 1109 Elmwood Ave., will present a stacked bill of Buffalo indie rock beginning around noon, with performances slated from Scott Valkwitch, Eric Ellman, Bill Nehill, Luke Pfaff and others. Doors will open at 10 a.m., though, so if you’re hoping to get your hands on the Record Store Day-exclusive merch owner Dave Anchovies and his staff will be peddling, you might want to get there early. Of course, there’s more used vinyl than you can shake a needle at, so there’s plenty to peruse.
• The recently opened Revolver Records (1451 Hertel Ave.) celebrates its first Record Store Day with – there’s a trend developing here – a full day of live music and a healthy dose of exclusive products, in addition to the well-stocked selection of used vinyl. The all-local lineup includes Lost Elysium, the Mooin Calves, Charisse & Tim, Bean Friend, Mark Norris & Jake Brockaway, the Devil in Love, Randle & the Late Night Scandals and Gary Stieglitz.
• Another relatively new addition to the indie record store roster, Hi Fidelity Records (61 Main St., Tonawanda) opened its doors in the fall of 2014, and has spent the time since building an impressive collection of new and used vinyl, and throwing a twist into the tale – Hi Fidelity also does in-house audio equipment repair and maintenance, so if you’re hanging on to your father’s old turntable thinking one day you’ll get around to fixing it, here’s your chance.
There are many Record Store Day exclusive releases that area audiophiles should be drooling over this year. A few of the most hotly anticipated come from David Bowie, Elvis Presley, Phish, Cheap Trick, Flaming Lips, Justin Bieber, Florence and the Machine, the D.O.C., Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Notorious B.I.G., Afrika Bambaataa, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, the Doors, Grateful Dead, Big Star, Joe Strummer, the Buzzcocks, Bob Dylan, Jay Farrar, Son Volt, J Dilla, Air, KMFDM, Madonna, Iron Maiden, Sun Ra, Regina Spektor, Lush, the Sword, Tom Petty, Mumford and Sons, Muse, Frank Turner, Alt-J, Chvrches, Alanis Morrissette, Graham Nash and Mark Mothersbaugh. You can find a full list of exclusive releases through recordstoreday.com.
All area Record Store Day participants will open their doors at 10 a.m., but expect the faithful to be lining up well before opening time.