When Record Store Day launched in 2007, my enthusiasm for the idea encouraged derisive laughter from friends, colleagues and members of the public alike. I found this incredibly annoying and more than a little disheartening. Therefore, I’m enjoying my “I told ya so” moment immensely. I might even be milking it. A little.
On Saturday, members of the independent record store community across the globe engaged in activities they (and we) have long been told are thoroughly anachronistic. Most of these stores brought live regional and national bands to perform in their stores, while throngs of folks gathered to cough up the cash necessary to cover the inflated prices stamped on beautiful new pieces of vinyl, many of them releases crafted exclusively for Record Store Day.
No focus groups, no major music industry movers and shakers, no market pundits predicted any of this happening. Independent record stores were supposed to go away in order to make way first for big box corporate retailers and later, for the Internet. Vinyl was supposed to be killed by the advent of CDs, and it was badly wounded, for a while.
And yet, somehow, here were lines of people stretching out the door, gathering to hear local bands, spend lots of money and exclusive commodities, and at the same time, support indie record stores, a long-dying breed that has somehow managed to hang on.
On Saturday, the University Plaza Record Theatre location stocked more RSD-exclusive product this year than in any year in the past, and according to employees, the line ran out the door and halfway down the plaza at opening time, as customers flocked to grab the host of vinyl goodies on offer. The live music started at 10 a.m. with the Sleepy Ha Has, and continued through 9 p.m., with the likes of Pine Fever, Wild Things, Handsome Jack and Governess playing everything from shimmering indie rock to classic punk and smoldering garage rock.
I ran into Govindan Kartha, founder of the much-missed New World Record, and as Handsome Jack kicked out in the background, I swept my arm across the view and said, “Y’know, you should be proud, Go, because you kinda started all this,” referring to New World Record’s tradition of hosting local and national bands for in-store performances long before Record Store Day was even a thing. Ever the humble guy, Kartha deflected the praise with a “I’m just really glad all of this is happening.”
Downtown, indie record store Spiral Scratch was hosting a party of its own on Saturday, with live music and, like Record Theatre, a bevy of exclusive platters up for grabs throughout the day. Mark Norris – former record store employee and vocalist/guitarist with Girlpope and Mark Norris & the Backpeddlers – made his debut as “Mark Nervous,” an only slightly fictitious character Norris describes as “a vinyl nerd and record collecting junkie.”
“I make fun of vinyl collecting culture, indie rock and classic rock,” Norris said on Sunday. “I’m a rock nerd myself, so I’m allowed to make fun.” (Some samples of Norris’ wares: “Who else thought the film ‘12 Years A Slave’ was a documentary about Prince’s years on Warner Bros.?” and “Quick show of hands: Who else is going to go home and rearrange their record collection in case Thurston Moore stops by?” – one-liners every self-respecting Record Store Day attendee would surely “get” without much effort.)
I had no real Record Store Day budget this year, and was able to scratch up enough money for a special RSD-only vinyl compilation celebrating the work of jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, and not much else. I was also lucky enough to be given a review copy of the new vinyl from local project A House Safe For Tigers, which I’ll be reviewing next week. Where else but Record Store Day could you be handed a new record by one of the people in the band itself?
The people, it seems, have spoken, and they’re saying that a sense of community, and musical artifacts one can actually hold in your hand, are something they value.
Viva la independent record store!
Out on the tiles
Last week was a musically rich one in Buffalo, with some hugely buzzed-about shows – Modest Mouse at Babeville, the Tragically Hip at First Niagara Center, Patti Smith at Kleinhans among them – all either selling out or coming awfully close. Many of these events took place at the same time, which required some tricky navigating of the schedule for local music lovers, but I managed to take in some fantastic shows, among them the Dave Constantino Band with guest Jony James at Mohawk Place on Thursday (part of Anita West’s new Thursday Night Blues initiative at the club); indie/neo-soul outfit the Monophonics at the Buffalo Iron Works later on Thursday evening; a post-Tragically Hip performance by Aqueous, performing a set of tunes by alt-rock legends Cake – as “Cakeous,” lol – at Iron Works; and to close off the weekend, a truly inspired pair of shows featuring jazz luminary Pat Martino and his incredible trio, which featured Buffalo-born drummer Carmen Intorre, again at Iron Works. All of this, and summer hasn’t even kicked in yet.