Record Store Day

Spin the black circle

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Six years ago, when the music industry was in freefall due to the digital revolution, a group of independent record store owners got together to discuss not just the problems their brick-and-mortar music shops were suffering due to our download mania, but also what they could do to reverse the trend.

Among their ideas was Record Store Day, which is exactly what it sounds like: a day set aside to celebrate the independent record stores in our midst, and a reminder that they are an integral link in the chain of our collective music appreciation.

To keep their newfound “holiday” from being a largely symbolic gesture, organizers of that first Record Store Day knew they’d have to do something special to get us out from behind our various screens and into their music stores. The strategy they settled on: a massive display of unabashed bribery, aided and abetted by those bands and musicians who share a record-store-friendly ethos.

This bribery entailed not only swag bags with a random mix of musical elements both strange and delightful gifted to customers lucky and smart enough to show up during the early hours of Record Store Day, but also a whole slew of releases and reissues unleashed on that day only, never to be seen or heard from during regular retail days or hours again. And when I say “a whole slew,” I’m referring to a list extensive and varied enough to make any audiophile or casual listener drool with anticipation. Of course, integral to the Record Store Day experiment was the fact that, while record store owners, buyers and managers could order any/all things they and their customers desired from the day’s exclusive offerings, given the fact that many of the items ordered existed in exceedingly limited numbers, what would actually be in stock on Record Store Day would remain a mystery until the doors opened.

As experiments go, this was one that was unprecedented enough that, in the days leading up to that first Record Store Day in 2007, organizers didn’t know if it would be a resounding success or would crash and burn in abject failure.

They needn’t have worried.

As it turns out, the formula of free stuff + exclusive stuff + (in many cases) live in-store music = an idea with a bright future. Which brings us to the here and now.

Never ones to be left out an opportunity to celebrate themselves while satisfying customers at the same time, this area’s independent record stores are all-too-willing participants in Record Store Day, which takes place this year on Sat., April 20. Bellingham’s Everyday Music and Avalon Music were receiving and checking in their Record Store Day loot at press time (no, they will not divulge the secrets of their stash, so don’t even ask), and Anacortes’ the Business is getting in on the action as well.

While far, far too numerous to list anything but a fraction of here, the contents of this year’s musical grab bag could include releases by the following (and keep in mind that every shop gets a different selection, so what’s available varies from store to store): Sigur Ros, the Rolling Stones, Botch, At the Drive-In, the White Stripes, the Flaming Lips, Nick Cave, Pink Floyd, the Black Keys, the Band, David Bowie, Big Star, Justin Townes Earle, Soundgarden, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Public Enemy, Iron and Wine, MGMT, Gram Parsons, Phoenix, Elliott Smith, the xx, and so many more.

As well, the fine folks at Avalon Music, who spend 364 days of the year quietly going about their business, have turned Record Store Day into an excuse to throw a free, all-day, sidewalk concert in front of their shop, complete with a lineup of music from all points on our local music spectrum. Ben von Wildenhaus, when he’s not performing with Federation X, is responsible for making music that is mesmerizing and otherworldly. He’ll get things started at 1pm, before the Shadies treat us to expert renditions of old-timey songs at 2pm. After that, the Chris Nunn-fronted Waterbear will take the sidewalk stage before Girl Guts closes it all out with their hooky raucousness at 4pm.

But if you wait to begin your Record Store Day meanderings until the music begins at noon, odds are you’ll miss out on most, if not all, of the retail goodies available. Those in the know are well aware that in order to score the best stuff, showing up—and lining up—prior to the store’s opening is a must. Toward that end, it would probably benefit you to know that the Business typical hours of operation begin at 11am, while Everyday Music opens at 9am, and Avalon Music’s doors open at 9:30am. In light of that, it would probably be wise to follow the advice Avalon’s Spencer Willows dispensed via Facebook: “I recommend coffee and bagel at 8:30am, line up at 9am, swarm product like sharks to chum at 9:30am.” Amend times accordingly for your favorite local independent record store, and plan your Record Store Day celebration accordingly.

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