Record Store Day

Vinyl is forever

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

For people who own or manage music stores, Record Store Day is, like music itself, a thing about which people tend to have strong opinions. Many stores love it for the boost of business and exposure it brings. Other stores are more ambivalent, feeling, among other things, the event brings with it issues of access to exclusive releases; concerns that it uses an unfair amount of capacity of the limited number of pressing plants that still exist; and messaging that is in opposition to the core ethos of sustainability for such shops, namely that every day should be Record Store Day.

For those who love music and believe it is best heard on vinyl, Record Store Day is way less complicated. They love it. So much so that Record Store Day has logged the highest single-day sales for participating independent music shops year in and year out since its inception a decade or so ago.

For Bellingham’s Avalon Records, there is no confusion and zero controversy. The normally laid-back downtown music staple goes all in and all out every single year, upping the ante on the occasion—which takes place Sat., April 21—by offering not only their allotment of exclusive Record Store Day releases (which they’d been receiving and unpacking for days prior to press time), but also storewide one-day-only deals on their non-RSD inventory.

Don’t get me wrong, I think records are pretty cool. But the only music on vinyl that I own is Michael Jackson’s Thriller and a well-worn copy of Free to Be You and Me—and both of those are artifacts from my childhood that live at my parents’ house. I also used to own a Mickey Mouse Disco album, but it disappeared at some point, probably owing to its desirability as a collector’s item.

In other words, while I can get into the spirit of Record Store Day, you won’t see me lining up along the sidewalk to get my hand on the day’s releases.

However, I’m perfectly happy to line up and camp out for Avalon’s other Record Store Day tradition: the outdoor concert they host on the corner of Railroad Avenue and Magnolia Street the store occupies.

As always, the music runs all day long, the lineup is largely local and the whole thing is free for shoppers and gawkers alike. Bands begin playing at noon, changing over every hour on the hour (provided things go like clockwork), until the whole thing sunsets a little before sunset. Surfer Yeti will kick things off and will be followed by Porch Cat, Seattle band Strawberry Mountain, and Tetrachromat. Closing out the day’s festivities will be Sherry, who are coming clear from Austin, Texas because they’ve obviously heard that Avalon goes a little nuts for Record Store Day and want to take part.

Holding down their own corner of Railroad and Magnolia is Everyday Music. They usually run a bit more of a low-key operation on Record Store Day, but rest assured, they’ll have their own allotment of RSD releases to sling to the vinyl-hungry masses, and if the past is a predictor of the future—and it tends to be—deep discounts on their existing inventory will be found there as well.

Normally, venerable music store the Business in Anacortes seems to harbor some of those conflicted feelings I mentioned previously with regard to Record Store Day. This year, they’ve embraced the madness and booked a monster of a show, even though it will happen neither on Record Store Day nor at the store proper. Instead, it will take place Fri., April. 20 and will feature Sumac and Fountainsun and will serve as the Business’ official RSD kickoff. The next morning, they’ll be right back in the shop, slinging exclusive vinyl alongside the carefully chosen selection of records they sell every day.

Whether Record Store Day is blessing, blight or a little bit of both is an argument that won’t be resolved this year—if ever. But I think we can all agree that independent record stores are absolutely vital to well-rounded music and arts communities. Support your local record store. And then we’ll have Record Store Day to kick around forever.

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