Local indie shops celebrate Record Store Day with exclusive releases, live music and the thrill of the hunt
“Record stores can't save your life. But they can give you a better one.”
Writer Nick Hornby created a customer's worst record-store-clerk nightmare in Barry, later portrayed by Jack Black in the film adaptation of High Fidelity, but that particular quote proves his satirical criticism was also done out of love. Ask any clerk, owner, musician, label head or customer with an armful of records, and they'll tell you it's more than just a place to shop.
The record store is a place of discovery. It's a meditation temple, a place to slip into the ritualistic thumbing through vinyl. Like yoga or chanting “om,” it's universally accepted as a way to clear one's mind and better a mood. While online stores can use the “if you like …” suggestion, they can't supplement the informed opinions of record-store clerks. A brick-and-mortar store is where life gets better from looking for the new Strokes record, only to be convinced to leave with the debut Is This It, and three early-aughts indie-rock records that were subsequently influenced by it.
The sixth annual Record Store Day, observed Saturday, April 20, is the biggest event of the year for the remaining independent stores nationwide. In Sacramento and Davis, artists such as Foals (at Dimple Records, 2433 Arden Way), Medeski Martin & Wood (2 p.m. at Armadillo Music, 205 F Street in Davis), and Crook One (Records, 1618 Broadway) will do live, in-store sets; stores will also host meet and greets, deejay sets, giveaways, and, most importantly, sell exclusive records available only on this particular holiday.
Missed out on post-hardcore legends At the Drive-In's last and highly lauded record Relationship of Command? Seek out the RSD exclusive reissue. Your collection of Grateful Dead live bootlegs not enough? Rhino Records has Rare Cuts & Oddities 1966 on double LP. Regret selling your Jimi Hendrix LPs in a garage sale? Start over with the Hey Joe 7-inch single (backed with “Stone Free”). Want Mumford & Sons to sound like they're playing a set in your living room? Check out the Live at Bull Moose 10-inch.
The holiday comes with a renewed interest or, as Davis' Armadillo Music's manager Paul Wilbur describes, a resurgence in vinyl sales that's keeping the record culture alive. In fact, while the most recent sales reports show an overall decline in physical sales by 5 percent—mostly in CDs—vinyl sales are seeing numbers that surpass their last peak in 1997.
Last year, for example, Jack White's Blunderbuss sold 33,000 vinyl copies, making it the top selling of its format, a fact Wilbur is keen to.
“I ordered all the White Stripes stuff,” he said. “But it's one of the heartbreak situations: You never know [if the store will get them] until the shipment arrives.”
This year, RSD organizers list approximately 4,000 exclusive pieces, ranging from abundant copies of the deluxe version of Phish's 1990 Lawn Boy to smaller runs for items, such as The Taste of Burger Records mixtape.
The drawback is no matter how large an order a store places, RSD's policy makes no guarantees of shipment. According to RSD co-manager Michael Kurtz, there's no science or established method to getting releases to the stores.
“The pieces are limited by design,” Kurtz said. “The production numbers for any given release is somewhere between 300 and 8,000 … and there are around 1,000 stores participating.”
In other words, it's something of a crapshoot.
Even artists with a local angle are not given preferential treatment in their own regions—so don't assume that Chelsea Wolfe & King Dude's Sing Songs Together split 7-inch or Cake's Sheep Go To Heaven/Jesus Wrote a Blank Check will be easy to find.
As Dimple owner Dilyn Radakovitz reminds, the Sactown band is a national act, and “there are plenty of cities that probably consider Cake a priority.”
Then again, such limited pressings remain true to the culture of digging in record stores. When it comes to record shopping, there's never a guarantee you'll find what you're looking for, but that search is part of the experience—the hunt for a coveted record is not supposed to be easy.
Shop Record Store Day
Got money to burn? Here's the quick-and-dirty on some local Record Store Day happenings:
Where: 205 F Street in Davis
When: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Keep up your strength: The shop will serve free coffee for early birds.
Now hear this: In-store sets from Red Jacket Mine (10 a.m.) and Medeski, Martin & Wood (2 p.m., followed by an autograph signing).
Where: 1700 J Street
When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Extras: The first 200 paying customers at the shop will receive a $10 store gift certificate; there'll also be exclusive freebies.
Where: 2500 16th Street
When: 10 a.m to 9 p.m.
Keep up your strength: California Love Truck and Addison's Originals food trucks will take turns feeding your frenzy.
Extras: Take part in a parking lot record swap from 9 a.m. to noon. Also, expect plenty of giveaways.
Dimple Books & Vinyl
Where: 2499 Arden Way
When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Extras: In-store record swap from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., plus giveaways.
Where: 2433 Arden Way
When: 10 am. to 9 p.m.
Keep up your strength: There'll be food trucks on site throughout the days.
Extras: At 2 p.m., Foals will perform a set and then sign autographs.
Where: 1618 Broadway
When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Keep up your strength: Nosh on goodies from Doughbot Donuts.
Extras: Deejay sets by Tim Tucker, Ben Johnson, Tim Matranga and Crook One. The store will also debut its new $1 vinyl bin.