Record Store Day 2012 has come and gone, with your local store almost certainly still with some goodies left to pick up, in the vinyl, CD and even t-shirt variety (I have to say it was the best record store day shirt yet). While this wasn't my favorite year for special releases, I still probably dropped $50 on a few releases, such as various 45's from Justin Townes Earle, The White Stripes, Regina Spektor and a few others, as well as the 2-10"-LP Best of the Pearl Sessions from Janis Joplin. I wrote this piece last year, but didn't write for this site yet, so here it is. An in-depth look into why going to your local brick-and-mortar record/music/movie store is better than buying online for more reasons than just music quality and supporting local economy...
As Record Store Day 2011 (as I said, I wrote this last year) approaches (I bet you didn't even know that "holiday" existed did you?) I figured this would be a good topic to tackle. Also, you might wanna look into RSD, your favorite band is probably releasing something specifically and only for that day and you didn't even realize it.
Besides my usual excuses of not downloading music through itunes and the like (my usual excuses being local economy/business' and especially sound quality - you can't compress a 85mb CD song file on a CD to 8MB and not expect to lose SOMETHING) there is something magical about record stores that clicking "Download and Buy" will never provide. Though I could be wrong about that...
Just the other night, after a long bike ride to nowhere with Lady Hawk, we made our way to Zia Records. It's the best closest record store to our house. We'd probably live at Revolver Records (the absolute best record store in town) if it were any closer, but as it is, it's not. Plus as the movie buff I am, there's no better place to trade in old DVDs to upgrade to Blu-Ray's. We were wading through some records as Lady Hawk told me an idea she had for her next art project. An idea including the Devil, media and some other interesting things. Anyhow suddenly a catchy song starts thumping through the store speakers. A song about "the Devil lives inside of me and it just won't let go." We laughed at the coincidence but stopped laughing as we enjoyed the song.
"Who is this? It's great" bemused Lady Hawk.
"Sounds like the Vaseline's, but I don't think they've been around since the 90's" I retort.
The song struck a chord with Lady Hawk enough a few songs (from other artists later) she made her way to the play desk as Zia to find out. Three employees there had no idea what song she was asking about, now some five or six songs prior. Suddenly another employee on the phone, hangs up on a customer on the phone as she shouts "it's the Vaselines, they're new album!" Lady Hawk wants to buy the album, they don't have any more, so that just sell her the copy they're using to play. The girl that knew the band talks to me briefly about Nirvana covering some Vaseline tunes (most notably on 'MTV Unplugged in NY.' I've spoken to her before when I had bought such albums as Tom Waits' 'Nighthawks the Diner' and Lady Hawk a Pixies album once. So she has good music taste and has always been approachable as an employee. Even Fatty McDouche, a head hipster of Zia employees who usually likes to spurn everyone in favor of nonchalant meanness to showcase his high hipster elitist douchebaggery, is laughing and having a good time with us, as Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita" starts to play in the background.
What would this experience be like had we just decided to download or torrent our music? Well, for once, Lady Hawk never would have heard of that song and I doubt I'd ever hear about the Vaseline's getting back together. There's a comradery at record stores you just can't beat. Hanging out with other customers and employees, talking and learning about music. Getting out of your house and quit being so involved with the God-forsaken internet and interacting with actual people and not buttons disguised as numbers pretending to be letters on a phone.
It's proven fact that when your turn your lady onto the pluses of physical media and especially vinyl music,
This is basically what you come home to at least four days out of the month.
Plus, there's the adventure aspect of it. Going and downloading mediocre mp3's of just about any song is easy, but where's the fun in that? Where's the fun of being able to download all 600+ songs of Bob Dylan's in a mere minutes without having to struggle to find some obscure gem? Just recently I finally came across Justin Townes Earle's first EP, 'Yuma,' featuring the absolutely amazing song "A Desolate Angel's Blues" (which any Kerouac fan would love.) This was after a long process of hunting and searching for it. Sure, I could have spent $6 downloading it, but where's the fun in that? It took me forever, and now not only do I have an actual CD with superior audio quality, but I can make my own mp3's for my ipod, and I had fun searching for it, always wondering "maybe it'll be there this time," and occasionally finding something else new that I liked in the process. There's a million albums like this that I hunted and waited to find the old school way. For instance, after posting this originally, and getting into a comment conversation with someone about the Gin Blossoms Dusted, an owner of my favorite record store saw this and messaged me, letting me know they had just gotten one in. Another search completed...Lady Hawk too, after getting into the Vaseline's with that last CD went on a hunt for their first album. Finally an employee found one at a store in Vegas and had them send it over.
Can you spot Hawk and Lady Hawk in this picture from a record store day event a couple years ago? It's like Where's Waldo for blogger douchebags!
Here's a few more, shorter adventure anecdotes that may or may not prove Record stores are fun:
- Having Alice Cooper walk up next to you and start searching through records
- Watching employees tackle a teenager trying to make his way out of the store with a bunch of CD's in his pants, only to then be dragged to the back kicking and screaming "Don't call my parents!"
- Seeing a 40-year old speed metal freak week in and week out, coming in, buy a CD, sit in his truck for 10 minutes listening to it, come back in, scream and yell the album sucks, then speeds out of the parking lot only to come back the next week...never the wiser that it's his music tastes and not the album itself that's screwed up.
- Having the White Stripes (still together obviously) walk in, go over to a bin dedicated to them and wade through various bootlegs.
- Going through a various "line" of people, from your girlfriend, to record store owners and employees and other customers, to have them listen to and then state their opinion of Fun's Some Nights, only to have them all come to the conclusion that it has a couple solid pop songs drowned in a completely in cohesive album full of far too much auto-tune and over-production. That's right Bence, that one was for you!
- Randomly bringing up Laserquest and then using the stores Wi-fi to found out their operating hours and deciding to go play some laser tag.
- Watch a record store owner get bribed with the prospect of a bag of egg mcmuffin's just to put a pile of vinyl goodies behind the counter so the guy can come get them when the line is shorter
- Going around to Zia's employee cards (a now retired trend that featured each aisle having a "ID card" of sorts showcasing an employees music and film tastes, ect) and deciding a certain employee is a lesbian, only to have Mike yell out "(Name censored) is a Lezzie!" just at the perfect moment the loud music has stopped. Awkward silence.
- Discovering someone you never really got into/listened to before, like say Tom Waits or Son Volt, or re-discovering someone you totally forgot about, like say, Gin Blossoms or Cornershop.
- Having an record store owner give a 30 minute spill on the greatness of the TV show "Lil' Bush."
- Getting the complete series of Deadwood on blu ray for less than half listed price.
- Having a punish 19 or 20-year old or so employee with a cute dress and knee high socks flirt with you over science fiction films, only to have a friend, after she walks away, go "man, if she invited me over to play video games, I'd cheat on my wife. Ballin'!"
- Finding the Cranberries have released a new album, only to go throughout the store like a high-pitched, moronic version of Paul Revere shouting "New Cranberries, everybody! New Cranberries!" You know you want to try it.
- Bringing in a bootleg featuring the original sparse, dark versions of Blood on the Tracks, and listening to it with employees and various customers discussing lyrical and arrangements choices between it and the final released versions.
- Finding a LP with the "Ballad of Davy Crockett" on it.
- Watching the teenage emo versions of Laurel and Hardy, breathe-snorthing in between their strange conversations. "You ever seen the Dawn of the Dead re-make, brag?" "Eh, it's ah-ight."
- Watching an employee call around trying get herself a copy of the newest South Park season on DVD before it's actually released in stores. Only to finally shout out "I want my damn South Park!" No one turns a head, including the employees playing hacky sack in the corner. 11:45PM is a strange time.
- Talking about a film like "Moon" or "In Bruges" with people that have not only heard of them, but actually seen them...
- Losing a bet over a political election and owing an employee dinner
- In the midst of buying a vinyl of Bob Dylan's Greatest Hit's Vol. II the checkout girl suddenly discovers one of her favorite songs of all time she could never remember the title of is a song on the album, so you give it to her despite already having bought it and you make their day for a measly $5.
- Taking pictures of magazines with Dave Grohl on the cover and text messaging them to Butters.
- In-store shows and patio shows.
- Make fun of 14-year old's who come in and ask if Bob Dylan has a better record than Blonde on Blonde. Not at that part, we're laughing about them talking about breaking up with their girlfriends...over a Facebook message.
- I ask a friend how his wife will react to him buying this huge stack of vinyl in his hands. "Oh, she'll kiss me and she'll like it..." he says as he takes a secret weapon out of the bottom of the stack, Katy Perry's Teenage Dream on vinyl.
- Finding a Joe Cassady and the West End Sound CD, and going "wow, I know this dude, he's awesome, how did his CD get all the way from East Coast stores to here?"
- Having your Dad be interested in something you're also interested in.
- Talking with an employee on why he DOESN'T regret seeing Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace in theaters on opening day...twice.
- Having an employee explode in his pants over the Battle Royale blu-ray box set you just picked up for cheaper at the store he works than the amazon order he was still yet to receive.
- Finding a program from Bob Dylan's 1978 World Tour, or Leonard Cohen's 1988 Tour, or Tom Petty's 1985 Tour
- Meeting the older guy who likes to talk about how he influenced the Violent Femmes and his foot fetish. It's okay though, because he's actually interesting to talk to. Weirdness is welcomed.
- Knowing when something killer from a band/artist you love comes in, your buddies who own the store will set it aside for you if you can't come in right away. Loyalty goes a long way in a way itunes customer service won't.
- Finding a copy of the White Album that has solarized (like film negative) pictures of the band on the inner gatefold
- Walking through a store with a Replacements shirt on, only to have a pretty girl come up, remark on your shirt on go "You need help? Cause I'll totally pretend I work here if you want..." Luckily Lady Hawk is on the other side of the store or Vinyl Smackdown would have been cookin...
- Watching a friend sign up for a Zia points card, only to go "I'm not giving you my phone number, I'll give you a fake phone number, I'm not giving you me real one, that's for sure!"
- The Radio makes hideous sounds. Sometimes, the music played in a record store does too, but chances are, it's still something you'd never get the chance to hear on Top-40 radio.
- Driving with a friend from one record store to another, turning in all our old DVD's and vinyls we don't want to build up store credit to be able to afford more black friday sale items.
- Watching the pretentious employees go through your bag of trade-in items go absolutely schoolgirl giddy looking through a Bob Dylan career in pictures book or a Grateful Dead scrapbook you turned in. Recycling the joy for others is key.
- FInding Don't Look Back and, more importantly, the cinematic Arnold classic Junior on laserdisc
- Standing at a cashier for two minutes before he looks up, gives a bit of a stoner laugh and is like "oh, hey, what's up dude." He doesn't ring you up though, instead he flips around his computer monitor to show you the Ryan Adams record store day release he's checking out and your spend the next ten minutes talking about the lost art of album artwork and liner notes.
- Spending an hour talking about music and film, only then to find you locked your keys in your car. It's okay though, you can just go back in and talk another hour about music and film. After that, you can just climb through a shattered back window in your car.
- Knowing if your computer crashes, your hard drive fails or your ipod dies, you still have a CD or vinyl you can rip all that music you just lost right back.
Well thanks for reading, all three of you. I'd say more on the subject, but I have an itunes giftcard I need to go use! Hawk out