Local music merchants mark Record Store Day
by Rick Koster
You're sitting at your computer, and someone texts you that Skrillex and fun. have new tracks, and so you click and download them and listen on your tinny earpods. Two days later, fun. is in rehab, and Skrillex shaves the other side of his head and isn't cool anymore, and soon you don't even remember either artists or the songs you acquired.
Let's instead say you've made the effort to travel Webster: to travel is "to move or undergo transmission from one place to another" and your destination is a used record store. You wander the crammed aisles, smelling the ancient spice of cardboard album jackets and perhaps some incense burning next to the jaded but passionate clerk, and who knows what you might come across?
Maybe you find "The Wild Tchoupitoulas" album or the red vinyl "Nazz Nazz." Wait! There's the first Captain Beyond with the 3D cover! There's Bebop Deluxe's "Live in the Air Age" with white vinyl!
And OMG a rare 78 album by Buddy Bolden, which is a particularly delicious discovery since Buddy never actually recorded.
Or did he? Only the used record store knows for sure.
All of these possibilities are particularly worth thinking about because Saturday marks the fifth anniversary of Record Store Day. As an event, Record Store Day is steadily gaining popularity at a speed, one might say, of 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.
Locally, Mystic Disc in Mystic and The Telegraph in New London will honor the holiday with live performances and mucho specialty releases, while Tumbleweeds in Niantic, which offers clothing, jewelry and gifts in addition to vinyl and CDs, is hosting a store-wide sale with specific goodies aimed at RSD celebrants.
"Sadly, over the last decade, there have been an alarming number of record stores closing due largely to the shift to digital in the music industry," says Rich Martin, co-owner of the Telegraph. "Fortunately, one outcome of that shift was a strong resurgence of the vinyl format in the marketplace. Along with celebrating the mom and pop stores that are the front line for a communal celebration of music, Record Store Day has really returned the focus to vinyl as the essential format for music lovers and connoiseurs."
Rich Freitas of Mystic Disc echoes the "return to vinyl" sentiments.
"For far too long, music listeners have been forced to hear lower and lower qualities of the actual sound," Freitas says. "The vinyl LP offers the best sound reproduction in a commercial format and the singular indication that people are again excited by this is the incredible buzz around Record Store Day. There's a huge bump in interest in the weeks leading up to it. It's a man-made holiday that actually works!"
For those who enjoy live local music but sometimes struggle with a midnight start time, the Telegraph will host performing artists from noon until 10 p.m. Scheduled for short sets are, among others, Fake Babies, the Field Recordings, Grave Robers, False Mermaids, Camacho & Poe Swayzie and Sunset Hotel. DJs Charlie Chaplin & Sir Round Sound will spin between sets.
At the Disc, Freitas says plans are underway for some of the New Wave of Mystic rockers to set up in front of the store, including Herff Jones. In addition, he says to anticipate sets by local DJs.
In terms of special product aimed at Record Store Day customers, a variety of artists are providing material on an exclusive or limited basis. Look for tuneage from Flaming Lips, Animal Collective, Amanda Palmer, Arcade Fire, Iggy & the Stooges, Red Hot Chili Peppers, David Bowie, Luna, Metallica, Gary Clark, Jr., the Black Keys, Mastadon, Feist, Phish, Preteen Zenith, Uncle Tupelo, The Civil Wars and others, including releases by regional and state-wide acts.
Only Tara Wyatt at Tumbleweeds is a bit cautious in her enthusiasm over Record Store Day.
"Truth told, I have mixed feelings about this event," Wyatt says. "The first few years were great, and it was what it was supposed to be a celebration of indie stores in defiance of corporate music. Now, it seems as though the corporate people are trying to get their hands on it. I see more and more of those elements creeping in."
Having said that, Wyatt has some special music on order and will give away RSD freebies and hold a raffle for various products.
True music heads will probably be interested to know there are different types of RSD music exclusives as provided by artists and labels: Exclusive RSD Releases (available on Saturday only, period); First Day Releases (titles available for the first time on RSD that will be released at some point); and Limited Run/Regional Focus Releases (typically music by local acts in very limited quantities).
That a tangible, pre-event buzz builds before RSD, in the fashion of Halloween or Fat Tuesday, is a source of excitement and perhaps a vote of confidence for record store owners and fans.
"People are clearly doing research to find out what shops are in our area," Martin says. "We've had so many calls and emails over the past few weeks, and it's really heartening to see it working."
Freitas suggests the new interest is merely a confirmation of what some folks have known all along.
"(A lot of us) celebrate records every day," he says. "Record Store Day is just one of the big days."