A Record Store Day Survival Guide
Tomorrow (April 19th) is Record Store Day 2014. For the uninitiated, it’s a holiday created by the greeting card companies to sell candy, just like Mother’s Day. Except the candy is audiophile quality recordings and the candy is… also… the same thing but for the ears… Look, metaphors no longer matter. It’s the Black Friday for a very specific brand of music fan, and if you followed my advice earlier this year to join the vinyl revolution (to improve your intelligence and sexual stamina) then this is the moment which defines your dedication.
*kicks your iTunes into a pit*
THIS… IS… RECORD STORE DAY
*worries this will become a meme and hides in jacket*
Inspired by the success of Free Comic Book Day, this holiday is observed on the third Saturday of April each year. Dating all the way back to 2007 in Baltimore (where The Wire was based in case you were worried this wasn’t cool), RSD allows only independently owned record stores to stock very limited releases from a vast range of artists. Some are releases that come months (or even years) before their official wide release, while the majority are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Living in LA, I’ve had the option over the last few years to travel between several participating stores, but the god-hub remains THE independent record store, Amoeba on Sunset. Last year I arrived at 4:30am for a 9am opening, only to discover that I was already the 37th person in line. Knowing that some of these releases have only 100 pressings spread across the entire world, you start freaking out one of the psychos who showed up before four-goddamned-a-to-the-m will snag that album you skipped sleep for.
The record stores used to operate on a Black Friday model, where crowds would clog the entrance at opening, then rush the pre-designated bins. Despite only existing nationally since ‘08, RSD has already seen its share of violent consumer interactions. In response, many stores like Amoeba now hand out a checklist just before opening, officially listing for the first time each release available at this location. Obviously, not every story gets every album, so you do wind-up with a grab-bag of opportunities. Bigger indies get more copies but smaller shops have smaller lines, so plan your strategy accordingly.
The checklists allow you to mark everything you want placed in your bag. Your wishlists will be filled in order of your place in line, ignoring any releases that have sold out by the time your number is called. At Amoeba, they roll out a Chalkboard of Death, where each sold out release receives a strike-through. If you’re near the front of the line, this moment is easily the worst part of RSD, because it either means the copy placed into your bag was the last, or the purchase that made this entire endeavor worth it went to the person that showed up five minutes before you. The weird trick that no one mentions is that you’ll never see the prices of each record until you get to check-out. You best bet for grabbing a rare pressing if you’ve come late is hoping some early bird hit their spending limit and sent your pick back into circulation.
I should mention that despite the 36 people I stood behind at 4:30am last year, there were four city blocks packed with record fanatics by the time 8am hit, most of whom would never see the albums they showed up to grab. Legally, most record stores claim that no one can line up before thirty minutes prior to opening. This is super not the case. But don’t call anyone on it, because those two store employees that brought us coffee and donuts at 7am last year are the only reason I was awake to see it through. (Your local store will hopefully be a less Black Friday Walmart style affair.)
Last year’s major victory involved me acquiring the final copies of both At The Drive-In’s “Relationship of Command” and the 7” single of The Hold Steady’s song for Game of Thrones, but my buddy Rob wound up in a nail-biter, where the Mondo release of the Drive soundtrack sold out on the costumer ahead of him, and someone from the back announced they’d found a spare copy at the last possible moment.
*cue Chariots of Fire montage*
Here’s a brief sampling of some of this year’s highlights:
Built To Spill - Ultimate Alternate Wavers (20th anniversary, first vinyl pressing of debut, on gold vinyl)
LCD Soundsystem - The Long Goodbye (Five LP new mix of final concert)
Bruce Springsteen - American Beauty (four never heard songs)
Otis Redding - Pain In My Heart (50th anniversary of ‘64 debut in original mono)
Cake - Box Set (all their albums plus unreleased live album, this is what’s getting me out of bed at 3am)
The Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death (Triple LP clear vinyl release of the greatest posthumous album ever)
School Of Seven Bells - Put Your Sad Down (Final songs recorded before bandleader Curtis died of Lymphoma; benefits his charity)
The Wizard of Oz - Soundtrack (the Kansas boy in me hates how fast imma buy this, includes unreleased songs)
V/A - The Folk Box (a 50th anniversary archive of Folk music spanning a bunch of discs, lots of beautiful stuff)
Anamanaguchi - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Game Soundtrack (chiptune glorrrrrry)
DEVO - Live at Max’s Kansas City (live show from ‘77 with David Bowie)
The Pogues - With Joe Strummer Live (‘91 live show, as described)
Mastodon - Live at Brixton (packaged with DVD of show, the metal album this year)
Vitamin String Quartet - Weezer’s Pinkerton (how is it even possible this exists?)
The Muppet Movie Soundtrack - (in case you weren’t around to grab it 35 years ago)
Death Cab for Cutie fear. Magik*Magik Orchestra - Live 2012 (as described, great show, very limited)
Ray Parker Jr. - Ghostbusters (Glow-in-the-dark ecto green 10”)
Dresden Dolls - S/T (First vinyl release for the best Amanda Palmer has ever done)
R.E.M. - Unplugged (4 LP box featuring shows in 1991 and 2001)
Powerglove - Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (the other big video game release, very limited release)
Rockabye Baby - Lullabye Renditions of David Bowie (even if you’ll never have kids, c’mon…)
Nirvana - Pennyroyal Tea / I Hate Myself And Want To Die (the shelved to-be-next single after Cobain’s suicide)
Joan Jett - Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth (4th album in glorious re-release)
The Flaming Lips - 7 Skies H3 (masters of RSD release DEVO single and edit of 24 hour song)
Live From High Fidelity (segments from the podcast recorded in the store at the end of my block)
Beyond this there’s several hundred other releases you may or may not come across, including single collections, covers, crossover, remixes, cassettes, soundtracks, demos, reissues, and archival collections. Also, you’ll be able to find that long forgotten Jay-Z/Linkin Park collaboration album “Collision Course”, 311’s “Blue Album”, a bunch of early Aerosmith, the new Childish Gambino, a Garbage single, the first new Veruca Salt in 14 years, The Pixies new album (which costs double to buy from their website), Outkast’s ” SOUTHERNPLAYALISTICADILLACMUZIK”, music from both Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch, Clint Mansell’s first soundtrack via the UK’s Death Waltz, and a release so bizarre you have to look for yourself.
These are the releases I’ll be fighting for, and honestly, that’s the joy of vinyl records. Unless you use Amazon, each acquisition is its own story; something you found, something that surprised you. Record Store Day is the rare event where this solitary activity introduces you to several hundred new friends that, depending on your place in line, you may or may not plan to murder.
I’ll see you in line. If you take the Cake box set before I do, you won’t make it to your car. Apologies in advance.