By ROCKO JEROME
Since the first annual event in 2008, Record Store Day has been a source of excitement mixed with dread for music enthusiasts. High quality records with low production runs appear at music shops around the country, and a mad dash clash erupts in that way that can only occur when supply and demand just canâ€™t seem to get along. Hundreds of titles – re-releases, remasters, new releases, special releases, vinyl in various colors and optical effects, all at premium prices – pop up at shops across the country for an instant… and are snatched up just as quickly.
The big enchilada occurs in April, but this year, as it was the last few years, a Black Friday shindig is added to the mix. Another cynical cash grab on unfettered capitalismâ€™s biggest day? Not so, says the official Record Store Day website. â€œIn the past, Black Friday was an American event created by large corporate retailers as a shopping day that promoted mass produced items at super low prices in hopes of driving customers into their stores. RSDâ€™s Black Friday subverts the model and creates pieces of art in the form of limited special editions, often numbered, from a diverse list of beloved artists. RSDâ€™s version of Black Friday is an excuse to celebrate both the pieces themselves and the special indie record stores who carry them. Cheap, mass-produced frenzy is not the goal.â€
Sean Liter of Modern Cult Records has a response to that. â€œI think that as far as reversing the trend from cheap, mass-produced products to a more realistically priced, limited edition product, they have succeeded. As a collector and a completest, I understand the appeal. However, there is a line between collecting and fetishizing (at least I tell myself that). Some of this RSD stuff seems to kind of create a false scarcity, a forced collectability…at the end of the day, I donâ€™t really care what color my records are, if they are limited or not. I just want the music. As a retailer with a collectorâ€™s mindset though, we try to cater to what people are into. Itâ€™s not always easy to get all the limited edition, gold flecked swirly records, but we will go out of our way to get it if people want it.â€
At least here in Louisville, thereâ€™s no shortage of options available to explore. For avid and rabid record collectors like Jim Schildknect, itâ€™s almost an embarrassment of riches. â€œInstead of having small sections in a larger store, I now have more than four stores to shop at. Itâ€™s the best itâ€™s ever been,â€ he observed. On a stretch of Frankfort Avenue alone, you can easily stroll to three shops in close proximity to one another, burning off some of those calories you packed on at Thanksgiving Dinner the day before. Park by Matt Anthonyâ€™s Record Shop, and you can easily make your way to Modern Cult, then Guest Roomâ€™s just a few blocks away. Each shop has its key strengths. â€œMatt Anthony always has something that can fill a hole in my collection. I go to Modern Cult for local and metal, and Guest Room for new releases and soundtracks,â€ says Jim of the glory road.
Matt Anthony is a man about town you might know as a DJ, both spinning records in clubs and on WFPK. Heâ€™s amped for the big day. â€œIt celebrates the fun of record collecting, with the limited print runs of beloved music for true fans of the artists, that have to put some effort forth to obtain the music. Itâ€™s like record collecting distilled to its essence.â€
For Modern Cult, the day truly is a boon, as it helps to get those sales numbers out of the red zone and straight back in the black. â€œRecord Store Day is a big deal because, honestly, we get to catch up on our bills.â€ says Sean, â€œOwning a small, independent record store is almost a vow of poverty, so itâ€™s nice to really make some money, and at the same time see so many new faces really getting excited about music.â€ Lisa, at Guest Room, is expecting a big day. â€œThe best answer for what shoppers can expect is organized chaos,â€ she said, â€œLast year on Black Friday we had 10 people in line when we arrived at the store around 6 a.m. and probably 60-75 people in line when we opened the doors at 9 a.m. We have a pretty organized system of letting in people in the store; five people at a time in three-to-five minute intervals. The walls will be lined with all of our Black Friday releases (in alphabetical order) to make it as easy as possible to find what youâ€™re looking for. Plus, weâ€™ll have dedicated staff members on the floor to guide and direct you.â€
Across town at Louisvilleâ€™s longest running music store, Better Days Records, Ben Jones has survived good times as well as bad, over the years. Ben proudly wears blown out shoes and has described himself as â€œBroke, but not poor,â€ and devoted his professional life to the pursuit of music. â€œAnything that promotes local business is essential for the survival in this tough market,â€ he said, â€œthese are niche items designed for a niche consumer. We help connect music lovers with these releases and provide it at a fair price…if you buy it right and sell it fair, you will win the game every time.â€
So, if you counted record stores down and out … count again. Thereâ€™s no time for vinyl better than now.
What to get and where
I asked the shop owners and staff what key releases they were most excited about for the big day. The response was diverse and indicative of the varying flavors you will find around town. This is by no means a complete list (you can find that at recordstoreday.com/SpecialReleases), itâ€™s just a few selections and recommendations.
MATT ANTHONYâ€™S RECORD SHOP
2354 Frankfort Ave, U.S. 60, 40206
â€œPhil Spectorâ€™s Christmas Gift to Youâ€ – Various Artists, LP (On red vinyl)
â€œLong Tall Sallyâ€ – The Beatles, EP
â€œPlanet Rockâ€ – Afrika Bambatta, LP (Glow in the dark)
â€œThese Are The JBâ€™sâ€ – The JBâ€™s LP
2001 Frankfort Ave,Â 40206
â€œBig Lizard In My Backyardâ€ – Dead Milk Men, LP
â€œWarehouse: Songs And Storiesâ€ – Husker Du, LP
â€œBlue Christmasâ€ – Miles Davis, 7â€
â€œFade Into Youâ€ – J. Mascis, 7â€
â€œThe Good The Bad and the Ugly OSTâ€ – Ennio Morricone, LP
1806 Frankfort Ave, 40206
â€œMorrissey Curates The Ramonesâ€ – The Ramones, LP
â€œ11/18/72 Hofheinz Pavilion, Houston TXâ€ – The Grateful Dead, LP Box Set
â€œThe Big Lebowski OSTâ€ – Various Artists, LP
â€œThe Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol 1â€ – Various Artists, Cassette Tape
â€œGovernment Platesâ€ – Death Grips, LP
1765 Bardstown Road, 40205 and 2600 West Broadway #104, 40211
â€œSue (Or In A Season Of Crime)â€- David Bowie, 10â€ (In the style of a 78 RPM disc)
â€œLittle Richardâ€ – Little Richard, LP
â€œAt The Rockhouseâ€ – Roy Orbison, LP
â€œChristmas In Hollisâ€ – Run DMC, 7â€
â€œChristmas Spirit…In My Houseâ€ – Joey Ramone, 10â€
Rocko Jerome is a writer and, among other things, is a part of Vinylfest. Heâ€™ll be on the hunt for the Afghan Whigsâ€™ release of â€œGentlemen At 21â€ on Record Store Black Friday.
Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune