So yesterday was part 1 of 2021 Record Store Day. The day where vinyl and music lovers gather at their local brick and mortar record shop and buy exclusive music; be it 12-inch vinyl, 45s, CDs, cassettes, box sets, or just to get out of the house on a Saturday morning to say hi to friends and strangers alike. If anything, it’s a reason to pick up a dozen donuts and make the family happy.
I’ve been going to RSD since 2010. I’d travel an hour to Fort Wayne back then, as at that time my hometown didn’t have a shop that participated. It was fun, but most of the good stuff would be gone by the time I’d get up there. I wasn’t going to leave the house at 4am to get in line. I’m not getting up at 4am to get in line for anything. I think that first RSD was more just a trip to go see some bands play in a record store and give my kid some cookies the record shop had made for the event. I skipped 2011 for some reason, but started back up in 2012 and never looked back.
By 2013 my local shop started participating and that’s where I’ve been going ever since. John at Karma Records of Warsaw has done an amazing job with his store, a regional chain of record stores that has dwindled to like two or three now. He’s made it into a legitimate shop, and each year the inventory he gets for RSD has grown and grown. Yesterday seemed like the biggest RSD for him yet, both in inventory and in bodies in the store. I didn’t get there till about 8:15 am(they opened the doors at 8am), and when I walked into the store there was a line of folks wrapping around the store. It was pretty amazing. I asked John’s girlfriend(who works at the store as well) what the line was like before the doors opened and she said it was the length of the shopping plaza.
I started making my way to the back of the store in order to find what I came for, which was the Oneohtrix Point Never reissues and the live Tangerine Dream album. I felt pretty confident nobody would’ve touched the OPN stuff, as this is the Midwest and a small-ish town. I’m sure most of the people in that store had no idea who OPN or Daniel Lopatin was. Most folks would be looking for the Motley Crue cassette set, Styx, and whatever exclusive blues rock album was dropping. There’s some punk fans as well, so those would be gone, too. Tangerine Dream, on the other hand, seems to have fans around here. I was shocked back in 2019 when someone snagged Tangerine Dream’s Poland before I had a chance to grab it. Tangerine Dream was a possible ‘snagged out from under me’ situation.
The records were set up in an “L” shape that started in the back and made their way to the front of the store you paid for your wares, got your goody bags, and then hit the pavement. In years past John would have coffee and donuts set up by the door as well which was a nice touch(though carrying out all the vinyl, coffee, and donuts proved challenging.) Due to Covid that part of the experience ended last year and hasn’t started back up yet.
Anyways, I was twisting my neck looking at the records set up in front of me hoping I’d see my picks sitting and waiting for me. I wasn’t seeing them. I was starting to think maybe some big city flipper made his way to my sleepy little town and snagged all my picks, thinking nobody would miss weird electronic albums in this God-fearing community. I noticed a couple milk crates sitting on a lone table with some albums in them. I glanced at one when I first got there but didn’t think they were RSD titles, but when I looked again I did indeed see RSD titles and started to leaf through the crates. Lo and behold, there was the Tangerine Dream album, and right behind it was all 5 OPN albums. I grabbed TD and OPN’s Zones Without People and The Fall Of Time as those are the ones I didn’t own. I will be back for Betrayed In The Octagon, Drawn and Quartered, and Russian Mind later in the week. I also saw John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned by John Carpenter and Dave Davies that I had no idea was coming out as well. If there’s still a copy left I’ll snag that as well.
I made my way to the counter, chatted quickly with the gang at Karma Records, bought my goodies, and hit the road. I got what I wanted and was happy. After working outside mowing and pulling weeds the afternoon was spent with a couple fine pints of Short’s Brewing’s Slurmlord and spinning some fresh wax.
I know a lot has been said about how RSD isn’t what it used to be. That it’s no longer about the independent record stores and getting people to buy physical media from their local shops. I don’t know, I think it’s still about that. The biggest problem with RSD nowadays is that it’s not nearly as exclusive as it once was. The releases are more reissued records you can still buy in bulk used. The problem is flooding racks with albums that are “exclusive” to 10,000 copies. That’s not exclusive, folks. And given the current state of pressing plants and lack of materials and bodies to press new vinyl it seems all the more wasteful.
Part of the charm and excitement of RSD was finding those holy grail albums that only had 100 to 300 copies pressed, with no plans of repressing them. Finding those was sort of magical. And if you didn’t get it? Well then you snagged something else. Something you’d been meaning to get and have a nice conversation or two with folks you normally wouldn’t have talked to.
That’s the beauty and charm of RSD. It’s gathering at a place that meant so much to us growing up, the record shop. For me it was places like Super Sounds in Goshen, IN, Butterfly Records and Video World in Warsaw, IN, Hegewisch Records in Merriville, IN, Jazz Record Mart in Chicago, IL, Wooden Nickel and Neat Neat Neat Records in Fort Wayne, IN. These were our holy places. Places we came to gather and find like-minded folks whom we could wax ecstatic about the latest Megadeth or Rush album. Or maybe be turned onto bands like Minutemen, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Frank Zappa.
The impetus of RSD was and still is to get people back in to record shops so those musical houses of worship remain standing. That’s why it began, and from the looks of yesterday, I’d say it’s still hitting the mark. And coming back after a year like 2020, well it’s a beautiful site to see bodies mingling and folks chatting about that one thing that brought us there on a Saturday morning in the first place: music.
And possibly donuts.