In its seventh year, Record Store Day looks to be bigger, badder and more impressive than years past. For starters, Jack White is the official ambassador and such names as David Bowie, Garbage, Phish and the Black Keys are contributing vinyl treasures among hundreds of other groups. The list of official releases grows exponentially every year.
The day is meant to celebrate independent record stores across the globe, encouraging people to pay them a visit with releases of collectible records available only at neighborhood shops April 20. The tricky part is that no one really knows which rarities will be where. For the record geek, it's often both exhilarating and disappointing, depending on your success rate of nabbing the must haves. For retailers, the day's a well-deserved shot in the arm.
Record Store Day caused a major bump in sales last year. Indie record stores posted a 26.6-percent gain in album sales for the week ending April 22, or basically a roughly 100,000 increase in units sold from the prior week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
In the spirit of real independent music, many bands not on the official Record Store Day list contribute to the annual celebration with under-the-radar, unofficial releases. Among that group are Thee Oh Sees, Punch Brothers, and Richmond's Hoax Hunters and Snowy Owls.
"I think about it we are just as 'official' as anyone else," says PJ Sykes, frontman for Hoax Hunters. "We made something, it's limited, it comes out on Record Store Day, and we're concentrating our efforts locally."
The two bands had been talking about putting out a split for a while and got an additional kick of inspiration when Sykes read an article about lathe cuts earlier this year. The result is an awesome bronze-smoke, square, lathe-cut record featuring tracks by the two bands. Lathe cuts require an even more manual process than vinyl pressing, because they're polycarbonate plastic cut in real time. So a seven-minute record takes exactly seven minutes. Hence the small-batch approach to this sort of thing and its collectible nature. The record is limited to 40 copies, available exclusively at Steady Sounds.
Richmond will do it up big for the day. In addition to socializing and snagging freebies such as label samplers and stickers, you can expect to be entertained and occasionally fed.
On the eve of Record Store Day, gastro-pub Saison will kick off festivities as host to a DJ night featuring tunes spun by folks from Deep Groove, Vinyl Conflict, Steady Sounds and Plan 9 — just hours before Steady's midnight opening and daylong affair featuring an in-store performance by Hoax Hunters and Snowy Owls.
DJs from WRIR-97.3 FM, Richmond Independent Radio, will spin at Deep Groove and Plan 9, while in the South Side, BK Music promises giveaways and an early opening at 9 a.m.
Overall, WRIR is teaming with five local, independent record stores — Plan 9, Steady Sounds, Deep Grove, Vinyl Conflict and Turnstyle — to hold a scavenger hunt for the local releases. Contestants will follow clues, snap photos and transmit them to WRIR to win prize packs of selections from each store. There also will be performances from Hotel X, Paul Ivy and the Rubes with Herschel Stratego, Hoax Hunters, Snowy Owls, Matt Seymour, Julie Karr, Dorthia Cottrell, and Matt Conner of RPG (see sidebar for schedule).
With all of the revelry, we recommend that you don't stress about your wish list and instead enjoy a supportive scene that's alive and well. Know that a local retailer thinks you're awesome for leaving your house on this Saturday in April instead of pressing "download now." So savor the company of long lines and new friends — and the music recommendations you might get from them.
In the words Jack White, "Let's wake each other up." S