Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Buffalo News: Record Store Day will celebrate the indie spirit

"There's nothing as glamorous to me as a record store."
You might expect such a seemingly hyperbolic declaration from some twentysomething hipster in skinny jeans, nerd glasses, and the tell-all, alt-country beard. Particularly if the guy happens — as so many who fit the above description do — to work in a record store.
But from Paul McCartney in 2009? The largest-looming living rock star, who also happens to be one of the wealthiest men in the world? Seriously, when was the last time McCartney scoured the bins in a good ol' indie record shop?
But McCartney is most likely being honest. For so many who have devoted their lives to music — as fans, as musicians, as the fatal blend of fan and musician that usually conspires to make you a record store employee — the often besieged independent, walk-in, storefront music retail outlet is at once church, library, museum, clubhouse and shrine to all that the music-obsessive holds holy.
On Saturday, the third annual Record Store Day rolls around. The brainchild of one Chris Brown — yes, a record store employee — the annual celebration of indie music stores has grown from humble beginnings into a full-fledged hipster bacchanal. Some 700 stores around the country — and even more, as for the first time, locations in Canada, parts of Europe and Japan will participate — will mark the occasion with in-store concert performances, rare and collectible products and, in a few instances, food and drink.
This year, hundreds of top-name artists are releasing material exclusive to Record Store Day. In Western New York, three storefront properties and one Internet shop number among the stores nationwide taking part in the celebration.
Independent record labels — from Buffalo's own Righteous Babe, to medium-sized ventures in the mold of Jagjaguar and Matador, and giants of the niche like Seattle's Sub Pop — have come out of the woodwork with exclusive Record Store Day product.
Far more surprising is the onslaught of major corporate labels throwing their hats into the ring. This year, Warner Bros., Columbia, Universal and their offshoots are all in the game.
So what's the big deal? "The big deal is the idea that, in the midst of the popularity of all the Internet outlets — YouTube, MySpace, iTunes, etc. — we can still go out out and celebrate the sense of musical community that record stores are the hub of," says Susan Tanner, of Righteous Babe Records. "All of those computer-based things are great, and they make finding new music — or older things that are rare and so forth — really easy. "But what did we do when we were kids? We went out to record stores, we talked to people, we shared our excitement about music, we made friends, we learned new things. That's a big part of what Record Store Day is all about."
It's not surprising that Ani DiFranco and Righteous Babe will be involved in Record Store Day — DiFranco is one of modern independent music's most prominent icons, and also, one of its most consistent champions.
Last year, DiFranco performed on Record Store Day inside the birthplace of the annual event, Portland, Maine's Bull Moose store. A recording of that gig, featuring a number of songs unavailable elsewhere, will comprise Righteous Babe's Record Store Day exclusive release this year.
"Bull Moose was one of the first stores to carry Ani's music, back when she sold things on consignment, or out of the trunk of her car on tour," says Tanner. "They supported her from the beginning, and this is her way of saying that she's never forgotten that support. It's pretty cool that this year, Anais Mitchell, who is someone Ani loves and who is signed to her label, will be performing there."
DiFranco is in good company. An extremely partial list of exclusive Record Store Day material includes releases from the likes of the Flaming Lips, Elvis Costello, Beastie Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Jakob Dylan, Muse, MGMT, the Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, R.E.M. and Sonic Youth. Posthumous product from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Joe Strummer, John Lennon and the Doors will also line the bins in participating stores. Locally, the two Record Theatre locations, the newer Spiral Scratch Records, and the Internet storefront Sit & Spin will all participate. "This year is by far the biggest yet," says Kelly Mordaunt , Record Theatre's University Plaza store manager. "The number of exclusive releases is pretty much staggering. There's just so much amazing stuff! Not every store will get all of it — these releases are extremely limited edition, with some artists releasing less than 500 copies of a record, disc or whatever — but we will have plenty of the things that indie store lovers are looking for.
"With so many younger people getting more and more into vinyl, and the sales of vinyl taking off in a big way nationally, this day has become a real celebration of the community, and of the sort of independent spirit that community is based around."
Record Theatre will kick off its celebration at 10 a.m. Saturday, with live music from local bands including Son of the Sun, the Stay Lows, Wooden Waves and Cassi Meyerhoffer beginning at 1 p.m. and going into the evening. The stores will carry "as much of the exclusive stuff as we can; we ordered so many extremely cool things!," according to Mordaunt.
Among the coolest will be DiFranco's Bull Moose recording, which Righteous Babe's Tanner says "will most definitely be there." On Delaware Avenue in downtown Buffalo, Spiral Scratch Records will be offering live music and exclusive product as well. In fact, the relatively young indie store has been given a significant stamp of approval by one of indie-punk's most talked about young bands, Toronto's contentiously christened F***ed Up.
"That band is on one of the hippest indie labels, Matador records," says Buffalo concert promoter and former record store manager Marty Boratin. "For Record Store Day, they did a series of exclusive singles with photo covers honoring what they think are some of the coolest stores in the country. They chose Spiral Scratch for one of them."
For Tanner, the exclusive releases are part of what makes Record Store Day something worth celebrating, but not all of it.
"The coolest thing is when you see independent musicians — and even people who might be signed to major labels — celebrating independent music stores. These are the places where they most likely fell in love with music themselves, and they feel so compelled to give something back. "There is now a whole new generation of listeners starting to realize that the record store is something to both protect and celebrate. That's really what this is all about."
For more information on Record Store Day, as well as events taking place in local participating stores, visit www.recordstoreday.com,www.recordtheatre.com,spiralscratchrecords.blogspot.com and www.myspace.com/sitandspinwillrockyou

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