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Record Store Day: Celebrating Independent Record Stores on April 19

By Sean Smith

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-04-08


I love records and record stores. When I was a kid all of the record stores were stocked floor to ceiling with vinyl. I never saw an 8-track until years later when I came across my father's copy of a Rolling Stones greatest hits album on the antiquated format. By the time I was halfway through elementary school I had moved on from vinyl to cassettes. In high school I made the leap to compact discs. Luckily, I was never duped into joining the mini-disc 'revolution.' The newest format would be mp3, but I don't know much about that since I've never downloaded an album. But, millions of people have and the result hasn't exactly been positive for records or record stores.

In order to combat that, the Alliance of Independent Media Stores, Coalition of Independent Music Stores, Music Monitor Network, Newbury Comics and the Value Music Group of Indie Stores have organized the first annual Record Store Day, which will be taking place on April 19th. Record Store Day is a nationwide event that aims to put the spotlight back on independent record stores and records in general. The event was conceptualized on March 15th when the involved organizations hosted an introductory party in Waterloo Park in Austin, Texas. Then Metallica announced that they would be performing an in-store at Rasputin Music and DVDs and re-releasing "Kill 'Em All" and "Ride The Lightning" on 180 gram vinyl on Record Store Day. After that, things really took off and even more musicians wanted to get involved. In addition to the Metallica re-issues on vinyl, there will also be exclusive material from Stephen Malkmus, Vampire Weekend and others available on Record Store Day.

A quick visit to recordstoreday.com reveals stories and opinions from Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Cameron Crowe, Patton Oswalt, Henry Rollins and many others. Nick Hornby says it best when he offers, "It's easier to download music and probably cheaper. But, what's playing on your favourite download store when you walk into it? Nothing, that's what. Record stores can't save your life. But, they can give you a better one."

Locally, Wooden Nickel Music has planned an entire day to celebrate and encourage the community to re-introduce themselves with their local record store. There are a series of in-store performances planned at all three stores. Possum Trot Orchestra, Alabaster Fox and Thunderhawk will be at North Anthony, Riverbottom Nitemare Band and I, Wombat will perform at Clinton and Lee Miles will be playing at Times Corners. Goodie bags filled with free sampler CDs, posters and stickers will be handed out while supplies last. "We've been writing all of the record companies and all of the independent labels trying to beg for freebies," reveals Tim Hogan, manager of the North Anthony location, "I think it's gonna be pretty cool. In addition to the performances, John Minton will be signing copies of his new book 78 Blues, which is about early recordings, between WWI and WWII, from the South. We will have copies for anyone who wants to buy it."

Zach Smith, manager of the Clinton location, says that the exclusive material may or may not be in stock locally. It all depends on quantity and availability, but he is hopeful. He's also hopeful that the overall event will bring an upswing to independent record stores. "This is being done to combat the struggle. I've seen an increase lately. This year seems like it's been better than last year. I work a number of hours and we've had some pretty low times, but lately it seems up. There's been an increase in indie rock sales and more kids are coming in. Which is a big deal, since they're all jacked in."

Shopping for music locally seems like a no brainer. "It's always good for your local economy to support a local business and with these hard economic times we're having, why wouldn't you?" asks Smith.The money that you give to big, box stores ultimately goes toward opening more stores in other cities or states, but the money that goes to Wooden Nickel helps to bring about events such as Dr. Dog playing in support of the store's anniversary party.

In an effort to help stimulate the local economy, Wooden Nickel has begun increasing their stock of vinyl and are now carrying turntables. There is a traditional turntable for $99.99 and a USB turntable, which allows you to convert your vinyl to digital, for $149.99. Each of the stores has varying amounts of vinyl in stock, but Smith says that his store is starting to get a more consistent amount each week. And for good reason. SoundScan reports that vinyl sales were up 15% last year. 858,000 albums increased to 990,000 in 2007. Talk about a blast from the past.

Speaking of memory lane, I remember walking into Wooden Nickel years ago and hearing something incredibly inspired and unlike anything else I was listening to at the time. I asked the guy behind the counter who it was and he told me, The Trash Can Sinatras. I'd like to think that I would have stumbled upon this still relatively obscure Scottish band had I not heard them that day in the store, but I doubt it.

And I doubt I would have ever had that experience in a national chain record store. Not when they have a set handful of albums to play ad nauseam for the month. Sure, it may be a new or upcoming artist, but 9 times out of 10 that artist is built to sound just like artist X, Y or Z. Not to mention the fact that you are denied the chance to gauge the personality of anyone working there. Every time I walked into Twist & Shout Records (gone, but not forgotten), I knew who was working based on the music playing overhead. Brit-pop meant Phil, indie-rock meant Troy, techno meant D.J. and smooth jazz meant Bill. I instantly knew that if Phil was working, it might be in my best interest to come back when Troy was around to ask about the new Guided By Voices album and if Throwing Muses were blasting I knew it was best to come back later to learn more about Aphex Twin.

I have a lot of great memories when it comes to record stores. There was that time I visited Ear X-tacy all those years ago in Louisville and purchased a pre-New West copy of Drive By Truckers' "Pizza Deliverance" and the original Black Dog pressing of Marah's "Let's Cut The Crap And Hook Up Later On Tonight." I loved every minute I spent at Electric Fetus in Minneapolis and still think fondly of it whenever I listen to the copy of Chris Bell's "I Am The Cosmos" that I bought there. I remember feeling like a kid on Christmas morning when I found a copy of Radiohead's early day demos while still known as On A Friday at Bleeker Street Records in New York City. Perhaps my happiest moment was standing in Wuxtry Records, the very store where Peter Buck worked and would eventually meet Michael Stipe before going on to form R.E.M.

As great as those memories are, I'm looking forward to making some new ones on the 19th.


Wooden Nickel In-Store Performance Schedule on April 19

3422 North Anthony Bouevard
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1:00 p.m. Possum Trot Orchestra [following John Minton book signing]
7:00 p.m. Alabaster Fox
8:00 p.m. Thunderhawk

3627 North Clinton Street
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4:00 p.m. Riverbottom Nitemare Band (CD release show for The Way It Is, Same As The Way It Was)
5:00 p.m. I, Wombat (everyone who attends will receive a free copy of the band's eponymous debut album)
6427 West Jefferson Boulevard
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2:30 p.m. Lee Miles

One lucky person who attends every performance will win a $200.00 Wooden Nickel Gift Card

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