Record Store Day has been a thing for a few years now and it means different things to different people. To some, it’s a day to head out early and get your hands on some exclusive limited edition releases for the sake of either feeling proud that you own it or, unfortunately, to flip it on eBay for ridiculous prices. To others, it’s a day to celebrate and support record stores and more specifically, those that sell music on vinyl. I fall into the latter category.
For RSD last year, I did get slightly caught up in the limited release frenzy and actually waited in line to get the 2LP Deluxe Vinyl edition of Phish’s Lawn Boy. That specific album is sentimental to me for several personal reasons and I wanted the chance to put it on my turntable and drop the needle on the “chill part” near the end of “Reba”. I also
paid too much for, I mean “scored”, the 3x 10″ Scientific Dub by Scientist.
This year, there was really nothing that interested me on the list of exclusive RSD titles and even though I don’t need a “holiday” to get out to a record store, I wanted to go out and support some of my favorite shops around town. I had no interest in dealing with the crowds, so I waited until about 3:00 to venture out. My first stop was 720 Music & Cafe in Lawrenceville. I looked at the 10″ “Get Thy Bearings” release by Bonobo, but decided that I didn’t really need it and put it back on the shelf. I thought, by chance, that they might have a copy of the Charles Lloyd Quartet RSD release, but didn’t. All I ended up with was an Americano from the cafe. But with DJ’s spinning vinyl all day and a nice sized crowd browsing the shelves, the vibe in 720 was good and made for a nice start to the day.
My next stop was Sound Cat Records in Bloomfield. I waited in line at Sound Cat last year and I knew that of all of the stores in town, Sound Cat (and possibly The Attic) would have more of the RSD releases than the other stores. Therefore, it was going to be packed early. I had hoped that by 3:15, the crowds would be gone. I was wrong. The store was still surprisingly busy so I left.
Going into the weekend, my original plan was to hit Jerry’s only. I knew that out of all the record stores in town that I would spend the majority of my time there. There was a stretch of time, a few years ago, when I went to Jerry’s Records in Squirrel Hill every Saturday and spent hours at a time. This experience was, (and still is) like the equivalent of going to church on Sundays or of deep meditation or therapy or something like that. This year, once again, Jerry’s was a true celebration of records and record-lovers. They turned the Whistlin’ Willie’s 78’s section of the second floor into some sort of speakeasy/lounge serving up hot dogs, beer and soda. The energy was great and I could have stayed there all day. I checked out quite a few jazz records but only ended up buying two, Keith Jarrett‘s Expectations 2xLP on Columbia and Man, We’re Wailin’ by Louis Jordan. On my way out, I stopped into the Bargain Basement downstairs and picked up Skyy‘s Skyway and Bohannon’s Insides Out for a dollar each.
At that point, at about 5:15, I thought I had enough time to make it over to Craig Street in Oakland to stop at Desolation Row inside of Caliban Books. To me, Desolation Row is like the “Little Record Store That Could!” It is literally tucked into one tiny corner of the bookstore, but pound-for-pound, it’s one of the best stores in town. They consistently have a great selection of low priced jazz reissues on labels like Prestige, New Jazz and Vortex. I only had about 5 minutes before they closed but I found what was probably the highlight of my day, a reissue of vibist Walt Dickerson‘s To My Queen on the New Jazz label that also features Andrew Hill on piano.
Since I had to basically drive right through Bloomfield to get home from Oakland, I decided to try Sound Cat one more time. Fortunately, the crowd from a few hours earlier had dissipated and I was able to check out what was left after a busy day at the shop. For the size of the store, I’m usually pretty underwhelmed by the vinyl jazz section at Sound Cat. He has a ton of CD’s but at this point, I can’t imagine that too many people care about those. This is the time of year that I start wanting to play reggae records at high volumes with the windows open. So I ended up grabbing a reissue of Travelling by Burning Spear on Clocktower. The reggae section is another one that could use some improvement at SC. There have been many days when I would have gladly left the store with a $10 or $11 reggae reissue had there been one that interested me. But, with that being said, Sound Cat is still a great store and an asset to the city. Sound Cat’s owner, Karl, obviously has a better idea of what sells than I do and I’m assuming that jazz and reggae records are not it.
When the dust cleared from my 3 hour whirlwind around the city, I ended up with 3 times as many records as last year’s RSD while spending half the cash. Factor in a couple of free hot dogs and a beer courtesy of Mr. Jerry Weber and a solid Americano from 720 and I’d say I couldn’t have hoped for a much better Record Store Day 2014.