Doing the Rounds on Dallas' Record Store Day, 2014
We all have our Record Store Day stories. Maybe we pulled an all-nighter to stake out a spot in line before the stores had even opened. Maybe we planned our day to avoid the rush and make a quick record-grab-and-go. Or maybe we just went to stand around in the sun, have a beer (or four), and work off that Friday night hangover.
Regardless, audiophiles of the world -- and specifically of North Texas -- were out en mass this past Saturday, and DC9 at Night had our troops on the ground at some of the most popular locations in the area. Here's what we found along the way.
According to owner Lance Price, people began lining up as early as 2:30 a.m. in front of CD Source to take advantage of the Record Store Day deals. By the time Price opened at 6:30 a.m., the line stretched around the block. By 11 a.m., there were a few hundred shoppers perusing the bins and listening to the likes of Nicholas Altobelli, Colin Boyd and Matthew and the Arrogant Sea.
Altobelli's set was especially intriguing as he performed only new and unreleased material. Most of the songs will be featured on the singer/songwriter's upcoming CD. New songs included "Don't Let the World Get You Down," "Pile of Leaves" and "Ann Arbor." Ironically, Altobelli didn't bring any of his previous releases to sell. "I have boxes and boxes of CDs at home," Altobelli deadpanned, "because no one ever buys them." Despite the glum disposition, Altobelli delivered his new tunes with earnest aplomb.
Oddly, a near fight broke out in the middle of Altobelli's set. Seems a woman on the hunt for a single from One Direction accused a man of cutting in line in order to beat her to said vinyl. Heads were turning throughout the store as the woman raised her voice so that more in the crowd heard her than the music. Calmer heads prevailed as the woman exited CD Source still ranting about her lost opportunity.
Once Rahim Quazi went onstage, order was restored and people got back to shopping and eating. Food provided by several local restaurants was received enthusiastically by the (mostly) patient throng.
Since I had to work Saturday morning, I was not able to visit any stores when they opened. But I hauled ass to Denton once my shift was over to my favorite record store in the area: Mad World Records.
The weather was beautiful as many people took in the sights and sounds around the downtown square, and there was no line to get into Mad World. The store was busier than it normally is any other day of the year, but the great thing was, a majority of people there were looking to buy non-exclusive RSD vinyl and CDs. At times, the space was tight to browse, but people were respectful and friendly, something you often see in Denton anyway. Unlike my experience on Record Store Day last year at a different store, I didn't have to endure smelling other people's coffee breath, butt sweat or a late-night bender.
Talking with owner Mark Burke, who's usually reserved and soft-spoken, he had a big smile on his face seeing regulars come in happy and leave happy. They did some of their best sales of the year on this day, and I was lucky to snag a couple of RSD exclusives (the Sunny Day Real Estate 7-inch, the Hüsker Dü reissue of Candy Apple Gray) along with a rare Hot Water Music compilation.
Though I live a good 20 minutes (sans traffic) away from this store, they never disappoint with their selection (especially their punk/hardcore/emo section). Burke's approach makes the store a place that warrants repeat visits. You can't argue with a healthy selection of all musical genres, fair prices, plenty of space, and friendly employees who actually give a shit about selling stuff in great shape, including used vinyl.
Predictably, Good Records was another shop with long lines outside well before its crack-of-dawn opening. And yet, the hoards of record buyers didn't pose as much of a problem as the concertgoers (supposedly) did: Around midday, the in-store performances repeatedly saw the police drop in to enforce fire code.
By late afternoon, the elbow-to-elbow rush of morning crate-digging gave way to long beer lines and small talk in the parking lot. There were food trucks, merch tables, and the store's ubiquitous chicken mascot to help move the party along. Nervous Curtains played a set of jittery punk that was worthy of the name. Son of Stan matched the energy of their heavy riffing with their impassioned sports banter. Dovetail complemented the increasingly moody lighting with their lush ballads.
There were DJs too. At one point, Midlake played inside -- streamlined to a three-piece for their short, acoustic performance -- but just outside the door their sleepy, sun-soaked folk was drowned out by the hip-hop and R&B grooves of Danny Balis' DJ set. Such are the things a Record Store Day is made of.
Gradually, the heat of the day subsided, and if the beer supplies ran out, it didn't slow down the proceedings. As the sun went down, an impromptu dance-off broke out in the parking lot -- anything to keep the energy reserves going for a party that stretched late into the night.
Record Store Day, that most peculiar of holidays -- the annual celebration of the vinyl format and the independent record store. Dead Wax is where I landed, and what a fevered spot it was. The store was abuzz with motion and color, a blur of bodies, grins and flipping fingers -- you could actually hear the records being sifted through.
I was quite tardy so there was no wait outside, but inside writhed a snake of customers with stacks of records in tow. As with my last visit, the space was fertile with fascinating sounds (Coil, I believe it was) and fascinating people. It was nearly full-up at Dead Wax, but it was still a comfortable environment to shop in. Even amidst the swarm and chaos of RSD, Dead Wax retained its intimate charms.
As much as the event is about music and people, it's also become about recycling: On this day, more than any other, reissues, remasters and revivalism flood the market. The rare and the worthwhile are often lost in a sea of the unremarkable. After a few years of swallowing the hype and then regretting the results, I've come to regard RSD as just another excuse to go record shopping, albeit with slightly greater expectations. Thus, only one of the purchases I made this year was of the RSD variety, the rest a mismatched bunch of dub reggae, industrial and free jazz.
As I neared the register to pay, I found the last remaining copy of the RSD release I sought. By this point it was icing on the cake, but a fitting end to an overall satisfying experience nevertheless. In light of my reservations, Dead Wax was a breath of fresh air, a needed reminder of why I eagerly anticipate this day each year. It was easily the best and least dramatic Record Store Day I've ever had, and it wasn't because of the albums I took home with me. The memories and the people, that's what RSD is really about. As long as we remember that, and act accordingly, RSD will always be a day worth celebrating.
Missing out on Record Store Day year after year is a heartbreaking experience. This year, as with every year prior, I was a slave to the retail industry, but after work, I trekked across town to Bill's Records. Alas, the main festivities had ended. I perused the old familiar aisles and cardboard boxes in search of any overlooked scraps of record treasures. I found none.
Disappointed in my failed attempts to surrender my checking account funds to the record industry gods, I decided to head home. As I made my way out, owner Bill Wisener, immersed in conversation with a few straggling friends, paused from his campfire tales and apologized for not tending to his duties as host. I was the sole customer.
"Today was the best one we've had since we moved here seven and a half years ago," Wisener reflected.
"Yeah, but you need to do some more business," a slightly intoxicated but lovable older gentleman chimed in.
"It's never about the business," Wisener quipped.
Forty-two years ago -- 42 years! -- Wisener began selling his wares in the booths of local flea markets. Saturday's celebrations happened to coincide with Wisener's 70th birthday, and late-night conversation revolved around stories of motorcycles, car crashes and Jeffrey Liles' moving speech earlier that day.
I then realized what I've really been missing with RSD all these years. Record collecting can be about more than finding that rare U.K. edition of an old punk band, or even a new release. What is lost in online music-streaming and downloading, or even in a casual outing to a used bookstore, are the connections that are made. It's a place for like minds to meet.
For my first foray into what I hope will now be a continuing tradition, RSD will also be about those brief moments of kinship.
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