Last Saturday, just two days after groups of so-called Tea Partiers descended upon Washington D.C. and other centers of government to protest taxation-despite-representation, another group of avowed fanatics swooped down upon a few dusty corners of our nation’s hipper cities for a strange and probably misguided celebration of their own.  Saturday, April 17, was this year’s Record Store Day, a day when record store owners across this great land, with the aid of a few GGG (as Dan Savage would call them) record labels, defiantly flip the bird at their impending extinction, and thereby forestall it for at least another week.  Contrary to what says at the end of “One Tribe”, there actually are still record stores – and feisty, independent, locally owned ones at that – to be found around.  Still, the likelihood that you’ll just accidentally stumble upon one in your daily travels is slightly lower than your likelihood of tripping over a Komodo dragon’s tail in the parking lot of Applebee’s.   You have to go looking for record stores.  But when – if – you do find one, you’ll find it holds a fascinating power upon those who enter its doors.

Demographically speaking, Record Store Day shoppers – we’ll called them “Vinyl Partiers” – and Tea Partiers are surprisingly (and considering myself as one of the former, alarmlingly) similar – disproportionately white, disproportionately male, disproportionately middle-aged, middle-class, and socially inept.  I like to think that as a sub-sub-culture, we’re a little more good-natured than your average Tea Partier.  Our most militant slogan can be found at the bottom of a little white slip of paper tucked inside the sleeve of any current LP release from that illustrious Midwestern indie label Secretly Canadian:  “Long Live Physical Media!”   But the fact that that little white slip of paper also contains a code to download mp3s of the LP it came with suggests that we Vinyl Partiers are a little more appreciative of the pros and cons of various schools of thought and modes of playback.  My CD, vinyl, and mp3 collections are coexisting just fine.  (Then again, some things are beyond the pale of civilized discourse.  Cassingles, for instance.)

And yes, I shop at – it’s a great source for digital downloads as well as CD imports.  But shopping on-line will never be as much fun to me as browsing an actual record rack in a real live store.  You can’t download mp3s of the strange conversations you overhear at the check-out counter of a record shop.  You can’t order the enthusiasm, the dedication, the sense of history, and the encyclopedic knowledge of music that not only sits behind the counter at your local record shop, but which is, as often as not, browsing the racks right beside you.  Start a conversation with a Tea Partier, and they’ll rattle off a predictable inventory of bullet-points on the evils of big government, but start a conversation with a Vinyl Partier and you have no – and I mean no – idea where its many tangents will take you.  Record stores are great for people watching.  And record stores are never more full of people these days than on Record Store Day.

So, my ever-patient car-geek partner asked me last week, is this Record Store Day, like, a real thing? Uhh… yeah, it is.  Albeit, a relatively new real thing.  I believe (and I may be wrong) that this past weekend marked the fourth annual Record Store Day celebration.  Okay, so what do people do on Record Store Day? Well, they go to record stores and hopefully spend a lot of money – on records, on CDs, on turntables, on plastic sleeves to store your precious vinyl in so that the cover art doesn’t get smudged up.  Okay, but couldn’t people do that on any other day? True.  Which is where the GGG (that’s “good, giving, and game” for those who don’t read Savage Love) record labels come in, scheduling oodles of mostly limited edition releases for release exclusively to independent record stores (sorry FYE, sorry Best Buy) on Record Store Day, a relatively thorough list of which can be found on the official Record Store Day website.   In addition, most participating record stores also offer special sales, in-store performances, raffles and door prizes, beer and cookies, and, of course, swag bags.

I’m fortunate enough to live in Madison, Wisconsin which boasts five participating independent record stores, and I made my rounds on Saturday picking up vinyl new and old at each one, and over the next couple of days on these pages, I’ll recount the highs and lows of my Record Store day acquisitions, but as a teaser, I’m emptying the swag bags and cataloguing their contents here:

  • The swag bag itself, a reusable  “Record Store Day 2010″ shopping bag, perfectly sized for carrying home the latest pile of LP records you just bought, but also with a special built-in pocket for 7” singles.
  • Another reusable shopping bag, sized for CDs, advertising the music documentaries It Might Get Loud and This Is It
  • A 7″ single by a group called Terrible Things, an earnest alt-rock trio from Alabama whose debut album on UniversalMotown is scheduled to come out later this year.  (A-Side “Hills of Birmingham” is pretty great).
  • A button for “The Runaways” movie
  • A button for the Dead Truth Recordings label.
  • The “Select-O-Hits Limited Edition Sampler” featuring songs by Jeff Bridges, Jimmy Buffett, and Christine Ohlman.
  • The Light in the Attic Zine Issue 2 Spring/Summer 2010.  Light in the Attic is the label behind the recent critically acclaimed reissues of funk provocateur Betty Davis, reclusive folkie Karen Dalton, and French pop maestro Serge Gainsbourg
  • A Coachella/Record Store Day mini-magazine with CD sampler.  Very cool.
  • A card for a free one year subscription to Death + Taxes.  Which, I guess, is a magazine of some sort.
  • A “The Nerve Agents” sticker
  • A Bright Eyes “Cassadaga” sticker
  • A “Support Your Local Record Store!” bumper sticker
  • A postcard advertising the new Black Keys album Brothers
  • A 429 Records label sampler.  New tracks from Tonic (really?), Joan Armatrading (yes!), BoDeans, Everclear, Clem Snide and Cracker.
  • A sampler from the Canadian alt-rock label Last Gang Records.  Very cool.
  • A Fanfarlo “Reservoir” sticker
  • A Rhymesayers Entertainment sticker
  • Another Fanfarlo “Reservoir” sticker.  (I do like Fanfarlo.  More on them in a future Record Store Day post.)
  • The Record Store Day – Urban Edition sampler, featuring Nneka, Wyclef Jean, Raphael Saadiq, an amazing new singer named Alice Smith, and (I’m happier about this than you will ever believe) Three 6 Mafia’s new collaboration with DJ Tiesto, Sean Kingston, and Flo Rida: “Feel It”.  Amazing song.  If you can ignore the Three 6 Mafia’s raps in it.
  • “Tha 4.20 Mixtape – Prequel to Streetlights” by Kurupt
  • Bridge Nine Records Summer 2009 Sampler
  • A Rhymesayers Entertainment badge.  Makes me wish I were still in Boy Scouts.
  • Priority Records 25th Anniversary sampler, including tracks from Snoop, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, N.W.A., Master P, EPMD, and Westside Connection.
  • “Record Store Day – Soulful Delights” – a Rhino sampler of classic 60s and 70s soul tracks featuring the Drifters, Otis, Wilson, Aretha, Bootsy, Ray Charles, Donny Hathaway, and Curtis Mayfield.  Sweetness.
  • A Jason Mraz “Beautiful Mess – Live on Earth” sticker
  • A coupon for one dollar off any pizza at Pizza Brutta
  • Semi Precious Weapons 3-song promo ep
  • Hail the Villain 5-song promo ep
  • A “graphic storybook” called “[Lost Highway record artist] Hayes Carll in ‘The Search for Ooga Kabooga Juice’ and Other Adventures”.  Illustrations by Jose Luis Gonzalez.
  • An Anjulie card
  • “The Infection”, a Strange Music Sampler – a collection of the most repulsive hip-hop I have ever set ear to.

Jealous?  Wait til you hear about what I actually paid for.   More tomorrow.