Physical media – in other words “things” and “stuff” – changing hands with the bacteria and bills in cramped rooms with real people leaning on racks, some of whom know what they are talking about: Record Store Day remembers and celebrates what we used to just call reality. The romanticizing of record-store culture as a den of shabby cognoscenti and rumpled-shirt list- and tastemakers was a pretty predictable backlash to the age of digital distribution, as fastidiously retro nouveau-folk was to the age of digital production; but, in my experience, it owns more than a small share of truth.
A lot of that record-store magic is about mentorship, light-touch or collar-grabbing. Why, Jack Goldberg, the late and beloved founder of New Paltz’s Jack’s Rhythms, came up in conversation just the other day. I was in his store often, years ago, but I was shy and never spoke with him. He’d read the paper while I flipped through CDs and vinyl. I assumed that he didn’t know my name and thought of me as just one of the many awkward fellows who frequented his racks without ever plunking down much in the way of cash.
Then, in the one conversation that I ever remember having with him, it came to light that he not only knew my name; he also knew my band! He had a pretty solid sense of the ways of my taste, and of course he didn’t miss the opportunity drop a tip. It was the Bevis Frond, one of Jack’s pet causes, the absurdly prolific nom de rock of the eccentric British songwriter and guitarist Nick Saloman: the UK’s version of Guided by Voices, in many respects. He thought I might like it. He was right. Think I’ll listen to “Early Riser” right now.
Celebrated every April, Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record-store-owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1,400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. The first Record Store Day took place on April 19, 2008. Today there are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.
This year, Record Store Day falls on Saturday, April 21. Participating regional stores include Jack’s Rhythms and Rhino Records in New Paltz, Rhino Records and Wright Gallery Records in Kingston, the Woodstock Music Shop and Ye Olde Hippie Shoppe in Woodstock, Darkside Records and Gallery in Poughkeepsie, John Doe Records and Books in Hudson, Half Moon Records in Cold Spring and Rock Fantasy in Middletown. For a comprehensive history and all kinds of cool stuff, visit www.recordstoreday.com/home.