It was Record Store Day on Saturday. Here’s the Those Geese agenda for talking about it:
- What I bought and where I bought it, with early evaluations.
- What I saw and where I saw it, with reviews.
- Was Record Store Day good – in the sense of being an enjoyable day.
- Is Record Store Day good – a ruse or genuinely something worth having?
I had fifty euro, the result of the most perfect and majestic event possible: getting paid for playing music. It was only right, given that cosmic symmetry had rewarded me for being able to fumble out some songs on various instruments, that I should spend it on records. During Record Store Day. So I did.
In Road, I bought the So Cow LP (Tic Tac Totally, 2009). All the time I was in Road, it was packed to the extent that no leisurely browse would be possible, so I got my purchase out of the way early by asking, for the third or fourth time in recent weeks, if they had the So Cow LP in yet. They did. It looks great and sounds great. €14.99 down.
Next stop was Tower, but there were people in the vinyl section appreciating some band, so I couldn’t buy anything.
So I tried out Freebird in the Secret Book and Record Store, where a 20% discount was in operation. Freebird’s the kind of record store I loved when I was 15 and trying to catch up with all the “classic” music I hadn’t had time to listen to when I was 8 and felt I was missing out on. Limited enough stock of new stuff, but a million decent enough second hand CDs. For once, though, I decided that I’d already got every Q Top 100 Albums featured album I’ll ever want, and the thing that caught my eye was the very nice looking gatefold vinyl of Sky Larkin’s album, The Golden Spike (Wichita, 2008).
Another €15 gone, including the discount. I actually had a promo copy of this through back channels a few months ago, but I gave it to my girlfriend and I’ve been wanting to listen to it since. It’s sort of a power poppy, slightly clever thing with some great songs, and as I mentioned, it looks beautiful, so I’m quite happy with the acquisition.
After Freebird I made my way to City Discs in Temple Bar, bypassing the other Freebird where all essential hip hop albums are available secondhand for less than 10 euro. I heard no offer of an MF Doom mask in City Discs unfortunately, despite rumours that there would be one. I bought a copy of the Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band EP (Drag City, 2007), which I haven’t listened to yet, but it’s Joanna Newsom so it wasn’t exactly a risk. It also has a clever name. €10 including a 10% discount.
My final stop was Tower again, where people had pissed off enough so that I could browse in peace. I bought Young Galaxy’s album (Arts and Crafts, 2007) for about €6 along with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs 7″ of Zero, which comes with an Erol Alkan “rework” on the b-side which is unlistenable at 45rpm but surprisingly good at the incorrect speed of 33rpm.
Apart from actually buying stuff, there was a lot to do on Record Store Day in the way of going to see people play music. Lisa Hannigan with Bell X1 guy at noon was obviously out of the question on a Saturday morning. Conor O’Brien at 1.30 was more achievable, but I still managed to miss it. Hey, it was sunny and I was having a leisurely breakfast in my back garden.
What I did see: Neil Hannon playing one song off every record he ever made from atop the counter of Road Records. Highlights? Well, My Imaginary Friend off (my favourite Divine Comedy album, not that I’m that regular a listener any more) Absent Friends was a sleeper hit for something that the packed room might not have been all that familiar with. I managed to get wrapped up in A Lady of A Certain Age from the new one. Everybody Knows That I Love You was nice because it was familiar as well.
A request for My Lovely Horse was deflected.
Neil Hannon reminded people that he’d also be playing Tower. Dave from Road interjected with a spurious claim that Tower had in fact been destroyed by fire.
But mostly, the highlight was The National Express. What a song. The sound of a room full of people tentatively adding their voices to the line “Well it’s hard to get by when your arse is the size of a small countryyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy” was quite beautiful, and those same people singing the ba-ba-bas of the refrain was kind of life-affirming in the sun.
Jape followed Hannon about an hour later, in front of an even more packed crowd, but a less schooled voice maybe hampered him a little in the unamplified acoustic setting and the set-closer, a particularly pedestrian version of ‘Walk On’ off On The Beach by Neil Young, didn’t exactly set the place on fire. Still, he was worth seeing and anyone who can make it so that crowds of people can’t even get into Road is doing something right.
Didn’t see any other full sets. Caught a little of One Day International in Tower, who didn’t impress me, and very little of some of the other sets there.
Record Store Day was great. It was sunny, there were people hanging out in and outside all the record stores, browsing or just talking. There is actually nothing better than hanging around and listening to music on a sunny afternoon, and Record Store Day provided that opportunity.
But is it a good idea? As a couple of bloggers have pointed out, record stores aren’t charities. There’s no more inherent validity in supporting a record store than there is in supporting a newsagents or a clothes shop. The days of the all-knowing clerk who will steer you clear of the more inaccessible Guided By Voices releases as you do your lo-fi apprenticeship are gone. Record stores can still provide a personal service and all that stuff, but you get personal attention off the guy in a shoe shop. They both want your money in their till when it’s all said and done.
What it comes down to is a choice of what you value and what you don’t. What was heartening about Record Store Day is the fact that people were affirming that they DO still want to buy albums – they did this either by showing up (and the turnout really couldn’t have been better in Road at least, with Tower no less populated but obviously much larger) or, as in the case of Lisa Hannigan, Villagers, Richie Jape and Neil “actually famous” Hannon, by using their own enthusiasm for these places to try to get others in.
I’ll keep going as long as they keep doing it and as long as I have money to buy stuff. Actually, probably even when I don’t have money. There were, as Nialler pointed out, probably ten times as many people out as there were last year, which was perhaps a symptom of piqued awareness of the plight of the record store in the wake of Road’s vigil and subsequent rejuvenation. But if that many people really do give a shit, we’re set.