Seemingly endless line around the block at Sonic Boom. Photo by Morgen Schuler
Saturday’s soggy skies and clinging cloud cover were no match for the hundreds of vinyl and music lovers who ventured out to celebrate the seventh annual Record Store Day event.
First observed in 2008 to draw attention to the unique culture—and slow decline—of independently owned record stores, the day was commemorated throughout the area with in-store performances, give-aways, and special, limited edition releases (but you had to get there early for those).
There was at least one, says SW staff photographer Morgen Schuler, who was out capturing the frenzy: a hearty soul camped in front of Sonic Boom around midnight. Before the shop opened at 10 a.m., a line had formed around the block. But store owner Jason Hughes placated the throng with doughnuts, and kept the retail mayhem to a minimum—shoppers vying for limited edition Record Store Day releases like Mudhoney’s Live on Top of the Space Needle LP and Ray Parker, Jr.’s 10” glow in the dark “Ghostbusters” single—by limiting browse time in the store and allowing only one copy of coveted titles per person.
Free bacon was doled out to those in line at Easy Street in West Seattle, and indie-psych group Rose Windows played later in the evening, after Barrrett Martin and Van Conner of Screaming Trees signed copies of their Last Words album on red clear vinyl.
Down in SoDo, Silver Platters and Lively teamed up for a slew of in-stores that started at 12:30 p.m. with new wave dream pop band Goodbye Heart. By the time my husband Toby and I arrived with our Seattle Weekly RSD guide in hand, the day’s special releases, scattered throughout the store, were mostly picked over (no Grevious Angel alternate outtakes for me, and Morgen’s still on the hunt for LCD Soundsystem’s The Long Goodbye box set). Toby and I left with a bunch of excellent vintage western swing records (Bob Wills Light Crust Doughboys!) and some CDs.
Things were the same at Everyday Music—the vinyl aisles were packed with shoppers, the RSD special releases had dwindled down to a few crates, and no one seemed to know—or care—that CDs were once the listening format of the future.
How did vinyl make such a righteous comeback? And why do people care so much about it—and Record Store Day, for that matter, an organization-cum-event that now claims to have “Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica”?
There are the running theories: the superior sound quality, the physical product (complete with liner notes! Oh, how I miss those). I’ve talked about similar ideas before.
But I think the aesthetic factor trumps them all. Record Store Day compels us—born consumers—to take a step back, reflect, and prioritize. Where our digital age encourages us to be indiscriminate collectors and consumers of media, just to keep up with what music critic Carl Wilson writes are “the music, videos, tweets and updates that flood toward us in near-infinite quantities at light speed,” on Record Store Day, you are a curator. Whatever your taste may be, and because of vinyl’s premium price, on RSD, you are actively styling—not passively consuming—your own aesthetic.
Enjoy your dearly-earned tunes—and the element of cool that comes with it. You worked hard for it!
Check out Morgen Schuler's slideshow of Record Store Day here.