Record nerds are a ravenous bunch. They meticulously comb thrift store bins for out-of-print vinyl, bid whole paychecks on eBay for rare first-pressings and clutch their chests in horror at bent corners and lightly scratched surfaces. But in the digital era, people who cherish--and pay for--physical albums are a coveted crowd. So coveted, in fact, that a few years ago, they got a holiday celebrating their sacred temple: Record Store Day.
Initially conceived in 2007 as "a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally," Record Store Day has turned into an all-out industry throw down, with special releases, in-store performances and avalanches of free swag. To make this year's Record Store Day--Saturday, April 16--even more insane, the Record Exchange turned the event into Record Store Weekend.
"Last year, all of the events were focused on Saturday, but we thought it would be fun to make it a weekend party since Record Store Day is kind of our Christmas," said Record Exchange Marketing and Promotions Director Chad Dryden.
Record Store Weekend will kick off with free in-store performances by both Finn Riggins and Hillfolk Noir on Friday, April 15, at 6 p.m. The bands are celebrating the release of their special limited-edition split 7-inch, which includes the new tracks "Indie Rock Song Blues" by Hillfolk Noir and "Some Are Knightz" by Finn Riggins.
"This is something that these two bands brought to us, they took the initiative to make this special split 7-inch specifically for Record Store Day," Dryden said. "It's cool to see that some local bands have jumped on this and got behind it without us going out and reaching out to people."
According to Finn Riggins keyboardist Eric Gilbert, who regularly shoots hoops with Hillfolk Noir frontman Travis Ward, the record was a small way to unite the Boise music scene.
"We're pretty different bands, but we're in the same scene here, and it's just about teaming up with another local band that we respect regardless of the fact that ... normally we don't hang out musically," said Gilbert.
The festivities continue on Friday night at Neurolux with a Radio Boise kick-off, featuring Vinyl Preservation Society DJ Tony B., Owlright and Almost Famous Karaoke. But the real Record Store Day madness gets going bright and early on Saturday, April 16. Eager customers will be let in the doors at The Edge at 8 a.m. to grab a coffee or bagel and snag a place in line. The first 25 people will receive vouchers with purchase for a free gift bag that could contain a $50 gift card.
Go Listen Boise will hold a fundraising bake sale outside the Record Exchange all day, while local musicians busk on the sidewalk. And later in the afternoon at 5 p.m., there will be an in-store performance by instrumental rock duo El Ten Eleven.
Of the more than 200 special RSD releases that the Record Exchange will receive from labels this year--everything from Bob Dylan, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones to Fleet Foxes, The Decemberists and Sonic Youth--there are a few standouts. One is the Flaming Lips' five album reissue box set that includes Hit To Death In The Future Head, Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, Clouds Taste Metallic, The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots on 140-gram vinyl. Other gems include a collaboration between Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and Dharohar Project on 10-inch vinyl, a split 7-inch featuring Jenny and Johnny and Gram Parsons with The Fallen Angels and Emmylou Harris, and Built to Spill covering the Grateful Dead's "Ripple" on 7-inch picture disc.
"The stuff that does really well is the classic rock stuff and the indie rock stuff," said Dryden. "There's a lot of special 7-inches where it's exclusive tracks or it's a picture disk or it's colored vinyl or that sort of thing."
Other more mainstream classic rock artists like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will also have special re-releases coming out for Record Store Day.
"It's a celebration of the Record Store as a physical place to go look at and buy music and interact and discuss music with other music fans," said Dryden. "These classic rock artists, if you want to call them that, they grew up with record stores and their careers were built in the pre-iTunes era. So having brick-and-mortar record stores was very important to these artists not only for their development but also for the records to sell."
All of the Record Store Day releases or reissues, even the big names, are printed in limited quantities--only between 1,000 and 5,000 copies are made of each release. For indie labels like Seattle's Sub Pop, deciding exactly what fans and collectors want for RSD can be tricky.
"It's a discussion our A&R group has, figuring out what music is available, what makes sense timing-wise and where the enthusiasm is," explained Sub Pop retail honcho Richard Laing. "It's more complicated than you would think, particularly when talking about bringing back some out-of-print titles."
This year, Sub Pop has some top-notch RSD offerings. Not only are they dropping the debut album from BW favs The Head and the Heart, they're also releasing Fleet Foxes' Helplessness Blues b/w Grown Ocean and a free 19-song compilation featuring bands like Blitzen Trapper, Low and J Mascis.
"A significant part of our business is still through independent record stores," explained Laing. "Not only are they good accounts but we feel are incredibly important in developing artists ... These stores are run by and filled with people who are true fans of music and the support they bring to turning people on to records in their communities is hugely important."