Record Store Day this year is April 16th, this coming Saturday. In case you aren’t aware, it is the annual celebration of independent music stores. If I remember correctly it started out as a pretty small endeavor with only a few fanatical people paying any attention to it at all. It has grown to something significant with record stores all over the country in big cities and small all taking part. The day serves as a reminder to people that music is still made on vinyl and CD and it encourages everyone to go out, support local shop owners and musicians.
Over the years an increasing number of musicians and bands have started producing special releases for Record Store Day to help give even more of an incentive for people to get out there and support music. To honor this day, and give it a little bit more promotion, I’d like to recount some of my fondest memories of my favorite record stores in several different cities.
Rochester, New York:
The Bop Shop: www.bopshop.com
274 Goodman St. N #B123
Rochester, NY 14607
The focus at this store is on jazz, prog and garage. Every single album is in brilliant condition. Tons of used 45s and even an extensive amount of victrola records.
Very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful staff that can be found typically listening to Sun Ra or Syd Barrett solo albums on the stereo that broadcasts throughout the store. They also bring in musicians to play in front of the store. One recent concert featured the ICP (instant composer’s pool)orchestra.
You can check their obsessively cataloged and rated vinyl on sale at their webstore.
Memorable purchase: My copy of The Mothers of Invention’s “Freak Out”, original pressing in pretty good condition. He was asking a certain price and cut it in half for me, and also ran it through his Nitty Gritty and it plays beautifully. I was also there once when he realized a copy of “Pet Sounds” had a minor ding in it, so he handed it to me for free.
The Record Archive: www.recordarchive.com
33 1/3 Rockwood St.
Rochester, NY 14610
Although the original store, the one that I frequented, is no longer operating, they have a new location. When I was visiting the store both locations were open, but the original was closer to the school I was going to, so I would often skip class to go buy records.
That original location focused heavily upon CDs. New and used, and accepted trade-ins, as I’m sure they probably still do. What I remember most, and what I was there most often for was going through the aisles of used records that were shelved to the ceiling of the almost secretive basement back room.
Differing from The Bop Shop in that the record collection here seemed to focus more on quantity than quality, they did have everything. Showtunes, classical, metal, prog, rarities, punk etc. Very little in the way of new vinyl, comparatively but I was into prog. rock at the time so it was perfect for me.
It smelled like a basement, but felt comfy and cozy. I would spend hours there just searching around, never really looking for anything specific but always walking out with at least one purchase.
Memorable Purchase: King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black”. I set it onto the turntable that they would allow you to use to preview purchases and decided that I wanted it within about 4 rotations.
Buffalo, New York:
Spiral Scratch: spiralscratchrecords.blogspot.com
291 Bryant St.
Buffalo, NY 14222
Easily the best record store in Buffalo. I’m going to go with the Phoenix rising from the ashes cliché on this one. The original location was devastated by a fire and the owner, with the help of a huge outpouring from the community, managed to re-open the store in an even better location than before. It’s small and friendly with a lot of new vinyl and some used showcasing a love for old school hard-core punk. Concert tickets are also available at the location and talking to the owner is always a great time.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Rotate This: www.rotate.com
801 Queen St. West
Toronto, ON, Canada M6J 1G1
I used to spend a lot of time in Toronto, being that it is only a 2 hour drive from where I currently reside. I think I only visited the former location once, but their current store is like a beautifully organized cavern of records. From what I remember you can purchase concert tickets here as well. Lots of used vinyl, but they have plenty of new 12″ and 45s as well as CDs. No trip to Toronto is complete with a stop at Rotate.
Memorable Purchase: The only Silver Jews album that I own, “Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea”, was bought here. People say that it is the worst of their albums, but I didn’t know any better and I came to love it.
Criminal Records: www.crimedoesntpay.ca
493 Queen St. West
Toronto, ON, Canada M5V 2B4
I always thought of Criminal Records in Toronto as the “hip” record store. Bright and white on the inside with turntables, shirts, belts and belt buckles for sale in addition to their vinyl. This store is more of a boutique setting with, like the Record Archive in Rochester, a focus on quality over quantity. Also, someone told me that Wayne Petti of Cuff the Duke, one of my favorite bands, works there. I always hoped to find him behind the counter when I stopped in, but alas….
Reckless Records: www.reckless.com
1532 North Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, Il 60622
Ok, so their website is an abomination, but trust me the store is pretty much the opposite. This was the first record store in Chicago that I ever visited. In July 2006 I was extremely overwhelmed by everything that was in the store, so much that I couldn’t figure out what to buy. At that point I was still scared to a certain extent to listen to unfamiliar music. Meanwhile my brother and his wife were running all over, talking to the clerks about some, what I thought to be, obscure music that I had never heard of.
One of the things I like about the store is the description on every record. They have pithy reviews on everything they sell, which makes it easier for people like the 2006 me to branch out and try new things.
Memorable Purchase: Kraftwerk’s “Radio Activity”. It’s a reissue that I have, but I still remember it for being one of my first purchases there. I also have a t-shirt designed by Dan Ryan that I bought there.
Permanent Records: www.permanentrecordschicago.com
1914 West Chicago Ave.
Chicago, Il 60622
These dudes are insane. Lance, Liz and Dave run an amazing little shop that showcases their love for garage rock. They have in-stores (BYOB!), their own label and a podcast that amazes me every single month with the amount that these guys know about seemingly intensely obscure acts. They also write incredibly detailed emails every month describing exactly what they have in stock. I would feel completely comfortable just picking up anything at random that they suggest and giving it a spin. If you aren’t in Chicago and you want an education in new music, listen to their podcast, I can’t urge you strongly enough.
The important thing now is that you go out and support your local record shop. Buy a record or CD this saturday. There are tons of special releases coming out just for this event. You can check the official Record Store Day site here.
Happy Record Store Day!