Sunday, April 17, 2011

Record Store Day!

So yesterday was, of course, Record Store Day. To celebrate, I visited five or six of my favorite local independent record stores (plus a super awesome Numero Group-sponsored pop-up store) and, well, bought records. This post serves several purposes: 1) to inform you all of the Record Store Day's wonderfulness, 2) to list the new music I acquired that you may want to acquire too, 3) to tell you about some of Chicago's finer establishments, and 4) to let me share a great moment in my life. And thus, the saga of my 2011 Record Store Day begins...

My first stop was Permanent Records, just a mile or so down Chicago Ave. Even more crowded than usual, Permanent (which is quickly becoming my favorite store in the city) had many of the things I was looking for prominently displayed on its racks and behind the counter. There, I picked up RSD limited editions Whore's Moaning by Sonic Youth and a Thrill Jockey-issued Glenn Jones/Black Twig Pickers with Charlie Parr split ("Even to Win Is To Fail"/"EastMont Syrup"). I also bought a Cave/California Raisins 10" that's on Permanent's own label and that, coincidentally, I'm listening to right now (it's excellent, f.y.i.); a Psychic Reality/Sex Worker split 7" on (what else, but) Not Not Fun; and Sonic Youth's soundtrack for the French film, Simon Werner a Disparu. Because they're nice and because I spent a good deal of money at their store and because it was Record Store Day, the folks at Permanent hooked me up with some neat-o swag: a Kanine Records tote, a couple random 7"s, a poster, a frisbee, some other junk... Bottom line: Permanent was fun. I got good stuff.

Which takes us to the next stop in my journey: the very famous (compared to other stores), very funky Dusty Groove. If you aren't familiar with Dusty Groove, it's a slice of heaven on Ashland that specializes in soul and funk vinyl (with excellent jazz, Brazilian, and hip-hop sections as well. If you want indie rock, you may want to look elsewhere.) They always bring it on Record Store Day, and this year's festivities were even better than usual. There was an in-store performance by an acoustic soul band I'd never heard of who was pretty good, free too-rich-but-still-tasty cupcakes, and, as always, a wheel that customers can spin to win free stuff. (I won a Sub Pop sampler.) Here I purchased two more RSD exclusives, both of them indie rock releases despite me claiming Dusty Groove was not a place for indie rock just a couple lines above: Antony & The Johnsons Swanlights EP on clear 10" vinyl and Cults' "Abducted" b/w "Go Outside (Bear In Heaven Remix)" on white 7" vinyl. I wanted to get Mississippi John Hurt's The Immortal and Fahey's Requia, but, well, money doesn't grow on trees, kids! After Dusty Groove, we got burritos at La Pasadita, one of my favorite Mexican places in the city, which happens to be across the street from Dusty Groove.

Next came a trip to the aforementioned Numero pop-up store. Located on Milwaukee right in the middle of North and Division, the place was just what you'd expect, which is to say cramped with people selling old vinyl (emphasis on soul), books, and some other random crap. Of course, there was a Numero table, devoted to selling all of the label's glorious reissues and compilations. Because crate-digging in highly crowded locales isn't my favorite pastime, I stuck to the books section, where I purchased a copy of Kafka's The Trial and a biography of Huey Newton (for a total of four dollars!).

Just a few blocks down the road was Reckless Records (Wicker Park version), probably Chicago's best known independent record store and the one, I think, with the widest (and therefore best) selection of CDs, records, and DVDs. Reckless was a bit of a clustercuss, with more people cramming its aisles than Dusty Groove and Permanent combined (well, I didn't actually count...). This was due to what I said above--that it's Chicago's best known--and also to the in-store that was about to start when I walked in the door. As the store was very crowded, the performance very loud, and the two records I wanted most (Velvet Underground 7" and Nirvana EP) out of stock, I left without purchasing anything there. That's okay, though, I buy from them enough. A quick stop at '80s-themed neighborhood coffee shop Wormhole for a quick rest and a macchiato, and it was back to the car to travel to the next location.

Said next location was going to be Bucket O' Blood Books and Records, followed by Cafe Mustache, both northwest on Milwaukee--but, alas, the traffic was terrible, and I my thirst for RSD exclusive records was mostly quenched. (The only limited edition vinyls I was missing from my list were, as I mentioned, those by VU and Nirvana.) So it was off to Jazz Record Mart instead. Jazz Record Mart isn't in a hip neighborhood like all the aforementioned locales, but it's still one of the best record stores in the city if you even sort of like jazz; if you in fact love jazz, Jazz Record Mart is by far the best record store in the city, and, in all likelihood, the United States. When a place has so many Anthony Braxton CDs it has to have different tabs for him depending on the label that released the particular recording, you know that said place is a good place. Anyways, I perused their RSD limited edition bin and found nothing, opting instead to purchase a Stockhausen/Boulez CD from JRM's also-amazing New Music section. And now comes the best part of the day...

I'm waiting in line, holding my Stockhausen disc. The guy in front of me is buying upwards of thirty albums and spending about four hundred dollars, and, thus, the transaction is taking a long time. I notice that there's a pile of RSD 7"s next to the register--perhaps they're leftovers from the bin I'd already looked at. The one in front is a Hendrix single that, while I'm sure is good, I don't want. But a few discs behind the Hendrix single, I see just the tops of the letters of The Velvet Underground in that classic white-on-black, Verve-era VU font. My heart starts racing--a fact I'm not necessarily proud of, but a true one. I was shaking with the excitement only the nerdiest of nerds, the fanniest of fanboys can feel as I stare at the top that single. The guy in front of me is standing in front of it, though, so I don't reach to grab it right away. As I wait for him to finish his transaction I envision some other dude coming out of nowhere and buying it before me. Then I envision myself crying. But, for the good of all mankind, no one swooped in and grabbed it before I did, and I eagerly shoved forty bucks into the guy behind the counter's hand. I now had the record that I had wanted most all of record store day, the record that when I asked if they still had it at Reckless had caused the salesman to snort out a laugh, and tell me they sold out early that morning. I had given up hope, but there it was. 'Twas a beautiful moment indeed. (I'll note that, though, the record is a limited edition one, the songs on it are on the compilation VU. My quest was more about the pride of getting this record than hearing the actual music. (But it is damn good music.))

That was the highlight. I continued on from there to hit up Dave's with my buddy Nick where I got the special Akron/Family double LP and then to the Reckless on Broadway where I didn't get anything. Another macchiato at Intelligentsia later, and Record Store Day was over. Great success.

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