Our Record Store Day 2017 Scores & Experiences
Before Record Store Day, I wrote a quick guide for tackling the most anticipated local vinyl event of the year. When RSD finally rolled around, I then proceeded to not follow my own advice and ended up sleeping in following BBQ libations with friends the night before.
By the time I finally got myself out the door, it was around 8:30 a.m., and most of the big shops had already been open for a half hour. On my RSD shopping list was Peter Tosh’s Legalize It, Toto’s "Africa" single, Stories for Ways & Means (I’m about to become a father), the Run The Jewels tote bag, and maybe Dave Matthews Band Live At Red Rocks (yeah, yeah...).
Having moved to Portland within the last year from the Bay Area, this was my first local RSD. I didn’t know what to expect, so I held on to the naive belief that somehow, maybe, heading to the most popular (and oldest) record store in town, Music Millennium, a half hour after doors had opened for RSD might not be that big a deal. It was even raining! That would have had to have put off some of the crowd, right?
Nah, there was still a solid line of 50 people or so out the door, and from what I could see inside it was absolutely mobbed.
Rather than waste my morning hoping to get lucky at Music Millennium, I jumped back in my car and hightailed it downtown to my other go-to store, 2nd Avenue Records. From the shops I’ve been to in Portland, 2nd Avenue still flies under the radar for some reason, but it’s a solid shop which always has a strong selection of vinyl… plus their t-shirt game is off the charts. The problem is I knew the March for Science was also happening nearby, so I wasn’t sure what the scene would be like downtown.
As luck would have it, 2nd Avenue came through big time. No line out the door, early enough to beat the March for Science crowd, and still a respectable selection of RSD offerings an hour or so after the store had opened. Sure, it was well picked over, but there was plenty of RSD releases from the likes of Bowie, The Cure, Prince, Brother Ali, and more. I frantically began flipping through many boxes of RSD stock.
Stories for Ways & Means was my first find, and I kept digging. The longer I flipped through albums, the more it seemed like most of my target purchases were either not in stock or already snatched up. So I began considering other purchases from what was available, like some Prince singles, Animal Collective’s Meeting Of The Waters, Bowie’s Cracked Actor, and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band’s Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75. I also found an R&B compilation, The Soul of Wand Records, that I had heard the guys at Bull Moose talking up on their RSD preview. I decided that would help fill a greater need in my collection than anything else I saw, plus, there were other stores in town where I could maybe pick up what was on the rest of my list. So I headed to the register with Stories for Ways & Means and The Soul of Wand Records. When I got there I asked about the Run The Jewels bags and it just so happened they had a few left that I had overlooked, so I grabbed one.
Feeling good about myself, I set out for some other stores in Portland.
First up was Everyday Music, another store downtown. This was my first time in the store and was impressed with its size, but its RSD selection was pathetic. True, it was maybe an hour and a half after it opened, but it was paltry for such a giant store. A lot of other customers were also in disbelief.
Not wanting to waste any more time, I headed across town to Mississippi Records, and found out they weren’t opening until noon and it was only 10 a.m. or so. Instead, I set the course south for Hawthorne Boulevard, where both Jackpot and Exiled Records reside. Jackpot had just opened and there was a line out the door, so I popped over to Exiled, which hadn’t opened yet. I waited about a half hour for Exiled to open, and when they did, there was only a couple boxes of product, and a lot of it Sun Ra. That made sense in retrospect, since it's a small store that can skew obscure, but it didn’t make it any less disappointing in the moment.
At this point, it was nearly noon, and I had stuff to do later on, so I decided to cut my losses and call it a day. Some things I learned:
Not all stores do a celebratory, early opening for RSD. If you plan things right though, you can hit several shop openings in the morning.
Each store orders different stock. So if you want to get the big, general releases, you should probably head to a store that offers that kind of thing. Even then though, if you really want something, maybe ask in advance if they’re ordering copies just to be sure.
If you really want an RSD release, your best bet is just to get up early and line up for it. My slacking cost me some of my top picks, and I’ll just be watching eBay now to see if some of the prices drop on them.
Leading up to Record Store Day, I had a very practical, straight-forward plan that was miraculously followed to perfection. Last year, much like Kevin, I was out into the wee hours enjoying a few cocktails with friends the night before RSD. When the first alarm sounded at 6am, I couldn’t hit the snooze button fast enough, again, and again. Finally, I forced myself out of bed around 7:30am and was greeted by a couple inches of white stuff on the ground – most people would see April snow as a major nuisance with spring around the corner, but I knew this would scare off a few of the more casual patrons.
With my local shop opening in less than 30 minutes, I still knew that success was far from guaranteed, so I quickly threw on the previous night’s outfit, chugged a glass of water and hightailed it over to Twist & Shout. While pulling into the parking garage, the line was almost wrapped around the entire building, but the buddy I was with assured me not to panic. We parked, claimed our spot and immediately started moving. Within 15 minutes, I was inside and shoulder-to-shoulder with a couple hundred other people, all respectfully jockeying for position in Twist & Shout’s vinyl section – using Kevin's words, this isn’t Black Friday at Wal-Mart.
Besides Amoeba Hollywood, Twist & Shout has the largest vinyl section of any store I’ve been to and seems to get almost every RSD release there is. With that much volume, they are understandably the go-to spot on RSD for almost every Denver-based vinyl collector. Never having done RSD before, I was a little unsure of where to find things on my list but immediately became aware that everything was organized alphabetically, with ‘A’ at the front and ‘Z’ near the back. Albert Hammond Jr’s debut solo album, Yours to Keep, was at the top of my wantlist last year, so I zigzagged through the frantic mob until I saw the sign for ‘H’ titles. To my surprise, there were a handful of copies left, so I grabbed one and continued the journey, taking my time in each isle. When it was all said and done, I got lucky finding a few things and missed out on some that weren’t meant to be.
I’ve been telling myself for weeks 2017 was going to be different, that I was going to follow all of Kevin’s “do’s” from his how-to guide and avoid the all-too-common “don’ts.” So when my wife and I decided to have our first ever yard sale the weekend of RSD, I couldn’t help but think I was doomed to have nothing to write about for this post. Luckily, Denver’s Saturday morning forecast was cold and rainy, so I was able to convince her that a 1pm start time would be ideal to give us time to setup and allow the weather to turn.
Why, you may ask, am I going into such detail about all the events before stepping out of the front door? Well, my Saturday somehow turned out to be very uneventful. With my newfound RSD freedom in place and a busy weekend selling items for $2 and $3 ahead, I hit the sack early and woke up without issue at 5:45am. Not unlike last year, the weather was pretty ugly, so I took my time eating breakfast but still managed to get out of the house and in line by 6:30am. With the recent vinyl resurgence, I half-expected Twist & Shout to be surrounded again but was relieved when the crowd was about half the size of when I arrived just as the store was opening last year.
With my spot cemented, I yukked it up with fellow RSD-goers and tried to wake-up with some strong coffee. As the minutes passed, each person extending the line made me feel that much better about the sacrifice of foregoing sleep. Everybody was patiently waiting and having a good time until 8am, but when those doors opened, game faces were on.
Once I stepped in the store, I darted toward the back and grabbed Toto’s Africa and Tosh’s Legalize It. One more row back was the ‘W’ section, so I strategically copped the new War On Drugs 12”. By the time my first three records were secured, there were people everywhere. Knowing time was of the essence, I fought my way to the ‘M’ area and found DMB’s Live at Red Rocks and Kevin Morby’s 7” – and just like that, I was done. Not wanting to make the same mistake I did last year of having to wait for over an hour to check-out, I raced to the register and was driving back before 8:30am.
To my wife's surprise, I made good on the promise to be home by 9am - hell, I was even in disbelief. My surgical RSD performance was strangely satisfying, but I have to admit it did take a little bit of the fun out of the whole thing. Next time I will try my best to set aside the afternoon to hit up at least one other shop and maybe grab a boozy brunch afterward with a couple friends to regale each other with stories of our finds.
Now to start planning for RSD Black Friday...