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City Living: A Record Day for vinyl music lovers

Main Street features indie record store community

The shelves stuffed with vinyl in Neptoon Records’ basement couldn’t even begin to muffle War Baby who played upstairs in a small corner of the city’s oldest independent record store during Saturday’s Record Store Day celebration. Kids thrashed about like Charlie Brown’s Christmas gang on speed while shoppers grabbed free earplugs out of a box by the cashier to continue their cramped browsing of the store’s regular inventory plus Record Store Day’s 300 special releases.

“This is the busiest Record Store Day yet and it would be even crazier if it weren’t raining,” said Neptoon manager Ben Firth while sticking his head into the store’s basement where a keg of beer attracted a good selection of local musicians. “It’s the best day of the year, it really is.”

Firth is responsible for Neptoon’s buying which means hours of sorting through releases for the seventh annual internationally celebrated day of vinyl — a task only for those with a file cabinet of a brain and iron-gut instinct. Neptoon’s clientele scooped Nirvana’s “Pennyroyal Tea” 7-inch single (the original release date was cancelled after Kurt Cobain’s death, likely due to the B-side title “I Hate Myself and Want to Die”) as well as the limited edition Ghostbusters 30th anniversary glow-in-the-dark 10-inch.

One of the biggest surprises, Firth added, were requests for Kylie Minogue’s 7-inch single of “Golden Boy” which sits on eBay now for $200 — a shining example of why some argue Record Store Day and its growing limited releases sets up a battle between music lover and money lover.

A handful of blocks south from Neptoon on Main Street is Red Cat Records where co-owner Dave Gowans was happy the store’s streamlined system to deal with the day’s mayhem worked. Red Cat arranged its Record Store Day releases alphabetically this year, rather than clumping them together, and clerks had access to inventory in the back, rather than under the front counter. Gowans, like Firth, spent a good amount of time stressing about what releases to bring in.

“I think it’s good when it’s actually a limited release. It’s disappointing for customers when they line up for two hours and get something, then come in a week later and we have it in stock,” he said. “There are also more releases every year and no independent store can purchase all of them unless you’re really big. So you’ve got to be really selective because we want to try and please everybody that comes in.”

Red Cat’s shoppers came in to hunt for the Muppet Movie soundtrack, which made its return to vinyl for the first time in 35 years, along with LCD Soundsystem’s Live at Madison Square Garden. Gowans also sought labels Death Waltz for its horror movie soundtracks, along with Seattle’s Light in the Attic.

“Light in the Attic always makes beautiful releases and you know they’re not doing it because they’re lining their coffers. They’re doing it because they want to release a really cool artisan record in a really beautiful package and that’s what Record Store Day is all about, not re-issuing a ton of things you can find for five bucks, used,” said Gowans.

Judging by the different types of record store bags people were carrying into the store, the day wasn’t about one-shop shopping.

“I know a lot of the customers who are coming in here are going to all the stores,” added Gowans. “Main Street has an interesting quality to it. There’s Dandelion Records, Neptoon Records, Red Cat Records… It’s much more spread out but it reminds me of the development of record row that used to exist on Seymour Street. It’s never going to be like that again but there are three independents here on one strip so it makes for a great Saturday to walk up and find some music and grab a coffee and have a beer on a patio somewhere.”

Over on the west side, Rob Butterfield and band were setting up to kick off Zulu Records’ community party that night for Record Store Day. Zulu Records announced it would be hosting a sale and party but would not be bringing in any Record Store Day releases.

“We felt Record Store Day is more about celebrating music culture,” said clerk Sam Beatch. “We wanted to focus more on the community that surrounds music that’s inherently social so it’s nice to have everybody come down and have a party.”

And that is really what Record Store Day is all about.

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