Column 218: Holiday on Vinyl
Record Store Day afterglow...
Records Store Day has come and gone and now we wait another year for the next one.
The discussion in the Twitter/Facebook-sphere afterward: What did you score? Among my haul purchased at the Old Market Homer's -- only one RSD exclusive: The Flaming Lips with Stardeath and White Dwarfs / Black Lips split 7-inch on luscious seafoam-green vinyl, bought on the recommendation of a local record label honcho. As I type this, I'm listening as Wayne Coyne's spacey whisper-love cover of Madoonie's "Borderline." The rest of my Saturday booty was all CDs: Neko Case's Middle Cyclone, Pete Molinari's A Virtual Landslide, Thin Lizzy's Still Dangerous: Live at the Tower Theater, Philadelphia 1977 and Art Brut's 2007 release It's a Bit Complicated. Most of these were recommended by Homer's staff (The number one reason I shop at record stores is staff recommendations).
Alas, the two things I specifically came to pick up weren't available. The Cursive/Ladyfinger 4-song 10-inch split picture disc sold out immediately (The aforementioned label honcho said that it'll be available on the Saddle Creek website for purchase, eventually), while I was told that the Neil Young Sugar Mountain Live at Canterbury House 1968 2LP set was never in stock. Disappointed? Yes.
Regardless, the event looked like it was a success. At 1 p.m. Homer's was packed with folks mulling around like cattle trying to find the exclusives along with whatever else they needed to pick up. Meanwhile, in the front of the store, KC duo Far Beyond Frail was providing the shopping soundtrack. Funny thing: It really did feel like a holiday. Homer's top dog Mike Fratt did his job generating hype for the event, and people I know were eager to participate. There were also crowds of shoppers up the street at Drastic Plastic and The Antiquarium thumbing through the vinyl bins.
So the question that's begging to be asked: Why can't every day be Record Store Day? Why do the national indie stores only come together once a year to provide exclusive releases, in-store performances and other promotion? I asked Fratt via email but didn't hear back from him by deadline (I'm told he was on vacation). I suspect the answer has to do with the event's overall costs. Still, with indie record stores under attack by everyone from online Somali-like pirates and faceless box stores like Best Buy, they're going to have to keep a Record-Store-Day level of interest going all year 'round.
It's time that record stores return to their roles as gathering spots for music lovers and hubs for products that can't be found anywhere else, especially online.
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The city announced that this year's "youth concert" in Memorial Park will be June 6, and the headliner will be Gomez, a band that hasn't had a notable record in 10 years and would likely be playing Slowdown or The Waiting Room if this "opportunity" hadn't presented itself.
According to an article by Kevin Coffey in the Omaha World-Herald, Mayor Mike Fahey worked with "a St. Louis-based talent scout to line up bands." It's not as if Fahey didn't have other promotional options locally, including One Percent Productions, who at least could have found someone who has released a popular record this century. Needless to say, booking a show like the Memorial Park gig probably needs to be done a year in advance -- as in right now for next summer -- if you want someone with a broad appeal but that still targets a younger demographic, such as Wilco, Death Cab, Belle and Sebastian, PJ Harvey, MGMT, etc.
Depending on the weather, I suspect this will be one of the least-attended of the park concerts. Having been to all four previous events, the largest hands-down was 311 in 2004, followed by Feist last year, Bright Eyes in '06 and Plain White T's in 2007 where fewer than 3,000 people showed up (despite the city's estimate of 10k, which was pure malarkey).
Now the big question: What local bands (if any) will open? Last year The Good Life did a controversial set that was the highlight of the evening. If the city could get The Faint, they might be able to draw a sizable crowd both locally and from out of state. Too bad The Faint has a moratorium on outdoor shows. So who decides...?
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I generally don't hype shows in this column -- we've got an event calendar and our 8-Days section for that sort of thing. Still, I feel compelled to mention the Benefit Music Show for Erin and Ariann Anderson next Wednesday, April 29, at The Waiting Room. The press release issued for the benefit doesn't mention the story at its core -- that the Anderson's parents, Karla and Robert Anderson, were the couple who died March 30 in their Dundee home -- the alleged victims of a murder-suicide. I know Ariann as the singer in long-gone indie band Echo Farm, who I interviewed way back in 1998. Performing at the show are Song Remains the Same, Grand Theft Girlfriend, Goodbye Sunday, and Awake and Dreaming.
I also feel "compelled" to mention the Big Al "Free Music Festival" at the Saddle Creek Bar this Friday and Saturday night. Eleven bands are taking part, including The Filter Kings, Sarah Benck, No Blood Orphan and, of course, The Big Al Band, whose epic anthem "It's War, You Die" has become the theme song at local area fitness centers (or at least the one Al works at). So there's your promo, Al, now GET OFF MY BACK.
Ah, deadlines. Literally a few hours after my column went to press, Mr. Fratt responded to my e-mail questions regarding RSD. Fratt said business for the event was "WAY up" this year. "We were up 88 percent over last year," he wrote. "Even beyond the goals I gave the stores. Last year our bump was only 20 percent so this year's numbers are really good." In fact, nationally, RSD business was up 28 percent over '08. He gives some of the credit to a strong media presence both nationally and locally.
So why not have this level of intense promotion all year 'round instead of just once a year? Fratt says he does, with at least two in-stores per month and 130 exclusives offered last year. "What makes the difference is the national media exposure and the combined efforts of all indies; something that would be difficult to arrange on a daily basis," he said. "It would lose its impact if we tried to say 'Everyday is Record Store Day.' Although the desire is to get people to get into stores everyday by focusing on what we do one day a year.
"Lots of under-20-year-olds don't even know we exist or think we, too, are a national chain because, hell, everything is anymore."
And what happend to my Neil Young album? "Bill, our buyer, got cold feet on the Neil Young vinyl because it was $64.98 list, so sorry about that," Fratt said. He also passed along a list of upcoming in-store performances:
April 24 (Friday): Maria Taylor in the Old Market store, 5:30 p.m.
May 5, Ben Harper listening party at Orchard Plaza, 5:30 p.m.
May 6, Other Lives in the Old Market store, 5:30 p.m. (Elvis Perkins' band may do this, too)
May 25, Grizzly Bear listening party at Orchard Plaza, 3 to 6 p.m.
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According to their publicist, Little Brazil's album, Son, has weighed in at No. 67 in this week's College Music Journal top-200, up 58 spots from the previous week, with 20 stations adding the album this week.
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Tonight at Slowdown it's M Ward with The Watson Twins, and yes, it's SOLD OUT. No tix? You've got a couple other solid shows to choose from:
-- The 1090 Club, The Photo Atlas and Fortnight are all playing at O'Leaver's tonight for just $5. What's going on with O'Leaver's? Suddenly they're booking awesome shows almost every night. It's like 2005 all over again.
-- Over at The Sydney (formerly Mick's), Ladyfinger takes the stage with Paria. Think it'll be loud? $5, 10 p.m. When is The Sydney going to get a website? Let's get on that, Jamie.
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