Record Store Day, which falls on April 20 this year, has turned into a zoo. It’s no longer the domain of giddy discophiles who sweat uncontrollably upon hearing the words “limited” or “out-of-print”—those folks were overwhelmed by the crowds after the first installment in 2008. And RSD special releases have proliferated indiscriminately, so that you have to sort out the contrived from the inspired—many feel more appropriate for a Best Buy display than the well-thumbed stacks at an indie store (take the vinyl version of Linkin Park’s debut, Hybrid Theory, for example). With its wall-to-wall in-store performances, increasingly strident promotions, and early-morning sidewalk lines, Record Store Day has become a rowdy national festival rather than a peaceful day of vinyl worship.
Hate on it if you want—I won’t blame you, not if you start waiting outside Reckless at 9:30 AM hoping to be the first to snag Nicolas Jaar’s 12-inch of Brian Eno and Grizzly Bear remixes, then find out the store wasn’t even shipped copies of it. Now you’re frustrated, it’s too crowded, and screw trying to find anything else on the highlighted list of releases you spent hours curating. Time for brunch.
But the third Saturday in April is supposed to be a celebration of the indie record store—and in Chicago almost two dozen shops take part in the festivities. So if you can find a spot to riffle through some vinyl and then a narrow path through the masses to the register, you’ve done your bit.
This year’s many highlights include Permanent Records’ all-day in-store blowout, with sets by Wax Idols, TV Ghost, and the Hecks, among others; the store’s label is also putting out a vinyl reissue for RSD from Melbourne’s Cuntz.
For the third year in a row, the revivalists at the Numero Group are hosting a pop-up shop—this time at Logan Square’s Comfort Station (2579 N. Milwaukee), where from 9 AM till 5 PM they’ll be hawking every release the label has in print, three RSD exclusives (including the Codeine LP What About the Lonely?), and five-dollar mixtapes created by Numero staff, among other goodies.
Reader writers have dug through the huge catalog of RSD special releases to come up with 13 they find particularly special, and their picks start right on this page. We also have exhaustive Chicago and near-suburban store listings that detail discounts, giveaways, and promotions; many are in print (see page BTK), and they’re all on the interactive map at chicagoreader.com. To top off the package, we’ve got a piece of music-industry history that’s especially appropriate to the occasion—the tale of the Paramount label from Grafton, Wisconsin, which despite being a subsidiary of a chair company released some of the most crucial blues records of the 1920s. In those days, when the market for recorded music was in its infancy, labels tried all sorts of ways to move product (door-to-door, in shoeshine parlors, through farm catalogs), demonstrating an inventiveness that can’t help but remind us of the tactics on display on Record Store Day. —Kevin Warwick
Charlie Poole’s pre-Depression banjo, the GZA’s chess set, “Gay Fish,” and more
The stores, in-stores, discounts, and goodies
Record Store Day is a good day to remember that a subsidiary of a Wisconsin furniture company released some of the most significant blues records of the 1920s.
By James Hughes