While I write a lot about kiddie rock these days, my true undying passion is for independent rock and roll. I often credit The Afghan Whigs, June of '44, Fugazi, Built to Spill and Silkworm along with scores of other lesser known acts, for shaping much of who I am today. One of the joys of my young-adulthood was hanging out in record stores, discovering new music and talking with fellow audiophiles about bands, shows and albums. Back then I was really involved in the scene - booking shows and running a record label. Today I'm removed from the "business" but I still cherish those few remaining bastions of great indie music. Stores like AKA Music in Philadelphia and Other Music in New York are still around providing this sort of safe haven for hardcore music lovers to interact, learn, listen and discover new sounds. While digital downloads of music has made it possible to easily find and listen to bands from all over the globe it has negatively impacting the real-life community that record stores had fostered over several generations.
Fortunately, there are still folks that care about the fate of brick and mortar record stores, the "mom-n-pop shoppes" as many refer to them. I count myself as one of those people, making it a point to stop into AKA Music on 2nd Street each and every time I'm within spitting distance of Philly, often coming away with one (or three) new CDs. I will always take the Bear in an effort to pass the torch, if you will, to a new generation of music lovers. She immediately flocks to one of the listening stations, slips on the oversized headphones, pushes a few buttons and grooves out to whatever comes on - often dancing in place. It's important for me to make sure she knows what a real record store looks like and show her that you don't ever have to buy art (music) along side dishwashers or digital cameras in big box stores where the "help" has no relationship with the music their peddling and has probably never heard of a band like Handsome Furs...let alone know the full lineage of the numerous Wolf Parade side projects.
On April 19, 2008 hundreds of record stores will ban together, feature special events, giveaways and other activities in what the organizers are calling Record Store Day. I could go on and on about the importance of locally owned independent record stores in neighborhoods, but let me allow Brett Netson of Built to Spill to sum it up better than I ever could (taken from the Record Store Day Artist Quote page):
“The local record store is a cultural event. Every purchase you make , every day, every year, it is a rich cultural history in the making. Go down to your favorite shop and grab some coffee, a nice pastry and then head in to the record store for the ultimate recorded experience. Maybe see some friends. Next thing you know you just had a nice afternoon.
Go to one of those big box stores and get the full assault.
Bright sterile fluorescent lights and all that fake, old timey crap on the walls that drives home the point that this is an approximation of an experience. You are one of a million cattle herded in and out of those crapholes. This history can easily be rewritten. And you sure as hell won't talk to anyone there, cause everyone else is just as annoyed, alienated and lost as you are. And, as you get trapped in that endless parking lot it really seals the deal. I have precious memories of my favorite shops and so do many of my best friends. That's shared history man. And buying my first Velvet Underground record or Love's "Forever Changes" , or seeing my first "punk show" flyer, takes that whole experience deep into you. That lasts forever. That's powerful stuff.”
Damn right Brett.
Please please please go out and support a local record store. If none exist near you find a local coffee shop, bakery, butcher, fishmonger, drug store or pizza shop and tell them you appreciate their presence in your community...and while there - buy something!