Hot Wax Holiday

We had time to kill before the 7:45 p.m. show at Aksarben Cinema, and having already grabbed a bite to eat decided for reasons of proximity to walk through Kohl's, whose overly ambitious catchphrase is "Expect Great Things." As I was strolling down one of the fluorescent-bright main aisles, somewhere between the jewelry counter and "notions" toward the checkout, I nearly stumbled over a stack of turntables smack-dab in the middle of the floor, marked $70 each. And I thought to myself, well, there really is no reason for any right-headed music fan to not buy vinyl now. If a place like Kohl's, the very essence of mid-American retail homogeneity, sells turntables (and for $70), all excuses have flown out the window. I tell you this as a precursor to heralding that Record Store Day is a week from Saturday -- April 16. Begun a mere three years ago as a "celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA," Record Store Day has become something of a holiday for collectors of music, whether it be released on vinyl or not. In Omaha, it's celebrated by The Antiquarium, Drastic Plastic and the largest of the bunch, Homer's Records. "It reconnects music fans with music stores," says Homer's general manager Mike Fratt. "After consumer habits (were) shifted away from music stores over the last 15 years by aggressive mass merchants, this gives indie stores an opportunity to level the playing field and generate loyalty." If anything, Record Store Day is a reminder of what record stores used to be -- way stations on the road to artistic maturity where fans discovered new music, new ideas and new possibilities that they never would have discovered on their own or on the radio. At their very core were the "record store guys," whose job was to ask what you were into, and then point you in the direction of something you may not have considered or even heard of. It was from a Homer's record store guy that I first discovered The Pixies, way before they became one of the most influential bands of the late-'80s and early-'90s. All that, of course, was before the Internet, which while making music immediately accessible to just about everyone, also has effectively taken away most of the magic and mystery behind record collecting, while systematically crippling the industry. But I digress. What started as a niche concept in 2008 has turned into a full-blown industry bonanza for record stores, labels and artists. "Just about any big name has a piece for RSD this year," Fratt said, "from Lady Gaga to the Rolling Stones, from Syd Barrett to Rush." And why not? When you consider that vinyl sales have nearly tripled since 2007, to 3 million units sold in 2010, you can see why major labels are beginning to get into the act, though Fratt said almost 90 percent of vinyl sales have been from indie label offerings. He said among the highlights for RSD this year are an AC/DC 7-inch, a "test pressing" of Big Star's Third, a pink 10-inch from Kate Bush, a 12-inch of a new Fleet Foxes tune, a Jimi Hendrix 7-inch and a Nirvana 12-inch that reissues tunes of covers previously only released in Australia years ago. "Rush has a 7-inch, as does Pearl Jam, and Ryan Adams has a double 7-inch package," Fratt said. It's not just vinyl. The Decemberists recorded an in-store performance at Bull Moose (an indie store in Maine), which is one of a few CD offerings this year. "The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen both have 7-inch releases, and The Flaming Lips collect their first five albums into an LP box set," Fratt said. "The Lips LPs no longer are available separately, so this should be a big demand -- albeit expensive -- item." He added that Warner Brothers Records has put together four, colored-vinyl split 7-inch singles that feature a different band on each side performing the same tune. "So, Green Day records a Husker Du classic with Husker's version on the other side," Fratt said. "The others include Jenny & Johnny with Gram Parsons & Emmy Lou Harris, Mastodon with ZZ Top, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers with the Ramones." Hot stuff, and all in very limited supply. Fratt said with product available on a first-come basis, expect long lines at both the Old Market and Orchard Plaza stores. Both locations also will host special performances in the afternoon, including School of Rock out at Orchard, and a handful of DJs downtown (including, believe it or not, yours truly at 3 p.m.). The Antiquarium, home of Omaha's punk and indie music scene, also is getting in on the RSD action with limited-edition vinyl releases from a handful of larger indie labels, including Matador, Sub Pop and Merge. While you're there, check out their large selection of used vinyl and locally produced sides from such labels like Speed! Nebraska, who's been carrying the vinyl torch since the mid-'90s. So mark April 16 on your calendar, go to RecordStoreDay.com for more details, and get ready to celebrate vinyl. And most importantly, remember Record Store Day doesn't have to be just one day a year. Lazy-i is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on the Omaha music scene. Check out Tim's daily music news updates at his website, lazy-i.com, or email him at lazy-i@thereader.com.

posted at 06:12 pm
on Wednesday, April 06th, 2011

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