5 ways to celebrate Record Store Day in Toronto
For music fans and industry peeps the third Saturday of April is Record Store Day, which since 2007 has been a global pep rally for struggling independent record shops. Bands and labels produce special releases and reissues to be distributed in limited vinyl quantities for RSD, and while it can feel quaint to music fans who are already buying vinyl, or at least music, all year - the official RDS website features predictable quotes from Jack White, Neko Case and Tom Waits about the joys of touching record sleeves - there's plenty to do, and it's a good excuse to visit Toronto's record shops.
Record Store Day 2013 will find itself in competition with 420, an event that will hopefully work in its favour as stoned droves of revelers snap up Kings of Leon, Doors, Cypress Hill and Grateful Dead limited editions (I actually have no idea what stoners like) - if, and it's a big if - they remember to leave the park before midnight. Sonic Boom's Kensington Market storefront wins this one.
Here's the scoop on what to expect in Toronto this year from releases to live bands, and how to make the most of the day.
Take a look at the list
Record Store Day has a website (linked above) and while the American releases list is longer and better than its Canadian counterpart, there's enough diversity here that something should charge your neurotransmitters with desire. The Canuck list is at Record Store Day Canada.
There's some very record store-ish (or soundtrack to a movie about people working at a record store type) artists on there: Pulp, David Bowie (who appears twice), The Rolling Stones, Small Faces, The Cure, Joan Jett, Stephen Malkmus, Public Enemy, Nick Drake, Codeine, Miles Davis, Built to Spill, Marianne Faithful and Big Star. There's some alternate takes from Elliot Smith's Either/Or thing on 7", which creeps me out.
Evian Christ's 12" looks interesting if you're into electronic, and this Titus Andronicus release is probably worth grabbing if you like rock from NYC (The Strokes have a RSD release too). There's also stuff from The xx, A Place to Bury Strangers, Notorious B.I.G., Sharon Van Etten, The Flaming Lips, Gil Scott-Heron, Dan Deacon, Junior Boys, Mercury Rev, and a decent looking Thurston Moore collab with Loren Conners.
Canadians feature sparsely on the list but include Buck 65, Serena Ryder, Billy Talent, Tegan and Sara, Paper Beat Scissors and MGMT, but the most interesting looking one is this Austra / Gina X collab, though I wish they didn't write "edgy" in the description.
See some live acts
So far only a few shops have announced live bands, but of course Sonic Boom has their game together: bands will be playing in store at the Annex location all day, with a line up of Tess Parks, Language Arts, Lullabye Arkestra, Beliefs, William Tyler, Brent Jackson & The Royal We, Single Mothers, and Young Mother (maybe Single Mothers and Young Mother can arrange a play date?).
Of a Kind will host acoustic sets by The Box Tiger and Elos Arma. Cabin Fever Collective in Bloor West Village will host Jadea Kelly at 2pm, and at 6pm Rob Collinet's art exhibition kicks off with music by something called Spl@T. June Records will have DJs in store, as will Play De Record.
In the evening you can celebrate your finds over beer at Rancho Relaxo, where DJs are spinning vinyl all night and live bands start at 9pm.
Make a day out of it
This list of participating stores can help you map out your quest, but be warned, the list isn't perfect: The Record Vault no longer has a storefront, and the site says Frantic City is still open, which made me tear up a bit. You also need to know not all stores will have every RSD release in stock. If you're chasing a specific record, it's best to call ahead (though Vortex doesn't want you to call them)
Record stores from east to west are participating and weather's supposed to be decent, so RSD is a great chance to get out and explore the city by bike, TTC, or on foot. Make a map of shops you want to hit, bring a friend or go it alone, and use the trip to explore hoods you don't normally get to explore. You might find some new fave haunts, and as your haul gets heavier, your muscles will get more awesome.* Cuties will be like, "where'd you get them things?" and you'll flex and be like "from carrying these mad Record Store Day releases" and they'll will be like, "no, I mean what store sold you that Bowie vinyl". End scene.
*Subtip: Stretch before you leave the house.
Leave your comfort zone
I don't just mean leaving the Bloor/Queen paradigm: I mean spend some cash on something you're not sure you'll like. Some of my best buys over the years have been blind finds. The battered copy of The Sisters of Mercy's Floodland I plucked from a used bin as a teen because the cover was spooky is still one of my favorites to this day, but don't let that dissuade you from taking my advice.
Take a chance on music. If you don't like it, you probably know someone who will. Plus even I manage resell records all the time, and I'm pretty lazy.
A grumpy Tweet ran through my feed the other day about "kids these days" taking Instagrams in record stores and leaving without buying any music. Totally understandable: who doesn't want a cute pic of themselves surrounded by stacks of colorful vinyl? Aside from the street cred poached from a music shop's persisting aura of integrity and coolness, the square images on display, the rows and columns of the bins: geometry is flattering.
Record Store Day hopes to help remind us that these struggling shops are more than just a great background for personal branding. Records aren't just cultural commodities: they're physical entities that demand space in our homes which connect to the creative process of the artists who made them, and to ourselves. I have this Pink Noise cassette that came with a 17 x 8 inch piece of screenprinted cardboard. It doesn't fit anywhere - looks weird with my records; ridiculous with my cassettes. It's special. It reminds me to stop trying to fit every piece together in my life.
Picking up a record is a potential lifetime of emotional release, inspiration, and sweat on behalf of you or a good friend while moving. Whether you're Justin Bieber or Not the Wind, Not the Flag, an unknowable effort goes into recording and releasing music and any given record shop houses a million hours of experience, suffering, and sacrifice. So take a selfie, and then take a second pic: a haul of the weird shit you bought that will change your life in subtle but meaningful ways. Then forget about Record Store Day and support musicians you care about all year. Excuse me, I have something in my eye.
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