Record Store Road Show #1: Record Store Day 2017 – SRC Vinyl Niagara Falls, Ontario

IMG_20170423_193537989With my son’s friends and their families having planned a birthday party four months ahead, and my lack of memory for dates, I found myself in unfamiliar territory on RSD 2017. Instead of the usual 3- 4 stores I would hit in Toronto; I was down to one shop in Niagara Falls, Ontario and possibly another in Buffalo, New York if too many of my wish list titles were missed.

Having unpacked, and having absolutely no desire to fly down a mixture of plastic and H2O to scream “weeeeeeeeeeeeee,” as my aging back begs stop, I take note vote of a need for a different activity.  Just because I’m a geek in need of a walk, I use Google Maps to get me over to SRC Vinyl the night before Record Store Day so I can make sure I don’t get lost the following morning. Sunrises and I don’t have a good track record with established coherent thought, so having prior knowledge of where I’m going is helpful. Besides that, it gets me away from the water park and into a record store. The phone app takes me through an alley and a couple of residential streets before I arrive at a place that should have been a straight line with a single left. Any more directions and the damn phone would have taken me over the falls in a barrel.

src vinyl 1

Every independent record store has a vibe of its own. A feel that can’t really be reproduced. There was a Milwaukee store that had a lot of open brick and a large shelving system suspended by chains from the ceiling. At the time, I saw it in the late 90’s, it was the best damn store I had ever seen. Just last year in St. Augustine, there is a place I visited that isn’t much bigger than postage stamp, but a cooler selection of new records than every store I had been to in Orlando.

The curious thing, every store seems to be measured by how closely the staff resembles the misfits of High Fidelity.  The Nick Hornby classic book, turned John Cusack/Jack Black movie, has become a music geek touch stone by which record stores seem to be judged. Honestly, people in RSD lines over the years keep bringing it up. Regardless of gender, race etc…, it seems that staff need the correct balance of knowledge and attitude to be taken seriously. In this case, it’s exactly what you expect. The staff are awesome. You ask questions and you’ll get real answers. Which is good, because half the fun of the record store is talking with like minded music geeks about any subject that crosses your mind… just because you speak the same language.

It’s probably about a thousand square feet, but the selection is much better than any similar sized store I’ve been at in mid size city. So, my expectations are pretty high for the following morning. Then again, as a teen I tried to convince my doctor I had an allergy to the rise of the sun as it puts me in a foul mood. Didn’t work, but I’m sure you see the point.

The thing is, standing in line for 75 minutes’, half asleep and cold with a cell phone in my hands playing a Settlers of Catan app in place of company, it can lead to odd observations that match that wee hours’ crabby attitude.

SRC is directly across the street from a funeral home that claims to be Canada’s first. (I’m picturing an advertisement along the lines of “Serving The Dead Since 1826,” but, ya know, I’m no ad exec.) In front of the entrance of that home is a large ornamental clock with their business name. Metaphors begin to swirl in my mind. Just what the hell does a funeral home with a clock in front of it say about life and death.

Time is limited?

Your time is coming?

Your time is due?

There is just so many useless thoughts that pop up as you stare at a clock in front of a funeral home. I mention this to the guy beside me, and he points out the ‘Gentleman’s Club’ beside the hotel for the newly deceased. “What do you make of that?” he says. All I can tell him is, “a comedian could make a thousand jokes. However, I’m just not that funny.” At that he laughs.

As with every RSD, there is always the passer by that approaches the random strangers with the second-hand smoke dancing around them and asks just why people are waiting outside a record store. The one non-smoker answers.

“Oh, is it a sale?”

“Not exactly. There selling new and limited release records.”

“Records. I have a bunch from when I was younger. I wonder what they’re worth? People still listen to records?”

“Yes.”

“I saw a news story about people buying records again, but I also heard people get music for free off the internet, so I couldn’t figure out why people still buy records.”

“Some people care about the quality of music and musicians getting payed I suppose.”

“Maybe. But why would I pay when I can get it for free. I’m off to get my Starbucks. Nice chatting.”

“Have a good day.”

The line moves forward just after that. SRC is extremely organized and ready. Going in we receive ballots for a Third Man Records package, and bang you are off to the races.

Now, lining up and being within the first dozen people is great, but it is an advantage that only lasts seconds. Right behind the few are the many, and they all have their lists too. Glimpsing at my own, I start to quickly scan the displays.

David Bowie – Cracked Actor… “THANK YOU!”

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Ramones – Singles Box… “That’s mine!”

The Cure – Acoustic Hits (picture disc)…  “Yep”

Big Star – Complete Third Box… “Oh yeah!”

Bruce Springsteen … “holy shit. That’s over a …. No thank you!”

The Smiths… Damn! Someone snags it as my hand is reaching out. By now the store is crowded and people are flipping through everything. With that I start to go into shelves.

S for Spoon…. “All right!”

N for Nilsson… “Oooooh, only one copy… and I got it… Awesome!”

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F for Flaming Lips… “Oh come on! It was a guaranteed Merry Christmas gift! A sure ‘you’re the best brother ever!’ DAMN!”

In line, ahead of me some ‘dillhole’ is trying to buy multiple copies of an RSD title, which of course, is strictly against the rules.

“Look, I could go through the line again, and then it wouldn’t be the same purchase!”

“I can’t sell you multiples!”

“Look, it’s just one extra.”

“I’m not allowed to do that.”

Let’s stop for one second here folks. She can’t sell him multiples. Really! RSD enforces this policy with banishment. Meaning they wouldn’t get to sell RSD titles again. You are asking a small business to give up thousands in sales so you can buy something for your buddy or flip it on e-bay. It isn’t going to happen, so don’t ask.

“It’s just…”

“Can’t do it. But I will put it back on the shelf for you.”

With that, the battle with the ‘me, myself and I customer’ ends and I get to make my purchase.

“You handled that well.” I remark.

Without a hint of cynicism, she replies “It’s my favourite day of the year… and that wasn’t bad at all.” As I pay in cash she apologizes for having to break open a roll of loonies. I remark, “Oh my god, how dare you cost me a couple seconds opening a roll of change. This is the worst day of my life and I blame you.” She chuckles politely at my horrible attempt at humour.

I get out of the store, and look at the clock. I feel the passport in my jacket pocket. There are several items I really want that, like with every RSD, the local store didn’t receive. It is just part of the experience. So, the question that hangs in the air. Do I cross a border? The stupid clock across the street taunts me.

Do you really have the time?

“Stupid f@#king clock and stupid f@#king metaphors” I say to the stupid f@#king pigeon at the side of the stupid f@#king road. The pigeon keeps pecking at the Tim Horton’s cup discarded ten feet from the garbage can. As I pick up the trash the pigeon takes flight landing on the timepiece to take a crap.

Back at the hotel, I call Record Theatre in Buffalo.

The additional titles I was looking for arrived but due to very busy nature of RSD they can’t say how many they have left, and certainly have no guarantees the titles will not be sold before my arrival. I’ve seen the pictures of RSD at Record Theatre. The lines are looooooooooong. If I could be near the front, it would be great, but arriving an hour after, or worse if the Peace Bridge has a big line, is not a positive prospect. Regardless, I text my former roommate to tell him I’ll be heading to Buffalo to look for some of the titles we missed out on. My wife looks at me with that “you’re seriously crossing the border!” look. The phone rings a few seconds later.

“I’m looking at Evan Dando’s Baby I’m Bored. It’s pricey but they have it.”

“What about Vic Chesnutt?”

He must have known it was my next question.

West of Rome?”

“Yeah.”

“In my hands if you need it.”

I take off the coat and place it on the bed. No border crossing this time. Then I realize, I have new records that have to sit 24 hours to be heard. Sitting in my ‘completely made for records backpack’ given to me for Christmas are records that have to wait.

In my mind, I scream “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” because, you know, one is not supposed to leave Robert Smith’s face contained in shrink wrap waiting for a turntable to spin on.

Despite my distance from home, it’s been another successful RSD.

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Power or Pub Rock… screw the labels: Spoon – Hot Thoughts

spoon hot thoughts

Very few bands garner my ever elusive “buy unheard” designation. That place where you drop cash on release day or do that advance order thing. With the popularity of music streaming sites and advance listens on popular music mag web pages, there isn’t much need for the mystery purchase. Regardless, Spoon remains one of the ‘only’ rock bands that actually matter. Whether it be their debut Girls Can Tell, the best-selling Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, my personal favorite Gimme Fiction, or even the half-hearted They Want My Soul, Spoon has remained not only one of the most consistently great bands of this new(ish) century, but also one of the most intriguing.

They don’t often give away the subjects of their songs, usually choosing to keep their cards close to the chest, but when they do… well damn! “Let them build a wall around us, I don’t care I’m going to tear it down…” are lyrics found on “Tear it Down” and coming from a bunch of Texans, it might as well be a declaration of war against ‘Forty-Five.’ Of course, the lyrics are veiled enough that one might see it another way… BUT COME ON – it was written during the f@#king Presidential Primaries.

The thing is, Britt Daniels could write just about anything and it would still allow you enough room to project just about anything you damn well please onto the lyrical theme. “Do I have to talk you into it?” is just open enough to be up for any interpretation. “For your love, my first caress/ your friends have came and went/ Coconut milk/ Coconut water/ You still like to tell me they’re the same/ and whom I to say.” “First Caress” could be a direct shot at a former lover, or a bunch of crap written in a journal that sounded good together… in all honesty it doesn’t matter, the end destination is a great ride.

Which is kinda (kinda isn’t a word, I know… but stay with me here) the point. Great rock ‘n’ roll can be open to interpretation; meaning everything to the writer and something completely different and equally important to the listener.  Yet, somehow these two places have common ground, and when I find Spoon to be at their greatest is when these diverging points mix seamlessly. The deeper meaning is secondary to the emotional reaction you have to it. Fuck the definitions and labels… how does it make you feel?

Now, if you are looking to pick this up on vinyl, then you have boat loads of choices… including a lucky lottery version. You can pre-order clear, purple and red. You can special order a pink copy from Urban Outfitters (1000 available). There is the regular black at your local record store….OR…

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If you did a pre-order from their label Matador, you may be one of the lucky !!!TWO!!!! to have received golden ticket green vinyl edition. One is being sold in the UK and the other in North America.

spoon green

I’d love to tell ya I’ve heard them all, but that just isn’t so. The pink Urban Outfitters is spinning on the turntable sounding like a mix between Duran Duran and a Texan version of Elton John (seriously… “I Ain’t The One” is just about as heartbreaking as “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word”). Which is to say, it sounds fantastic and I’m assuming the others do too… but you know… you’ll have to buy it to find out.

Barrettbites Preview to Black Friday / Record Store Day 2015

Christmas comes twice a year for vinyl junkies, audiophiles and music geeks around the world, who can’t get enough of the tactile delight one gets from placing a record onto a turntable and watching it spin. The first “Christmas” is the official Record Store Day that falls on the third Saturday in April of each year. The second “X-mas” falls on Black Friday (this year on November 27th), when all of your favourite independent record retailers open a bit earlier to sell, amongst other things, exclusive vinyl and rarities. This year has some pretty cool picks.

First up is the Beck single “Dreams.” Originally released only as a digital download, “Dreams” now gets an extra special treatment. It is being newly released on 12 inch blue 180 gram (audiophile) vinyl with a “puffy sleeve” and download card. The b-sides will include an a cappella version and instrumental of the popular Beck hit.

beck dreams

Houndmouth are releasing a 7” picture disc of “Sedona”, with the cover containing copies of their iconic Little Neon Limelight album cover and their neon mountains band logo. The b-side will be a live cover of the classic Dion song “Runaround Sue.”

7 Picture Disc [GD17PD]

Right on the heels of their newly released debut Yours Dreamily, Dan Auerbach’s The Arcs are teaming up with Dr. John and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo to release the first in a new series of tunes. Entitled The Arcs vs. The Inventors vol. 1, this ten inch record will include 6 new songs and will be followed by digital releases in the months to come.

arcsvol1

Finally, Spoon is releasing a cover of The Cramps legendary “TV Set.” Originally found on the soundtrack of the Poltergeist remake, “TV Set” will be presented on 10” deluxe colour wax with a spot gloss jacket. The B-side is a reworking of the “fan favorite” song “Let Me Be Mine” from their last release They Want My Soul.

spoon tvset

For you “Spirit Of Radio” fans, some pretty exceptional limited stuff will also be hitting the streets. Perhaps the overall coolest thing RSD has put out recently is the self titled debut of The Clash. Limited to 5000 copies, it is a split “White Riot/Protex Blue” coloured edition. Any fan would love to have this under their Christmas tree.

clashstcolour

If you’re a Nine Inch Nails fan, it will also be a great day for you. The Halo I-IV box set is being released on vinyl.  It contains 12” single versions of “Down In It”, “Head Like A Hole” and “Sin” on 120 gram vinyl as well as the 1989 version of Pretty Hate Machine on 180 gram wax.

nin halo

Jumping to the 90’s, the 20th anniversary edition of Garbage’ eponymous record is being reissued on 2 pieces of pink vinyl in a brilliant gatefold cover. The album has been newly re-mastered this year for vinyl using the original analog tapes.

garbage pink

The Jesus and Mary Chain is releasing Barbed Wire Kisses (B –Sides and more) on 2 “blood red” wax discs. Initially released in 1988, Barbed Wire Kisses contained many of the bands limited B-Sides, including an awesome cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.”

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In other words folks, there is a whole lot to get excited about and this is just a tiny sample. For a complete list, hit the RSD website. Remember that all items are limited, so call your favorite record retailer to find out if they are expecting your pick… and line up early.

With hand claps and horns announcing that the Lords Of Austin have returned… or Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

spoon ga1

There was a point a few years ago when I was pretty well convinced that the only American ‘rock’ band left that really mattered was Spoon. Starting with 2001’s Girls Can Tell, Spoon put together a string of four back to back records on Merge, with each new brilliant album being slightly better than the last. Their sound wasn’t based on 60’s surf, 70’s classic, 80’s synth, or 90’s alt-rock… it was, just a groove that made your head nod and forced you to pay attention. You see, Britt Daniel and Co. are more subtle than to give you an obvious influence and instead channel elements of opposing song writing giants to play off of. You get a bit of Costello, a smidgen of the Clash, a hint of the “wall of sound” with a touch of Bowie and then mix in a heaping of original creepy grooves and the result is Spoon.

2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is the fourth and finest of the Merge years taking on all the elements of their previous work and then adding a kind of studio wizardry that arrives from the production of Jon Brion. Britt Daniel can be as depressing as all hell, but the vibe is so intoxicating that you feel compelled to be entertained by the misery. He sings “I want to forget how conviction fits, but can I get out from under it” on “The Underdog” but despite the hostility of the lyrical delivery it plays against type with hand claps and horns “for the Lords of Austin have returned.” (Yes that is a Lord of the Rings reference!)

So, with all this enthusiasm, you know I have to add this to my vinyl collection. Of course the choices are limited to only two. The first is a still widely available regular black vinyl that comes with a download card.

The second, released by Newbury Comics in 2014, is a very limited run of 500 in 180 gram red translucent vinyl that also includes a download card. As you can see, it is gorgeous.

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While you can get the standard black for about $20.00, you can expect to pay at least $50.00 on the reseller market for the Newbury edition. Just hoping I can find a copy on a trip to the U.S. so I don’t have to pay a ton in shipping costs.

Where To Buy Sh.. Stuff #4 – Newbury Comics

A while back I wrote a piece about treating everyday like Record Store Day. Thing is, while I don’t really want to endorse one retail place over another, a good deal of the “new” collectible vinyl I have gotten my hands on has been through Newbury Comics. I get an e-mail, I check out the price, and then decide if it is something I REALLY want.

newbury

However, like RSD itself, it does come with its detractors. There are those people who would argue that having “special” “limited” “collector” or “variant” editions of records raises prices, causes delays in arrivals of new releases and is an overall cash grab. Generally speaking these limited run records do cost a couple bucks more than the common black vinyl editions. There is also the question of how many variants are needed for a single record. Between 2009 and 2014 there were no less than nine official re-releases of Bleach by Nirvana in 180 gram vinyl and in almost all the colours of a rainbow (blue, green, yellow, red, maroon, white and clear). Two of these colour choices came from Newbury itself and both quickly sold out.

nirvana colour

Still, for me the question is, does the vinyl sound good, and is it giving me a unique fan experience. I don’t go to e-bay resellers who charge way above market after the fact, but I do find it interesting what people will charge for what is essentially scalping records instead of tickets.  Of course my ego plays a part as I find it cool to see something I bought for $20.00 have a new asking price of $100.00 and that only 749 other people on the planet own a copy.

At other times, it gives me an opportunity to buy something I wanted to get, but in a different form. In fact, with music moving more towards a digital medium I think a bands best chance to make money from their “true fans” (those willing to spend money for their music) is to provide them with a variety of formats and “special” opportunities to receive their music in a unique way. The other thing is they do make awesome gifts for those hard to buy for people. I gave a copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas in red and white split vinyl to a very happy friend.

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So you see this is where Newbury Comics comes into the picture. For a couple years now they have been offering music fans a chance to get “limited edition” vinyl. The prices are competitive with most record stores for the same records that sit on their shelves and the shipping cost is quite reasonable. To date I’ve never had problems with any of the vinyl shipped to me. As for sound quality, I’ve played Big Star’s #1 Record gold coloured variant against the recent 180 gram edition, and I found both items sounding great… in fact, I’d lean more towards the gold variant as it “seemed” to have a bit of a warmer tone.

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Anyway, new items seem to hit the market every week, and the choices are pretty eclectic ranging from the Coltrane to Nirvana and points in-between. Check them out, you might find yourself signing up to the old mailing list and buying something from time to time. Just don’t be too disappointed if it gets sold out before you get your shot. It’s happened a couple times to me and caused a slight bit of teeth grinding and cursing. But then again, that’s all part of the fun of getting something worth having.

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Some links to past vinyl releases I wrote about that came from Newbury.

https://barrettbitesdotcom.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/episode-one-christmas-and-more

https://barrettbites.com/2015/03/13/oh-woe-is-me-the-rocky-horror-picture-show-soundtrack/

https://barrettbites.com/2015/03/25/which-bleach-is-bleach-nirvana-bleach/

https://barrettbites.com/2015/04/08/you-know-what-they-say-about-blinking-nirvana-sliverdive-7/

https://barrettbites.com/2015/04/16/1-in-so-many-damn-ways-big-star-1-record/

Playlist March 22/15

Here is this weeks playlist. I will update the song stuff as I go.

March 22/15 Playlist

1. “Bottle Of Fur” – Urge Overkill

Saturation is one of my all time favorite records, which I am really wanting to find on vinyl, at a reasonable price…

2. “Three Women” – Jack White

Yeah yeah, Lazaretto, great record… not much more you can say.

3. “Freak Scene” – Dinosaur Jr.

From Bug, because Spotify doesn’t have Bug Live, “Freak Scene would kinda be considered the hit, if such a thing really existed for a cult classic. You can pick this up at some of the better record stores out and about, but the special purple splatter vinyl is sold out.

4. “In The Clear” – Foo Fighters

Great record that keeps finding its way onto my turntable.

5. “Born To Run (Live) – Bruce Springsteen

Did a write up on this a while back. Still think “Born to Run” is the perfect classic rock tune.

6. “20th Century Man” – The Kinks

7. “Everybody Makes A Mistake” – Otis Redding

8. “Little Wing” – Jimi Hendrix

This arrived from Newbury Comics last week. Sounds frickin great and is still available here.

9. “Witchy Woman” – Eagles

10. “Can’t Feel My Soul” – Teenage Fanclub

11. “Do You” – Spoon

12. “Crestfallen” – Pernice Brothers

13. “Neither Here Nor There” – Sloan

14. “A Very Sorry Christmas” – The New Medicants

15. “Things” – Paul Westerberg

16. “Crazy For You” – The Dirtbombs

Such an awesome sound on this band, just had to get a couple of their records. Listen and you might agree. If you do click here.

17. “Wild Eyes” – Vivian Girls

Couple years ago I was listening to these guys and thinking how great they were. Finally picked some up on vinyl.

18. “I’m Shy” – The Juliana Hatfield Three

What I said just a few days ago.

19. “Willow” – Said The Whale

20. “Kitsch Trick” – The Seasons

 

Top New Vinyl Releases 2014 – Honourable Mention

Sonic Highways by Foo Fighters

Roswell Records

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http://shop.foofighters.com/collections/sonic-highways/products/sonic-highways-vinyl

The most frickin’ expensive record I paid for last year and I’m not happy about it. The shipping cost was almost the price of the record, than I got nabbed for duty, than UPS thought I didn’t pay and tried to make me pay a second time… arrrrrrr!

Why did I go through the trouble?

Well, there was this cardboard 7” cover of Roky Erickson’s “Two-Headed Dog” that came with the pre-order. You could only get it through the advance order and I’m a sucker for cool collectibles, so a small fortune was paid out. Funny thing is people on e-bay are trying to sell that same 7” now for between $60 and $90.

 

Sukierae by Tweedy

dBpm Records

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http://wilco.kungfustore.com/music-and-books/projects/sukierae-vinyl-lp.html

Another problem record but this time there was an easy and awesome resolution. My initial copy was warped and played like crap. I wrote the distributor and was expecting to jump through a bunch of hoops. Nope. They fired a message right back that a new copy was on the way. So, I only had to wait an extra few days. With the ‘yellow swirl’ vinyl was a copy of the CD (standard with the vinyl purchase) and I was a very happy camper.

 

Commonwealth by Sloan

Yep Roc Records

http://www.amazon.ca/Commonwealth-Vinyl-Sloan/dp/B00M14EPSQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421286086&sr=8-1&keywords=sloan+vinyl

Great record! This double album came in two 180 gram vinyl records with download card and a 12” poster of the band as playing cards.

 

They Want My Soul by Spoon

Republic Records

http://www.amazon.ca/They-Want-My-Soul-Vinyl/dp/B00KTZALGY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421286183&sr=8-1&keywords=spoon+vinyl

Outstanding record musically and came as a copy of 180 gram white vinyl. Beautiful piece of work.

 

Oh yeah I almost forgot to mention this folks…

Real fans BUY their music!

(and great fans buy the music from the band directly because they know the artist will actually see some money from their work.)