Commentary: Record Store Day Forced Music Lovers to Leave Home and Explore the City

Forget Christmas, Record Store Day, which was April 13 this year, is the best day of the year for many music lovers and vinyl collectors around the world, myself included.

Ever since two of my best friends gave me a record player for my 17th birthday, I’ve been hooked on the feeling of possessing these physical manifestations of music which means so much to me. Frantically searching for the Record Store Day exclusives has become a tradition of mine and this year was no different.

I was in for a long day of running around the city, but I discovered in-store performances, kind strangers and the true meaning of Record Store Day along the way.

Every year bands and artists release special pressings of their singles, albums or extended plays (EP) to be sold only in local record stores. That means every year I anxiously scroll through the list to see how much money I’ll have to spend to get my hands on these collectable items from my favorite musicians.

This year I set out to find Hockey Dad’s EP “Dreamin’” on glow-in-the-dark vinyl, Wallows’ previously unreleased single “Trust Fall/Just Like a Movie” on transparent yellow vinyl and My Chemical Romance’s re-release of its live album “The Black Parade is Dead!”

I started local — right down Devon at Audio Archeology (1324 W. Devon Ave.). The crowded and colorful store offered a welcoming start to the day, but alas, nothing from my list was found. I did, however, find and pet the resident cat, Detective Mittens.

After a brunch break at m.henry (5707 N. Clark St.) to fuel up on a grilled chicken caprese sandwich, I continued my journey.

Music blared from Reckless Records’ (929 W. Belmont Ave.) new location right off the Red Line at Belmont, stopping me in my tracks. I would get to experience a different aspect of Record Store Day: live, in-store performances.

Local band Arthhur rocked out in the spacious new store. Some shoppers paused to enjoy the lively performance while others continued their search with the energetic background music.

College students Nathalie Silva and Molly Officer weren’t on the hunt for anything specific, but browsed to celebrate UIC sophomore Officer’s first Record Store Day outing.

Silva, a sophomore at Columbia, had been around this block before normally running to different stores with her mom. She said her appreciation for vinyl has matured as she has.

“It kind of stemmed out of a very 8th grade, vintage-obsessed me and now I’ve just kind of grown with that,” Silva said.

Arthhur’s bassist Luke Dahlgren took a break in the middle of his 10-hour shift working behind the counter to play in the band. He said the chaos of the large crowd was what he enjoyed about the holiday.

“I honestly kind of like being in the middle of the madness,” Dahlgren said. “I think a lot of people’s least favorite parts about Record Store Day — the big lines and everyone yelling at each other and running out of things and just the hectic-ness of it — is kind of my favorite part.”

In all the commotion, I maneuvered my way through the crowd to the front counter where the employees where keeping a close eye on the exclusive releases. I asked about the status of the Wallows single and held my breath waiting for a response. The phrase “Yeah, we still have that” never sounded so good. After weeks of listening to their new album “Nothing Matters” on repeat, I had some new sounds to over-play.

But this was no time to rest — there were still two records to track down. I didn’t camp out early for the exclusive releases I wanted like some dedicated fans who, according to the stores’ employees, wrapped around the buildings in line for the shop to open. But I convinced myself I had time. It was still early afternoon after all and a beautiful day for a walk around Lincoln Park.

I made my way down Clark to Gramaphone Records (2843 N. Clark St.) to peruse their inventory. I quickly learned they specialize in electronic music so they didn’t carry what I was looking for. The EDM and house fans who were present seemed to be enjoying their holiday as a DJ was spinning tracks in the back and customers tested out used vinyl on the in-house record players.

A quick walk further down Clark brought me to Dave’s Records (2604 N. Clark St.), a narrow shop filled to the brim with vinyl. Customers weaved around the rows of records leading to Dave Crain himself to inquire about the Record Store Day exclusives.

Crain informed me they were fresh out of the Hockey Dad and My Chemical Romance releases, leaving me to continue my quest.

I hadn’t found what I was looking for, but Pennsylvania natives Elliot Laubach and Nick LoGuercio had with a Mumford and Sons live release and “Monty Python’s Life of Brian.”

LoGuercio said he takes the holiday as an opportunity to see how many people appreciate vinyl like he does.

“You could come to a place like this and normally it’s just less busy,” LoGuercio said. “You feel like you’re kind of the only person there, but it’s nice seeing a crowded store.”

The population of each store was holding steady, but day was waning. Stores were selling out of exclusives. I needed to know if my next stop was downtown or Andersonville, so I stepped outside to make a few phone calls.

The Reckless Records (26 E. Madison St.) in the Loop had one more copy of “Dreamin’” and Rattleback Records (5405 N. Clark St.) off Berwyn had two of “The Black Parade is Dead!” so my route was set.

I booked it downtown as fast as public transportation would carry me to the promised land (Reckless Records) and retrieved the holy grail (the glow-in-the-dark EP).

With one more mission, I anxiously waited on a crowded train to reach my final destination. Since time travel hasn’t been invented yet, the closest I would get to seeing My Chemical Romance live was this vinyl of the last performance of “The Black Parade” (yes, they have concerts on YouTube, but let me justify buying this, OK?).

I entered the vibrant Rattleback Records with high hopes, and my emo heart was not disappointed. They had the record. My task complete, I left the store with my head held high and a free Record Store Day poster.

Satisfied, I plopped down on the train once more. A woman saw my winnings and kindly asked what I picked up for Record Store Day, reminding me the true meaning of the music holiday was the people we meet along the way.

It’s a day dedicated to the records, but these records bring people together. Everyone I encountered was enthusiastic about exploring their local record stores. Whether they were a regular with a vast collection or just happened to pop in when they heard the pulsing bass of an in-store DJ, they were there for the music.

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