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Record Store Day and Chicago shop events

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Val Camilletti, owner and operator of Val's Halla Records, is ready
for the fifth annual Record Store Day this Saturday.
(Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)


Record Store Day began five years ago as a spirited international campaign to encourage patronage of local brick-and-mortar record shops. Now, on the third Saturday of every April, participating independent record stores open early, have sales, spotlight live bands and stock what they can from an eagerly anticipated list of records released especially for the occasion.

The primary goal, as originally conceived by indie record shop employee Chris Brown, was to counteract plummeting store sales in the face of online competition. But it also had a cultural component -- to remind digitally duped music fans of the importance not only of liner notes and the tactile experience of records but of the community fostered by local shops.

"It's a wonderful idea, and the idea behind it is absolutely splendiferous," says the venerable Val Camilletti, owner and operator of Val's Halla Records, which this year is celebrating 40 years in Oak Park. "The idea is to pay homage to your local record store, say hello, have some coffee and donuts, hear some live music, enjoy some sales and all that good stuff -- to stop in and say, 'Hey, I'm glad you're still alive.'"

Read on for a list of selected RSD events Chicago and suburban record shops ...

"It's a cool day for people already excited about music to enjoy the sense of community," says Dave McCune, manager at Permanent Records, a shop that recently observed a five-year anniversary in Chicago's Ukrainian Village, "but also it creates enough of a vibe where people that may be kind of just hearing about records, maybe they don't collect or they used to and don't anymore -- those people can get excited, too, especially now in this age where everything is digital downloading. Digital is great, and it's very portable, but some people still want something they can hold in their hands and feel connected to."

To a degree, it's worked.

The first official event in 2008 spotlighted 10, count 'em 10, special one-time-only releases from bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, R.E.M. and Vampire Weekend. The growth of the annual campaign correlates with a slight but steady rise in vinyl LP sales, and Record Store Day 2012 -- this Saturday -- features more than 300 "special" releases (a complete list is available at recordstoreday.com).

Just note the quotation marks around that word.

RSD 2012 releases include some exciting, clever one-off creations, no doubt -- for example, a split single of Mastodon and Feist covering each other's songs ("Commotion" b/w "Black Tongue"), a Buck Owens coloring book and flexi-single, a limited-run Oberhofer single (with a cover of Kanye West's "Runaway" as the B-side) -- but also a lot of releases that aren't necessarily special, including truckloads of current singles from major artists (Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry) and LP editions of music that has been and will be available for ages (a Lee Hazelwood box set, the soundtrack to "Pretty in Pink," "Here's Little Richard").

"When the list of records coming out on Record Store Day extends to 28 pages, that means there's a lot of stuff that just isn't that special, not the way it was originally intended," Camilletti says. "The whole idea for this initially was to make this one day special, to release records special to the day, things you weren't going to be able to buy again later. ... But now the record companies have just gone stark-raving crazy, using the occasion as a release date for things that are going to be available for another 47 years. It's an opportunity for them to sell $80 box sets. There's no reason to put that out on Record Store Day as if it's special, because it's not."

"Some of the majors are re-pressing records that are found in every dollar bin everywhere. It doesn't make sense," McCune says. (Permanent Records owners Liz Tooley and Lance Barresi have relocated to Los Angeles, where they opened another Permanent Records.) "People aren't coming into this shop, anyway, looking for the reissue of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass."

Further evidence of the perhaps inevitable phase of co-opters and bandwagon-jumpers: Local beer-maker Three Floyds has teamed with Chicago's Reckless Records to create Rye'd Da Lightning, a rye pale ale only available only at a Record Store Day Post-Party (featuring Sweet Cobra, Chicago Thrash Ensemble and Party Downers, 11 p.m. April 21 at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, $10, bottomlounge.com).

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THINGS RSD SHOPPERS SHOULD KNOW:

-- Every record shop will not have stocked every release on the list of Record Store Day titles. "We place our orders and cross our fingers," Camilletti says. "We may order 10 and get one. We may order one and get none. We may order two and get two."

-- Because of that scarcity, shops cannot set aside a particular record for you, no matter how good a customer you claim to be. As Laurie's Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square has posted on its site: "As usual, RSD items are limited to ONE (each) per customer, and we cannot hold or save anything!" Like many shops, they plan to post a list of what RSD merch they've actually got by Friday night on their website (lauriesplanetofsound.com).

-- Sales are first-come, first-served. So get there early, be prepared for a line -- and play nice.

-- Not everything disappears in the first hour. "I still have past Record Store Day stuff in here," Camilletti says. "I've got a Syd Barrett tin box of 45s. I was sure in our market the Pink Floyd fans were going to want this unusual thing. Pffft! It's still sitting here. Every year is an absolute crapshoot."

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"Today Is the Day," indeed, says the stacks of wax awaiting you at Permanent Records in Chicago's Ukrainian Village. (Brian Jackson/Sun-Times)


Chicago-area RSD events

At least a couple dozen shops around the Chicago area are participating in Record Store Day. (For a complete list and more information, see recordstoreday.com.)

Here are some selected events from existing and one-day-only shops:

Laurie's Planet of Sound, 4639 N. Lincoln, (773) 271-3569; lauriesplanetofsound.com: Opening at 9 a.m. April 21 and featuring Terri Hemmert from WXRT-FM (93.1) as "guest record clerk" after 4 p.m. Meanwhile, the superb scheduled in-store performances include Martin Rivas (noon), Variety Lights (1 p.m. -- that's Dave Baker, founding singer for Mercury Rev!), Elvis, Angotti, Dawson & Burch, Ltd. (2 p.m. -- Brad Elvis, Phil Angotti, Steve Dawson and Edward Burch performing the Monkees' 1967 album "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd." in its entirety) and Casey McDonough & Scott Ligon (3 p.m. -- Kelly Hogan's backers).

Dusty Groove, 1120 N. Ashland, (773) 342-5800; dustygroove.com: Opening at 8 a.m. April 21 with goodies for the first 100 customers. Refreshments and live magic in the afternoon, plus a performance by local legend Otis Clay at 4 p.m. (George Freeman was scheduled but had to cancel; see comment below.)

Permanent Records, 1914 W Chicago Ave., (773) 278-1744; permanentrecordschicago.com: Early-bird sale from midnight to 2 a.m. April 20 (featuring music DJ'd by the folks at Plus Tapes cassette label), then open all day April 21 with some great in-store performances starting at 4 p.m., including the punk-rhythm-spiritual experience that is the veteran Chicago band Ono, the legendary pysch-rock sound of Vyto B & the Band That Never Made It, plus visiting Philly post-punkers Psychic Teens.

Saki, 3716 W. Fullerton, (773) 486-3997; sakistore.net: This cozy shop features deals, raffles and promotions all day April 21 including in-store performances by the bands Santah (1 p.m.), Bare Mutants (2 p.m.), Cains & Abels (3 p.m.), Cross Record (4 p.m.), Minor Characters (5 p.m.), Hollows (6 p.m.), Opposites (7 p.m.) and the Runnies (8 p.m.). Among the festivities is the Experimental Sound Studio (ESS) Listening Station featuring their Sun Ra archive. Bonus: Two food trucks outside later in the day.

Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee, (773) 235-3727; reckless.com: Rock and roll caricatures by Steve Krakow (12-5 p.m.), plus in-store performances Saturday afternoon by the bands Bloodiest, Radar Eyes (stripped-down synth version), Circles, Fake Limbs and Spires That in the Sunset Rise. Reckless RSD exclusive releases include Ropes' "Demos II" 7-inch and Holy Fever's "7" in colored vinyl.

Reckless Records, 3126 N. Broadway, (773) 404-5080; reckless.com -- In-store performances by the bands Atlas Moth, Pamphleteers, Running and Verma. Reckless RSD exclusive releases include Ropes' "Demos II" 7-inch and Holy Fever's "7" in colored vinyl.

Reckless Records, 26 E. Madison, (312) 795-0878; reckless.com -- In-store performances by the bands Cloud Birds, Arborist and more TBA. Reckless RSD exclusive releases include Ropes' "Demos II" 7-inch and Holy Fever's "7" in colored vinyl.

Record Breakers, 2109 S. State, (312) 949-0125; reggieslive.com/recordbreakers -- The shopping part of the Reggies Rock Club & Music Joint venue will open at 9 a.m. Saturday and feature a slew of in-store shows: the New Diet (10 a.m.), Mitch Mead (11 a.m.), the Sweeps (noon), Owen (1 p.m.), Empires (2 p.m., acoustic set), Magicks (3 p.m.), Electric Touch (4 p.m.) and Swimsuit Addition (5 p.m.).

Metro/Smart Bar, 3728 N. Clark, (773) 549-4140; metrochicago.com: The concert venue and dance club, in collaboration with Ghetto Division Records, will debut the Hot Jams Pop-Up Store at their location from noon to 8 p.m. April 21, featuring $5, $10 and $15 bins of used treasures as well as repeat specials, apparel, posters and a prize drawing for a VIP package at Saturday night's JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound concert at Metro.

Numero Group at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, (773) 276-3600; emptybottle.com: Local reissue magicians Numero Group will set up its pop-up shop from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 21 inside the Empty Bottle venue, selling piles of vinyl, CDs and DVDs, plus books and magazines, from their own esteemed collection as well as numerous other dealers. The label's mobile radio station, WTNG-FM (89.9), will be broadcasting live within a five-mile radius.

Vintage Vinyl, 925 Davis in Evanston, (847) 328-2899; vvmo.com: The storied shop of films and novels will be its usual gloriousness on April 21, with the added benefit of Chicago psyche-rock band the Luck of Eden Hall performing at noon. It's a tradition -- this is the fourth RSD show the band has played at this shop.

Val's Halla, 239 Harrison St. in Oak Park, (708) 524-1004; valshalla.com -- The inimitable Val Camilletti will open her relocated shop two hours earlier at 9 a.m. for a storewide sale, refreshments and plenty of conversation. "I was going to have live entertainment," she said, "but they had to back out. So the entertainment is me."

Cyklopx, 7511 Madison St. in Forest Park, (708) 488-0303; cyclopx.com -- Opening at 9 a.m. Saturday, this versatile suburban shop spotlights Chicago indie-pop band Canasta (fresh from recent travels and performances in Mongolia) performing at 11:30 a.m., plus food and drink all day.

Kiss the Sky, 301 W. State in Geneva, (630) 232-1888; facebook.com/KissTheSkyRecords -- Get the jump on festivities with a CD release party for singer-songwriter Andrea Dawn ("Theories of How We Can Be Friends") at 9 p.m. Friday, a precursor to the shop's midnight sale.

Wooden Nickel Music, various locations in Fort Wayne, Ind., (260) 484-2451; woodennickelmusicfortwayne.com -- Two of Wooden Nickel's three Fort Wayne locations have in-store performances booked all day Saturday.
-- At the 3422 N. Anthony Blvd. spot, it's Sunny Taylor (10 a.m.), Mike Conley (10:45 a.m.), Allan and Ashcraft (11:15 a.m.), Dag and the Bulliet Boys (noon), Keith Owen (12:40 p.m.), Kill the Rabbit (1 p.m.), Left Lane Cruiser (1:45 p.m.), Afro-Disiacs (2:30 p.m.), Black Cat Mambo (3:15 p.m.), Possum Trot Orchestra (4 p.m.), Krimsha (5 p.m.), Argonaut (6:30 p.m.), Exterminate All Rational Thought (7:30 p.m.), Taylor Fredricks (8:30 p.m.) and Billy Youngblood and the Smokin' Gorillas (9:30 p.m.).
-- At the 6427 W. Jefferson Blvd. locations, it's Electric Panda (3 p.m.), Mathis Grey (4 p.m.), Future X (5 p.m.), Plaxton and the Void (6 p.m.), Catbox (7 p.m.) and To the Point (8 p.m.).

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5 Comments

Thanks for roundup, Mr. Conner. FYI for readers: Mr. Freeman had to cancel his appearance at Dusty Groove on Record Store Day, unfortunately...but we were astonishingly lucky enough to to Chicago soul great Otis Clay to come out instead. Otis will perform at 4PM on Saturday at Dusty Groove.

Doug Arnold
Dusty Groove

The Lee Hazlewood release is not a box set, but it's still cool!

not quite sure how the pairing of a record store & brewery that BOTH have consistently supported the very same music scene in chicago is either "co-opting" or "bandwagon jumping".

haters gonna hate.

Dear Mr. Conner,
I felt compelled to respond to your article "Groovy shopping day in
store for music lovers". While it was nice to see local record stores
and musicians being covered in the article,
your criticism of Three Floyd's Brewing as "co-opters and bandwagon
jumpers" is grossly misinformed and slanderous.

Besides the fact the most of the staff and owners are avid music fans
and vinyl collectors– since at least 2004 Three Floyd's has supported
the local Northwest Indiana/Chicagoland music scene by including music
as part of their yearly Dark Lord Day event- exposing fans to new
music they might not normally get to hear. In addition to this, they
regularly donate beer to local concerts, benefits, and touring
musicians– most times hand delivering it. They release rare beers in
conjunction with, and named after bands they love. They employ many
musicians as well. They also recently began having quarterly art shows
in their newly renovated brewpub, highlighting the work of great local
artists and allowing them to show and sell work without taking any
money from the sales. They hire artists to create all of their artwork
on bottles and merchandise- most of whom are deeply entrenched in the
independent music scene.

Most importantly, last November THEY RELEASED a deluxe, beautifully
packaged 10" vinyl record for the sole purpose of being passionate
about music and records– and made it affordable to fans. They have
plenty more releases coming up, and if you know anything about
actually releasing vinyl on this level- you would know it is a miracle
if one breaks even on a release- especially given the cost of making
such beautifully packaged releases. They are doing this because of
their love of vinyl, artists, and music. They are a staple in the
local music community and your comment is just sloppy and inaccurate.
The things I have mentioned here are just a small sampling of great
things they do within the music scene.

While I do agree with you on the points of major labels trying to cash
in on Record Store Day- singling out Three Floyd's just makes no sense
in your article. They have created the rye pale ale with Reckless
Records as a celebration of vinyl and good friends. I can only hope
you made the comment in ignorance. Do you think they are going to cash
in by make a beer and only selling it on one day at a punk rock show
that is $5 - $10 to attend?!

While I understand that you may not be aware of their involvement with
some of the things mentioned in my letter, I would expect that if you
were going to criticize them, you may have done some research before
publishing such a comment to learn more about their motivations and
their involvement with Record Store Day.

Yours sincerely,
Jason Gagovski

Hello. The Reckless/Three Floyds beer was the brainchild of a Reckless employee and his friend at Three Floyds. Everybody knows that records sound better with beer.

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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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