It can’t be Christmas every day. We all figured that out at a young enough age. Easter everyday would get tiresome; society’s color palate gradually reduced to only soft pinks and purples. But Record Store Day, celebrated internationally on April 17 — now that’s a holiday that can and should be recognized as frequently as one wishes.
The Upper King hipster haven 52.5 Records offered plenty of incentive to stop in during last Saturday’s all-day celebration. The event smorgasbord of sales (52.5% off used vinyl and CDs), plenty of art to gander at, and a casual in-store performance from recent Charleston breakout group, Company (a.k.a. CO.).
Clay Scales, El Presidente (by his business card) of 52.5, wasn’t initially convinced of Record Store Day’s significant. “I was so surprised at how many people were aware of it,” he said during the event. “There were so many people walking through the door just saying, ‘Happy Record Store Day.'”
This year’s was only the third official Record Store Day, the holiday was originally conceived of in 2008. But Scales has had plenty of time to catch up. “It’s turned into something a lot bigger than anyone expected. It’s by far, for stores everywhere the busiest day of the year,” said Scales, who was spotted donning Devo’s modern reworking of the their iconic energy dome hats (in blue instead of red) at one point in the afternoon.
Cynics, if there are any, could write-off Record Store Day as a business ploy — just a tactic to save a dying industry from the ensuing age of digital domination. Well, yeah, it is that, but it’s much more. A neighborhood record shop not only serves as a retail store, but supports local music and art, promoting its value and its creation.
Not to mention, to Scales and many others, growing up, the record shop was like a second home.
“If I was mowing lawns a couple times a week, that money was spent at the record store,” Scales recalled. “With so many stores closing, Record Store Day is to remind people that a record store is more than just a place to shop.”
True enough. Especially when local indie-band Company tuned their instruments and talked with friends. They put on a free in-store set, surrounded by shoppers who quickly congregated at the back of the store. You’d be hard pressed to pick a better band to represent the importance of record stores.
Monster Music & Movies hosted an even bigger roster of in-store performances in West Ashley, featuring local and visiting acts.
Company, all Charleston locals, were recently discovered by Band of Horses and signed to Horses frontman Ben Bridwell’s label, Brown Records. The band played songs from their upcoming debut, The Shepard’s Ocean.
It became clear why Bridwell threw a record deal their way. Purely indie, lo-fi rock, Company write hazy folk songs that take off like leaping from a cliff into raging rapids. Soaring, off the rail guitar solos you might find on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Once they brought out the lap steel, I was sold. Slow strummed guitar over serene sheets of noise, their songs build up and breakdown like old-school Yo La Tengo. You can close your eyes, as long as you know a wall of sound is on its way. Standouts from their set were “On the Saddle” and “The Shepard’s Ocean.”
Imagining a world without record stores, well, it leaves a bad taste. What audiophile or music lover would let their local record store die?