1. Full disclosure out of the way: I’ve previously shrugged at or flat-out dismissed Record Store Day, an unofficial holiday meant to celebrate the nearly bygone culture of, and get audiophiles back into, physical music stores—as opposed to buying online or downloading for free—with the bait of exclusive and/or limited releases. But that was before I procured a turntable.
2. Given the scant availability of so many of the choice releases, many RSD shoppers plan to line up at their store of choice before it opens. So my boyfriend and I reluctantly woke up at 7:15 a.m. on a f*cking Saturday to be at Zia Record Exchange on West Sahara Avenue by 8 a.m., an hour ahead of opening. By that point, there were already 50 people ahead of us. That line would quickly reach the back of the building and switchback on the Sahara sidewalk, nearly blocking the first driveway. Suddenly, I felt like I was 15, in the queue for Morrissey tickets at my childhood Tower Records. I also felt a little ridiculous—at that point, it was safe to assume at least half of my RSD list would be sold out as soon as I got inside. Did I really need such unessential and admittedly overpriced albums?
3. That personal list—among a staggering 400+ RSD releases, hailing from all genres—included: a five-record set by indie dance act LCD Soundsystem featuring all of its farewell concert; a four-record set of the two MTV Unplugged performances by college-rock granddaddies R.E.M.; the first vinyl pressing of German techno act the Field’s debut album, From Here We Go Sublime; a split seven-inch featuring The Cure’s classic, “Just Like Heaven,” with fellow alt-rock act Dinosaur Jr.’s terrific cover on the B-side; and an eight-song live platter by Brit band Foals.
4. Two friends far ahead of me asked if I wanted to join them in line. My conscience was strong enough to reluctantly decline, but not enough to stop me from texting them the LCD Soundsystem title, should they see a spare one.
5. A manager at Zia laid down the ground rules before he opened the doors: One copy of any title, per person, per day (should the title remain in stock after RSD). He also pleaded for shoppers to show each other respect and courtesy.
6. Once the doors opened and everyone filed in, shoppers did, in fact, avoid any Black Friday-esque rampages. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a feeding frenzy at the primary RSD display, its space allowing maybe 10 shoppers at a time to shuffle through the records—sometimes not very gently—while the rest watched on, hoping to A) see one of their wishlist titles and B) subsequently get one of those closer to the records to pass it back. (There were also a handful of other displays with RSD stock, smartly marked with floating balloons.)
7. Despite my eagle-eyed rummaging and store-prowling, I spotted nothing from my list. Thankfully, my boyfriend came over to me with the Foals’ vinyl in his hand. But at 9:05 a.m., I was pretty sure those LCD and R.E.M. releases had been snapped up. So we both pursued the Field record, of which store management helpfully revealed its initial placement (the primary display) and store quantity (only two). But after I saw one shopper holding a copy, I gave up.
8. Defeat turned to victory when one of my friends that had been near the front of the line put the LCD boxed set in my hands. I was able to return the favor five minutes later when I spotted and grabbed a very-limited release I knew she wanted.
9. After a 30-minute wait, I paid for my releases. Shortly after, another pal who was already at the Record City on Lamb and Charleston Boulevards texted me to ask if I still needed a copy of that Field record, which he could buy for me. I was elated, and drove over to meet him—but not before quickly checking the scene at the Record City on East Sahara, which may not have had the Liars release my boyfriend wanted, but it charmingly offered free bags of potato chips for shoppers.
10. Over at used-only Moondog Records across from UNLV, nearly the entire stock was 20 percent off, and several boxes contained $1 records. I scored a $12 copy of a Miles Davis/Thelonius Monk live album, and decided I’d done enough damage for the day/week/month/maybe year.
11. Later that day, I thought about whether the stores—many of which told reporters that RSD is important to their survival, nearly as much as the Christmas season—or recording artists themselves benefit as much from this day as the labels releasing the material. Further ruminating the scam-iness of RSD: The hardly exclusive nature of some titles, such as the “reissues” of MGMT’s first two albums, both released within the past seven years. Are their 180-gram versions really that superior to the original vinyl versions? Will we see the next audiophile-pandering version of both records in two years?
12. And there’s this: I haven’t even listened to any of my RSD acquisitions yet. I’m currently cranking something on Spotify (that I have on CD). Caveat: My turntable hasn’t been unpacked from my recent move, and it’s been an outing-filled weekend. But still—am I just buying into another trick that parts me with my money? Or am I really hearkening back to my childhood, where I spent countless hours in record shops not just obtaining or listening to music, but learning something about it, too? Also, am I just feeding into a revival fad? Or do I really clamor to hear recorded music in a superior manner to its compressed digital formats?
13. Admittedly, I had fun darting around town shopping for music. And despite that the growth of RSD and the vinyl fetish that partly inspired it has made procuring the good stuff so difficult, I kinda liked the teamwork nature that enabled my pals and I to get most of what we wanted. I’ve always thought music is best experienced with friends, and now I know it’s nearly as rewarding when obtained with friends, too.