Frustrated. Nervous. Tired. Anxious. Wired. Those are pretty much the only words to describe the numerous Record Store Day lines throughout town Saturday. Nope, tax day was four days prior so these lines were certainly not at your local H&R Block. These were the emotions of a quickly growing group of collectors lining up around town at their favorite record stores.
Record Store Day is the equivalent to a vinyl lovers' Christmas. For hours and hours, people line up outside of their favorite record store in anticipation of getting one or several of a limited release of specialty records made for just the day.
Towards the front of the lines people had no worries about not getting a specific record, but they had earned their carefree ability with an unprecedented time of sitting and waiting, but as the lines grew the hope for those at the back of them started to diminish. And for good reason. If you're 50 people back in line, and your record store has only three copies of a specific album, then most likely you're not going to get it. If you're 500 people back, you're definitely not going to get it.
And that's why the diehard record collectors gather so early. While it might not be too fun sitting in the cold of the night with little to keep you entertained, the thought that you're walking away with everything on your list is a pretty nice little driving force.
In between, the random conversation with your line neighbors, being careful not to speak too loud on what you want and accidentally remind someone in front of you that they want it too, people pass time throughout the early morning hours by double-checking their lists and comparing it with the official one online, making sure not to forget a thing.
And thankfully the most prominent and potent emotion that was running through each and every line was excitement. It helped to drown out the frustration, calm the nerves, quell the anxiety and keep everyone awake in the process.
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But no matter what happens, after your turn in line you're definitely walking out of the store with a fresh stack of wax that not many other people around the world will ever have. Yeah, you might not get that limited-run, regional-focus 7-inch cut with the blood of the artist or a few pieces of yarn strewn throughout, but you're still going home with a heaping helping of new tunes to throw on your turntable (and, unfortunately, a nice little dent in your wallet).
Saturday, I first stopped by Cactus around 7 a.m. to find a line of what looked like about 60 to 70 tired-looking souls. It seemed as if more than half of those folks don't regularly get to see the sun rise, so the dedication it took for them to get there at that time was impressive. After a brief chat with a few folks at the front of the queue who set up their camp at 8 a.m. the previous day -- a full 26 hours before Cactus opened its doors -- I took off in favor of an earlier opening time at Vinal Edge in the Heights.
Upon arrival to the 19th Street store, owned and operated by the famed local radio DJ/ record-seller Chuck Roast, only about 30 people were in line. While it paled in comparison to the several hundred already gathered at Cactus when I left, it was still a solid crowd and continued to grow significantly over the hour and a half before Vinal Edge opened up shop.
With the line about 250 deep at 9 am, Roast propped open the door, and after explaining the layout to everyone at the front of the line, the melee ensued. Each shop has their own ways of doing it, but Vinal Edge definitely has the most "Black Friday" feel to its approach. Once the gates opened, it was pretty much a free-for-all. While they did limit the amount of people in the store at one time, those 50 or so who did make it inside were left to their own devices to dig through several variously assorted crates all at once.
So if you wanted something in particular, you better hope you picked the right bin that randomly had that one copy you were looking for; many folks around me were searching for Tame Impala's live effort, but no one seemed to find it. A glow-in-the-dark 10-inch featuring Ray Parker Jr's Ghostbusters theme song was also the quickest to go, featuring that song and three other versions including a rare dub remix.
One young girl and her father were desperately searching for a specific piece of vinyl, sadly digging past the numerous 311, Green Day, Dolly Parton and Nirvana records without any luck. Finally, towards the end of her search, she excitedly lifted up a 7-inch and screamed, "I got it!" That young lady is now the proud owner of the new One Direction picture disc, one of the most sought-after items of the day.
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I made it back over to Cactus just in time to catch the employee huddle before the long day they had ahead of them. And within the next instant, looking like a bunch of kids on Christmas morning, the first people in line wrapped their way into the building before hitting the designated area set up just for RSD.
They did it much more orderly than at Vinal Edge, and while it's not as thrilling as a free-for-all, it prevented any potential broken noses, elbows to the stomach or insulting verbal exchanges.It also allowed the first person in line to actually have the first choice of the entire stock, which was the case at Saturday morning with the guy who arrived 26 hours before walking out with everything he wanted on his way towards a shower and a nap.
While I only stayed for about an hour, everyone was seemingly walking out without disappointment. I'm sure as the day moved along, though, people started to get denied their requests, but the first 40 or 50 seemed satisfied with their haul. I know a few records sold out fairly quickly. The first item picked was the very limited Cake box set and the first one to run out completely was the Ghostbusters 10-inch, same as Vinal Edge. The LCD Soundsystem box set also was a big seller, while Dave Matthews Band's Live Trax triple record and Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea" 7-inch were both hot-ticket items as well.
While no one was complaining at the end of the day when the register was overfilling, and they'd changed the paper on the credit-card machine more times than they could count, it still goes without saying how much work those poor dedicated Cactoids and Vinal Edgians, as well as the many fine folk at the numerous other record stores around town, had to endure over the course of Record Store Day and the days leading up to it. You fine lot all deserve a long, long vacation on some white sandy beach somewhere with a piña colada in your hand.
On a whole, though, Record Store Day seemed to be a very large success throughout Houston and on both a national and global scale. Both Sig's Lagoon and Heights Vinyl both had long lines throughout the day; according to Twitter, that seemed to be the norm at every other store too. In its short life, RSD has transformed from a small music-lovers' event into something so much bigger than anyone ever thought it could have been.
With as many people as I saw at different record stores throughout town, I'm sure it will have an enduring shelf life that will not only increase exposure to smaller mom-and-pop record shops around the nation, but will also significantly help to keep people of all ages interested in the physical form of music rather than the all-digital realm we're quickly approaching.
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