Forget about Groundhog Day, Walpurgis Night or Guy Fawkes Day... for a real good time you HAD to be at Amoeba Music for Record Store Day! Folks across the nation had a wonderful time celebrating these sometimes underappreciated bastions of culture and Manic Panic hair dye that we call independent record stores... but celebrating it at Amoeba is like being in Times Square for New Year's Eve! It's pretty much ground zero! We had more fun and hotter action than we've had in a bit, and hardly anyone left without a big smile on their face. We had exclusive vinyl releases, celebrity DJs, crazy rock stars hanging out, t-shirt silkscreening... lemme tell you all about it!
While founded in 2007, last year was the first-ever Record Store Day that we at Amoeba celebrated, and a couple of artists and labels decided to put out exclusive vinyl releases that were only available in actual record stores on that day. This year, about a hundred more bands jumped on the bandwagon and SO, there was a hotly anticipated lineup of exclusive releases... so many we could hardly keep track of them! We frantically received all this stuff last week, and the phones rang off the hook with demands for this or that 7" single or LP, and it all developed into a tsunami-like wave of insanity that hit the shore at 10:30 Saturday morning, when we opened our doors and a mad rush of people poured in looking for this stuff! There were 7" records by everyone... Sonic Youth, Beck, Jack White, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Depeche Mode... a live LP by Pavement... reissues by the MC5, Stooges, and the Smiths... a Wilco DVD... and much, much more! We set up all sorts of special displays for this stuff, and it was basically a shark-like feeding frenzy as folks desperately dug for those limited edition releases from their favorite bands. Even with a one-per-customer limit, we sold completely out of practically everything... by noon! Exclusive vinyl isn't all there is to Record Store Day, but it IS really neat that all those bands and artists appreciate record stores so much (surely having worked and shopped in them for many years themselves) that they would skip the internet and go straight to the stores with all these awesome releases. The result was surely exactly what anyone could hope for... a bunch of record store geeks gathering in their favorite spot to happily shop for limited, one-of-a-kind rarities. It was fun and frantic and everything went fast!
Just as we were recovering from that mad rush, Family Industries started setting up their mobile silkscreening operation onstage! With a bunch of cool-looking gear, the Family crew were putting Record Store Day designs wherever you specified on the t-shirt of your choice for a $5 donation to environmental charities. It took a minute for our shoppers to figure out what was going on up on the Amoeba stage, but once they figured it out there was just as much of a mad rush for those t-shirts! They WERE pretty cool (my favorite design was the one with the busted cassette tape) and it was fun watching them get printed before our very eyes. Over the next couple of hours a line of happy customers went through several huge boxes of t-shirts until there were hardly any left. Irene Chavira and her kids did a fine job of staffing this awesome operation, and generated a big chunk of money to help preserve the Earth!
At one o'clock, we were treated to a fabulous hour-long DJ set from Wendy & Lisa of Prince's '80s lineup, The Revolution! They were also supporting their new record, White Flags of Winter Chimneys. Somehow they totally rocked the crowd while simultaneously schmoozing with fans and babysitting several children! Those ladies are multi-taskers. From the eclectic nature of their own music, we weren't really sure what to expect, but they kicked off with "Aladdin Sane" (that most Prince-like of Bowie songs) and from there on played a great set of crushing operatic rock, sexy electronica with just a smattering of swing and jump blues! The large crowd of onlookers all got meeted and greeted and grooved by the super tunes. It seemed like there were as many kids as parents, so hopefully we will have a next generation of quirky and talented Wendy & Lisas on our hands in a few years.
By this point the day was in full swing and the line stretched back to the jazz room... the place was swarming with happy folks, many of whom insisted to me that "you won't remember it, but this is like it was in record stores in the 1970s!" Well, it's like this pretty often at Amoeba, but it WAS unusually busy and rockin', so they had a point. But they were about to be proven more right than they could have imagined, when...
ACE FREHLEY of KISS showed up to hang out and sign stuff! In a last-minute development, the legendary Kiss guitarist decided to swing by and hang out, since he digs Amoeba, and so we set up a signing table to see what would happen. A line of several hundred rabid Kiss fans quickly formed, with intermittent but regular screamings of "Space Ace!!!" Ace, it turns out, is a super-cool guy and every inch the rad rock star, and he brought us a CD of "Ace's Picks" to play, which included some of his favorite tunes from the Who and the Rolling Stones. We cranked it up and everybody was rockin'. About halfway through, we debuted his new song, "Pain in the Neck" from his forthcoming CD, at metallizing volume, and it was a glorious throwback to the sound of Kiss, which made everybody happy. He even signed my friend Heidi's little plastic '70s Kiss toy guitar, and a giant light-up Kiss poster "to Amoeba's buy counter," which we now have prominently displayed up there. Somehow he got through the entire giant signing line, put on his shades, and swaggered off into the sunset... what a guy! We love you Space Ace!
With clockwork timing, DJ Babu of the legendary Beat Junkies and Dilated Peoples set up his gear to take us out of the metal '70s and into the underground breaks and messages of classic hip-hop & soul. As you might expect, he dropped a heavy, funky set for the many fans who showed up to see the master at work, with scratching and beat-juggling galore. It was a head-nodding collage of funky sounds, reminding people to go dig in our hip-hop and soul vinyl sections... or at least, it reminded me of a couple breaks I needed to find. DJ Babu is unbeatable! And his set was a delicious end to a healthy Record Store Day.
We all left exhausted but happy. Customers actually wished me "Happy Record Store Day!" several times, just like you might say "Merry Christmas!" Maybe, like all holidays, it starts small, but when it gets in the swing, it's a glorious time. Who knows what kind of fun stuff will happen next year? There's only one way to find out... show up at your local independent record store! Rediscover the fun! HAPPY RECORD STORE DAY!!!