Did you know this Saturday is Record Store Day? Yes, there is actually a day to celebrate “record stores,” those brick-and-mortar independents and all the vinyl goodness they stock for us.
In Ottawa the celebrations start Friday with a Record Swap event at Raw Sugar and some live music at the Record Centre. Here’s a guide to RSD happenings in the city complete with some vinyl stories from an “expert panel” featuring DJs Jas Nasty, Zattar and Adam Saikaley with Darin Tomlin from Vertigo Records.
If you don’t shop at independent record stores it might be easy to miss just what they do and why it matters to music close to home. These are unique spaces where employees share their musical discoveries, young musicians pick up their influences, bands starting out sell their albums and promote their shows, and people buy tickets to see those shows. DJ Zattar says RSD “celebrates an important pillar of our community. The local record store brings people together in a world of discovery and learning. Something online shops cannot replicate.” * Stores create a festive atmosphere with special releases, contests, free in-store performances, DJs, food and other surprises.
Each year the organizers of Record Store Day release a list of Special Releases featuring
records available only at participating stores on the day, limited runs, re-issues, and various other takes on “rare” records: coloured vinyl, picture discs and lots of records where your favourite artists do something different than usual, a cover, alternate takes, you get the idea. Among the more eye-catching releases are St. Paul and the Broken Bones’ Live from the Alabama Theater, a 12″ picture disc shaped like their home-state of Alabama and Father John Misty’s heart-shaped 7,” I love you Honeybear. If you’re interested you can peruse the entire list of about 400 titles but it will never match the magic of crate digging.
And it’s this long list of “special releases” that has earned Record Store Day a bad name in some circles. Darin Tomlin sums up the problem, “Unfortunately, it’s now been co-opted by all the major record labels and turned into a clusterfuck of boring, subpar, non-returnable releases at outrageous prices. The Mom and Pop store gets screwed in the process, and the major labels cash in.” Tomlin isn’t the only one turning his back on the event. Asked his thoughts about the event Dave Aardvark, organizer of the Ottawa Community Record Show says “I don’t have anything good to say about Record Store Day, every day is record store day.” While in some ways the event has strayed from its original spirit it still can and should be a day about showing the love for the record store, a more human place to interact around music.
Ottawa Record Store Weekend Happenings
On Friday night, DJ Jas Nasty and DJ Chris International are hosting the second annual Ottawa Record Swap at Raw Sugar Café. The swap is barter-only and one of many such events around the world as part of International Record Swap day, which started in Montreal as a reaction to Record Store Day and is always held the day before. The event is free and promises lots of great trade opportunities, music talk, DJs spinning and even free records for anyone who doesn’t have some to trade.
Vertigo Records will be having a store-wide sale, edible goodies, a draw for a brand new turntable and a bunch of secondary prizes plus an in-store performance by Flying Fortress at 6PM.
The record centre is having a 3-day celebration starting Friday with sales, snacks, drinks, a turntable raffle, and live performances. While there’s something for everyone highlights include DJs Zattar and Memetic (of the infamous Timekode dance parties) ] DJing Saturday from 10 to 3pm and the Hilotrons, who are always unbelievable on Saturday at 5.
Compact Music is stocking every title from the Record Store Day special release list and are also having a storewide sale of 20% off on all vinyl except RSD Titles.
Meanwhile, The Turning Point will be releasing 3 additional bins (four in total) of used LPs curated from a recently purchased collection with “a lot of hard-to-find classic rock & roll records.”
I asked an expert panel of Ottawa record aficionados to share their vinyl stories and favourite place to buy new records.
It is in itself an artefact of sound. Their tangible nature make them like individual pieces of pop art. Also the finite amount of pressings makes records a more unique item as opposed to widely shared digital files. Their sound quality is also a factor.
DJ Jas Nasty, co-organizer of the Ottawa Record Swap
It just sounds better. From the late 80s up until the recent “vinyl revival”, records were the cheapest way to explore endless amounts of music new and old. If you had an appetite for music you could get your fill with records. Sadly records are no longer cheap, but a record swap is a good way to get new music while passing along music to others.
Darin Tomlin, Vertigo Records
The artwork on the cover, the warm sound, the collectability, the actual ritual of putting a record on your turntable, the thrill of the hunt to find that one record you’ve been searching for years.
DJ Adam Saikaley
At that time vinyl was what DJ’s used. Second hand records were also very cheap back then too. I had a decent CD collection as well, but you couldn’t scratch them, beat match them like you could with two turntables and a mixer. Records are what I still buy. I like the digging ritual, I like having a physical copy of the music I love. I like finding a record I’ve never heard of, putting it on and listening to it at the store and being completely blown away. I don’t do that so much on the internet, I’m moving too fast on the internet to appreciate music I’m discovering for the first time. Of course I find new music on the internet that I absolutely love, but for me it’s more special when you find it in a crate.
What’s been your most memorable find or best vinyl moment?
DJ Jas Nasty
I often have great moments looking for records where I find exactly what I am looking for that given week or even day and this ends up justifying my addiction/ obsession.
Darin Tomlin Vertigo Records
Having Pete Rock and Jello Biafra come through the shop to dig after hours were highlights for sure.
DJ Adam Saikaley
My favourite record is Miles Davis Filles de Kilimanjaro. Finding an original of that at $10 was something I won’t forget. Actually, I didn’t find it, Mike Dubue spotted it and ran over to tell me about it. This was in Montreal in the fall of 2014.
Finding a rare Afro-Cuban funk album in an old suitcase at a flea market in Havana.
What’s your favourite place to buy records?
These days, it would be the internet as artists and independent labels can promote their new sounds directly to fans and music collectors.
Dave Aardvark, organizer of the Ottawa Community Record Show
My favourite place to find new records is Birdman Sound.
DJ Jas Nasty
I would have to say The Record Centre, but there are so many great shops in Ottawa- The Turning Point, Possible Worlds, Vertigo are some other favourites. I also shop in Montreal, or online as well.
DJ Adam Saikaley
It would have to be Detroit. When I was there looking for records I was so overwhelmed with how many good records and record stores are there and at the best price. We’re pretty luck in Ottawa too to have so many record stores run by people who know what they’re doing!
Happy Record Store weekend Ottawa and best of luck in your crate digging adventures!
* This post has been edited from the original where we mistakenly attributed a quote to Darin Tomlin. It should have read DJ Zattar.