Thoughts On Record Store Day 2013

Soho on a Saturday morning is usually a quietly hungover place. Not on the 20th of April. 2013RecordStoreDayLogeWhite120313

That’s the day set aside to show a little love to that most beleaguered of institutions: the great British record shop. Special events, one-day-only releases, live DJ and band sets; a ton of enticements, all designed to drag the music fan away from their Spotifys and download sites, out blinking into the sunshine and off to buy some physical product.

I wasn’t expecting that the event would be so popular. Soho, my workplace for the last 20-odd years, has a decent supply of record shops, from indie powerhouse Sister Ray to funk-soul moonbase Sounds Of The Universe. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, then, that they’d team up to make a big noise about the day. Nevertheless, the sheer scale of things was a bit discombobulating.

Sister Ray just visible through the crowds on the right...
Sister Ray just visible through the crowds on the right…

The queues for Sister Ray stretched right around the block from Berwick Street and down past my workplace on Wardour Street at 8am, an hour before the shop opened. When I popped out for lunch to soak up the atmosphere, I was presented with Soho in gridlock. The local pubs were overflowing, the food stalls on Berwick Street market were doing great business, and joined by enterprising pop-ups from Soul Jazz records and the Museum Of Soho. The local Cass Art was getting people to draw their favourite record covers (strangely they weren’t down with me recreating Reek Of Putrifaction by Carcass). A music marquee had been set up, with bands pumping out good vibrations through the day. With beautiful clear blue skies overhead, the old place suddenly seemed cool and exciting again.

Rock music. BWAAHAHAHAHAaa
Rock music. BWAAHAHAHAHAaa

The downside? Well, there was no way into Sister Ray to pick up any of the heavily buzzed-about releases–the queues were still halfway up D’arblay Street at 2 in the afternoon. As the inestimable Unklerupert pointed out on Twitter, a lot of the people there were probably not the music fans they seemed:

It was, bizarrely, too busy to comfortably browse for music–surely the prime pleasure inherent in wandering into a record shop on a sunny Saturday afternoon. While I don’t want to put a downer on an event that was quite clearly a raging success, it would be nice to see even a quarter of the business BlackMarket, Phonica and the like saw yesterday on every Saturday of the year. Having to make a big deal out of something that should be a simple pleasure only really highlights the parlous state many of these brilliant shops find themselves in these days.

That being said, it was nice to see that Soho is still capable of generating a bit of buzz, and it’s a gentle reminder to me that I need to get my turntable fixed and spinning platters again.

Meanwhile, in Bristol, DocoDom summed the day up nicely with a shot he took in Rise. Here’s to the next one!

Miles of Smiles
Miles of Smiles

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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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