Quick! What's the best thing that ever happened to you in a record store? Me? I once spotted Pavement's Mark Ibold using a listening station at Everyday Music. He caught me peeking at his records and flashed a knowing smile. Like the gawky teenager I was, I answered with a quick nod then scurried over to the Crystal Ballroom to catch his band's opening act.
Such encounters define the record store experience. And if numbers talk, then the last several years' worth of retail figures have fallen to such depths as to signal the end for music geekdom's prized venue—the independent music shop. Consider this fact: In the five-year period leading up to the first Record Store Day in 2008, about 1,500 indies closed for good. In other words, it's do or die time.
"Not every city is as lucky as Portland, because we still have so many independently owned record stores," says Isaac Slusarenko, owner of Jackpot Records. "To have the mayor declare Saturday Record Store Day for all of Portland is such an acknowledgment of how important independent stores are to the community."
Which is precisely the spirit in which Record Store Day began. On April 19, 2008, over 700 shops across the nation held special in-stores and sold limited-edition records to mark the first Record Store Day.
The festivities return this Saturday, April 18. Bucking every other trend in the industry by getting bigger and better, Portland's participation will be especially noisy this year. Among the local bands releasing exclusive Record Store Day 7-inches are the Thermals (who share a split with the Bay Area's Thao Nguyen), two new songs from Blitzen Trapper, and the Decemberists, who will back "The Rake's Song," from their new album The Hazards of Love, with the B-side cut "East India Lanes."
It's a day when everyone—from indie rock hero to local merchant—is a fan first and a scenemaker second. When asked about his own entry into the culture, Slusarenko reverts to his inner-fanboy. "Before I was even in high school I used to take the bus downtown and visit all the local record stores," he says. "I'm excited for the whole day!"