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For the record — groovy shopping day in store for music lovers

Val Camilletti who runs Val’s HallOak Park calls Record Store Day an “absolutely splendiferous” idea. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Media

Val Camilletti, who runs Val’s Halla in Oak Park, calls Record Store Day an “absolutely splendiferous” idea. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 19, 2012 11:31AM



Record Store Day began five years ago as a spirited international campaign to encourage patronage of local brick-and-mortar record shops. Now, on the third Saturday of every April, participating independent record stores open early, have sales, spotlight live bands and stock what they can from an eagerly anticipated list of records released especially for the occasion.

The primary goal, as originally conceived by indie record shop employee Chris Brown, was to counteract plummeting store sales in the face of online competition. But it also had a cultural component — to remind digitally duped music fans of the importance not only of liner notes and the tactile experience of records but of the community fostered by local shops.

“It’s a wonderful idea, and the idea behind it is absolutely splendiferous,” says the venerable Val Camilletti, owner and operator of Val’s Halla Records, which this year is celebrating 40 years in Oak Park. “The idea is to pay homage to your local record store, say hello, have some coffee and doughnuts, hear some live music, enjoy some sales and all that good stuff — to stop in and say, ‘Hey, I’m glad you’re still alive.’

“It’s a cool day for people already excited about music to enjoy the sense of community,” says Dave McCune, manager at Permanent Records, a shop that recently observed a five-year anniversary in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, “but also it creates enough of a vibe where people that may be kind of just hearing about records, maybe they don’t collect or they used to and don’t anymore — those people can get excited, too, especially now in this age where everything is digital downloading. Digital is great, and it’s very portable, but some people still want something they can hold in their hands and feel connected to.”

To a degree, it’s worked.

The first official event in 2008 spotlighted 10 — count ’em 10 — special one-time-only releases from bands such as Death Cab for Cutie, R.E.M. and Vampire Weekend. The growth of the annual campaign correlates with a slight but steady rise in vinyl LP sales, and Record Store Day 2012 — this Saturday — features more than 300 “special” releases (a complete list is available at recordstoreday.com).

Just note the quotation marks around that word.

RSD 2012 releases include some exciting, clever one-off creations, no doubt — for example, a split single of Mastodon and Feist covering each other’s songs (“Commotion” b/w “Black Tongue”), a Buck Owens coloring book and flexi-single, a limited-run Oberhofer single (with a cover of Kanye West’s “Runaway” as the B-side) — but also a lot of releases that aren’t necessarily special, including truckloads of current singles from major artists (Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry) and LP editions of music that has been and will be available for ages (a Lee Hazelwood box set, the soundtrack to “Pretty in Pink,” “Here’s Little Richard”).

“When the list of records coming out on Record Store Day extends to 28 pages, that means there’s a lot of stuff that just isn’t that special, not the way it was originally intended,” Camilletti says. “The whole idea for this initially was to make this one day special, to release records special to the day, things you weren’t going to be able to buy again later. … But now the record companies have just gone stark-raving crazy, using the occasion as a release date for things that are going to be available for another 47 years. It’s an opportunity for them to sell $80 box sets. There’s no reason to put that out on Record Store Day as if it’s special, because it’s not.”

“Some of the majors are re-pressing records that are found in every dollar bin everywhere. It doesn’t make sense,” McCune says. (Permanent Records owners Liz Tooley and Lance Barresi have relocated to Los Angeles, where they opened another Permanent Records.) “People aren’t coming into this shop, anyway, looking for the reissue of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.”

Further evidence of the perhaps inevitable phase of co-opters and bandwagon-jumpers: Local beer-maker Three Floyds has teamed with Chicago’s Reckless Records to create Rye’d Da Lightning, a rye pale ale only available only at a Record Store Day Post-Party (featuring Sweet Cobra, Chicago Thrash Ensemble and Party Downers, 11 p.m. April 21 at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, $10, bottomlounge.com).

THINGS RSD SHOPPERS SHOULD KNOW:

♦ Every record shop will not have stocked every release on the list of Record Store Day titles. “We place our orders and cross our fingers,” Camilletti says. “We may order 10 and get one. We may order one and get none.”

♦ Because of that scarcity, shops cannot set aside a particular record for you. As Laurie’s Planet of Sound in Lincoln Square has posted on its site: “As usual, RSD items are limited to ONE (each) per customer, and we cannot hold or save anything!” Like many shops, they plan to post a list of what RSD merch they’ve actually got by Friday night on their website (lauriesplanetofsound.com).

♦ Sales are first-come, first-served.

♦ Not everything disappears in the first hour. “I still have past Record Store Day stuff in here,” Camilletti says. “I’ve got a Syd Barrett tin box of 45s. I was sure in our market the Pink Floyd fans were going to want this unusual thing. Pffft! It’s still sitting here. Every year is an absolute crapshoot.”



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