Your Record Store Day primer

Ahead of this weekend’s annual feast of vinyl and celebration of the local wax-shack, MVD’s got a couple of great docs about the battle to keep indie record-retailers alive (and one that’s just tiresome). PLUS where to rawk and roll and thrash and bang and gaze (and drink) this week.

Happy Record Store Day everybody! Yes, it’s right about time for the annual event that invites vinyl fiends like myself to raid our local independent wax-shack bins and wage battle to pick up ultra-limited vinyl editions, like the two-LP Big Star Nothing Can Hurt Me soundtrack, Roky Erickson’s “Mine Mine Mind” single, P.I.L.’s reissue of their debut single, Brian Eno’s collaboration with Grizzly Bear on 10-inch and much, much more. The greatest day of the year is coming up this Saturday.

The fine folks at MVD will release two DVD docs dedicated to independent record stores to coincide with RSD 2013, so let’s have a little peek.

The first one up is the amazing film Last Shop Standing, directed by Graham Jones. Jones expands on his great book of the same name and burrows deep into the U.K.’s dwindling yet industrious independent record shops. Jones looks back and covers the crossover from 78s to modern vinyl with the main players in the nascent rock ‘n’ roll scene, and the initial surge of independent record stores. This glimpse at the history of record shops provides context, but Jones quickly tackles the struggle of independent shops today. With guests like Johnny Marr, Billy Bragg, Paul Weller and more, the doc laments the rampant store closures and the rise of big-box competition but also waves a flag for those who’ve survived. Underlined is the fact that record shops are more than just a place of commerce, but a meeting place for a community of people that share a deep passion for music. The official film that has just tied up its festival and rep run clocks in at just under an hour, but this DVD edition, with over 74 minutes of additional footage, should be a mandatory item on your RSD list.

Where Last Shop Standing succeeds at illustrating the inherent thrills of finding lost treasure in dusty bins as well as delivering the hard financial facts, Scott Shuffitt’s Brick and Mortar and Love (MVD) fails on all counts and proves to be as engaging as chewing on tinfoil for an hour. Shuffitt points his camera lens on the trials and tribulations and the eventual closing of Louisville, KY, record mega-centre Ear X-tacy. As we all know, big-box stores continue to undercut indies on CD sales to entice shoppers into their hallowed halls, and MP3 downloading has encouraged home-shopping/acquiring, but watching Ear X-Tacy’s owner John Timmons’ crocodile tears roll down his rosy cheeks is just plain excruciating. The story seriously drops out when Timmons picks up stakes and moves to a slightly smaller space from Ear X-tacy’s palatial digs in an effort to lower overhead. With a huge staff still in tow, Timmons finally ends the film by admitting defeat. He’s a fairly likeable character — and heck, no one wants to see employee redundancies or the death of another independently owned business, especially one that trades in the arts — but something just stinks to high heaven here. I’m no Bill Gates, but even my little pea brain could grasp that he could’ve lowered his overhead considerably by moving to a small, niche-specific shop and remain the sole proprietor while holding on to one or two staff members…like the majority of independent Montreal shops that continue to thrive. Instead of changing with the times, Timmons is caught rubber-necking at the music industry’s antiquated past and quickly transforms into a very unsympathetic Rip Van Winkle character. Anybody who has ever worked in the biz or shops regularly at independent record shops will find absolutely nothing redeeming here. Again, I don’t want to shit on an indie film, or make light of the daily Herculean efforts of small local businesses, but after squirming through this 70-minute debacle, I find it hard to believe that director Shuffitt had ever darkened the door of such a store prior to production. Avoid!

Although not released on RSD, a better companion piece to Last Shop Standing is 2009’s I Need That Record (directed by Brendan Toller, also from MVD). This amazing film tackles all of the tough subjects but never gets bogged down in statistics, while focusing its strength on the heartfelt passion of music fans, independent labels, distributors and store owners. With over two hours of bonus footage and the inclusion of talking heads like Mike Watt, Thurston Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ian MacKaye, Glenn Branca, Lenny Kaye and more, this spotlight on the independent record shop is as exciting as it is informative.

For a list of local retailers participating in Record Store Day, check out Saturday’s entry below. For the huge list of rare limited editions that will be available exclusively on RSD, you can check out the official website.

On with the shows:

Tuesday – For people who’d like to be cast under the spell of dreamy pop and luscious shoegaze, make tracks down to Casa to check out Widowspeak, Wake Island and Kinski. Check out the review of Wake Island’s debut record here.

While you’re there, put yer kickers up on the bar side for the long running We Sold our Souls to Rawk and Roll with DJ Fast and Loose. In case Fast and Loose’s name didn’t tip you off, prepare for a night of metal, punk, hardcore and other delicious delights.

Wednesday – Tonight marks the debut of bi monthly DJ night Knife Slits Water at Notre Dame des Quilles. The screech behind Ensorcelor and To the Cliffs, as well as the man behind the excellent foodie blog/zine Still Crapulent After All These Years, DJ Jonah promises to be spinning an exclusive night of post punk and afro rock. Maybe true but I’ll bet dollars to donuts he slips in a hint of Immortal and Van Morrison for good measure.

For a night of rawk, no-nonsense punk and killer power pop, check out Unbelievers, Irish Nails and Dead Messenger at l’Esco.

At Sala, you can check out Amsterdam’s ICP (Instant Composers Pool). Afterwards, keep your free-music jams spinning across the street with Martin Tétreault, Eric Leondardson and Magali Babin with Alexander MacSween and Jérémi Roy at Casa.

Katacombes will host a lecture called Punk Rock, Mental Illness and Recovery. The event will be hosted by Upheavel zine publisher and ex-member of Boston hardcore bands Weapons Grade and Melee, Craig “Crusty” Lewis. He will speak of his personal experiences with mental illness and working within the mental illness field, with tips on how to avoid the pitfalls (e.g. alcohol, drugs) that punk rock can sadly sometimes advocate. Also speaking on the subject of confronting the stigmatization of mental health will be Esson Cletus.

Thursday – The fourth edition of Paganfest rolls into town at Metropolis with Ensiferum, Tyr, Heidvolk, Trollfest (“Trollfest”? Seriously?) and Helsótt.

Friday – The beginning of the weekend is solely owned by world-music agitators (and former members of Hot Springs, Red Mass and too many others to mention) Orkestar Kriminal, who’ll sweat it out over two sets at les Bobards.

Saturday – Happy Record Store Day, everybody!!! You’ll definitely want to get to the stores as soon as doors open if you’re hoping to snatch up some of the limited edition slabs available exclusively on this day. Participating locations listed on the official Record Store Day website include 33 Aux Tours, Beatnick, Sound Central, l’Oblique, Phonopolis and Sonorama.

On the night of my favourite day of the year are my two picks for gigs of the week. First up is Akron/Family with Absolutely Free and M Geddes Gengras at Il Motore. If you were lucky enough to squeeze into the same venue when they kicked out the jams two years ago, you know just how good this is going to get.

Giving some serious competition to Akron/Family are local musical misanthropes Menace Ruine who just seem to get more transcendent with each passing show. Openers Oneirogen will really make this show combust. Oneirogen’s recorded testament to dark ambient, black metal, crushing heaviosity, panoramic drone and scenic psych, Kiasma on Denovali Records, is definitely a trip worth taking and should make for an interesting transitions to a live setting. Check out the review here. Andrew Hock will open this dark and doomy night at Casa.

Finally, singer/songwriter and jaunty cook Beaver Sheppard will croon and strum at Kathy & Kimy in Little Italy, with Year of Glad and Dirty Frigs.

Sunday – Vancouver’s local scene has been exploding over the past couple of years, despite DIY venues constantly being shut down by authorities while legit venues fall victim to gentrification. One of the best Left Coast punk bands to emerge out of No Fun City are lo-fi noise punks White Lung, who turn it up to 11 with Thee Nodes and Hearts Over at Il Motore. ■

Current obsession: Low, The Invisible Way


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