Record Store Day Recap

IMG_1652On the rare Saturday I find myself free from my part-time job, waking to an alarm is unexpected. I had crept through the quiet house, going about the morning routine of feeding our five animals and fixing the coffee, all while trying to make little noise so as not to wake Kristin. Even our pets relax on Saturdays, having returned to their various sleeping positions now that their breakfast was done. I, however, had other plans. The day is Record Store Day.

Founded in 2007, Record Store Day is an annual event and a constant movement to showcase the appreciation of not just vinyl, but of music, the listening experience, and the community that comes from it. Today, we would be granted with special events at the variety of music stores we are lucky enough to have in our region, from Ignition Garage in Goshen, to Orbit Music in Mishawaka, 3 Pillars Music in Benton Harbor, and back to Rumor Has It right here in Niles.

The day is fueled by special releases by artists, with exclusive tracks and special editions of classic releases. I had no particular items on my wishlist this year, instead departing with a plan to take in the experience, dig through the libraries of each store, and enjoy that sense of music community.

The morning mood was still quiet as I headed down the rode for Benton Harbor, so I opted to start with listening to a podcast on my journey. The subject was still music however, as I was listening to Bob Boilen, one IMG_1640of the hosts of NPR’s All Songs Considered, reading a segment of his new book, “Your Song Changed My Life,” describing his childhood encounters with the songs of The Beatles and the path of music that became his life. The book, which has each chapter focusing on a song, an artist, and how it affected them, was right at home in the spirit of the holiday.

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I arrived at 3 Pillars to the lovely sight of limited parking and a sizable crowd already deep into the shelves and racks of music. Jeremy Bonfiglio, one of our local writers and go-to people for regional music, greeted me from behind the counter with “Happy Record Store Day!” Store proprietor, Tom Ives, was conversing with all of his customers, offering up coffee and donuts to the music-hunting crowd. I regularly interrupted my crouching on the ground while digging through record crates to chat with friends old and new. By the time I walked out of the store with my new collection of music, I had caught up with peers from high school and shared stories with strangers.

The sun had gotten high and the temperature along with it when I loaded into my car and headed for the next stop. The time for music had come, so I loaded up one of my recent favorites, the album “No Better” by Kalamazoo’s Jake Simmons & The Little Ghosts. By the time I was off the bypass, I had “Toledo” blasting far too loud, singing along to “ooh wIMG_1645hoa oh ohs” without a care for the looks from passing cars.

Outside of Rumor Has It in Niles, I encounter a family I had just seen at 3 Pillars. A crowd awaits the store’s opening, standing on the sidewalk browsing boxes of records and CDs while Red Hot Voodoo is warming up to perform inside. The crowd is eager when the doors finally open, filling the store in seconds while the live music takes off on stage. Store owner, Matt Shaver, has only a moment to chat as he rings up my purchases, smiling at the crowd and the music on stage.

When I finally arrive home, Kristin is not surprised by the collection I purchased or the fact that I broke my Record Store Day budget. I show her my prizes and recount the stories and fun of the day. As I reflect, I realize that the most exciting aspect of the event is that the experiences I had go beyond the exclusive albums and “one-day-only” IMG_1644specials. Step into any of the stores I have listed on any day of the year and you will likely find an experience similar to those I had today.

If you have yet to visit the stores mentioned, you can find information on each online. 3 Pillars has a website at 3pillarsmusic.com, Ignition Garage has one at ignitionmusic.net, and Rumor Has It and Orbit Music can be found on Facebook at facebook.com/RumorStore and facebook.com/Orbit-Music-In-Mishawaka-214530328567785.

 

These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.

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The Vinyl Experience

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“I don’t play anything in my house but vinyl.”

Local musician Tom Moore is not adverse to the listening options of the digital age. While on the go, he will bring along an iPod or other digital device for portable listening. He keeps CDs around for his car. At his house, however, the speakers are only projecting music from his record collection.

We were recently discussing the world of vinyl after Tom had come into possession of a large record collection left to him after the passing of his friend, Neil Raby. He recalled tales of venturing out with Neil to store after store so they could both add to their libraries. His friend would pick up an album based on as little as an interesting musician name or attractive album cover. Together, they would explore genres and expand their tastes, leading to a library that is today full of stories.

“I absolutely love it,” Tom said. “The ritual, there’s something about it that’s so special to me, pulling the record out of the sleeve, cleaning them, the turntable. And there’s nothing like the sound of vinyl.”

After collecting for so long, Tom is pleased to see the resurgence of the format. He remembers coming home to find his teenage daughter sitting by his turntable with records spread out around her. Now she has a record player of her own and regularly plays vinyl.

“She caught the bug,” he said, recalling his daughter and her friends digging into his collection. “That was very heartwarming to witness.”

IMG_1320Matt, the owner of Niles record store Rumor Has It, is also pleased with the renewed popularity of vinyl. He has purchased and sold records for many years, maintaining a store front for the last five years. He pointed out to me that during the 2015 holiday season, turntables were the number one home audio item sold on Amazon.com and was one of the top-selling of all products.

“Tables being sold means records being eaten up,” he said.

He says that high schoolers and young kids account for nearly half of his business now.

“They’re buying everything. They’ll get some swing music, they’ll get Sinatra. They’re just trying to build their collection and find fun music.”

He credits the physical experience of records for a large part of the resurgence. Customers are able to take home a tangible product with liner notes, cover art, and photography included. New albums released on vinyl will often include a poster and typically offer a free digital download of the same music, giving listeners the convenience of the modern age coupled with the hands-on experience.

We discussed the adventure of the hunt for older records. He described customers coming in and spending hours digging through his selection of used vinyl, often bonding with each other and telling stories of where and when they found a long sought album. I related it to my own experience as a comic book collector, knowing that I could find any item on my wishlist on the Internet, but waiting for the fun of going to stores and conventions to dig through the collections.

“If they can find what they’re looking for during the search, that’s much more satisfying than buying on Amazon,” Matt said.

Matt works to keep his used collection constantly revolving for his customers. He also works to bring in new music on vinyl that is not as widely available, knowing that fans of independent music, punk rock, and other less radio friendly genres are always in need for a place to buy their music.

IMG_1319He, along with record stores across the nation, will be working hard to create a special experience this Saturday, April 16th, for the successful annual event, Record Store Day. Exclusive artist releases, special editions, and in-store events will highlight the growing vinyl culture. In it’s ninth year, this celebration of music and independent record stores continues to grow. More than a single event, Record Store Day has become an important piece in a movement to revive a love for a deep music experience, with promotion and support continuing throughout the entire year.

You can find more information on Record Store Day, including a list of this Saturday’s exclusive releases, as RecordStoreDay.com. Matt keeps customers up to date on new released, promotions, and live events for Rumor Has It at facebook.com/RumorStore. You can keep up with the latest music from Tom Moore by visiting facebook.com/TheMooreBrothers.

These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.

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A Vinyl Story With Tom Moore

10982037_559180010891922_8083795043673093135_nTom Moore is known in the region as a roots-oriented musician, skillfully telling stories on stage with his harmonica, guitar, and vocals. Whether playing with Dave Moore as The Moore Brothers, in other groups, or on his own, Tom has a long history in the world of blues and Americana. In many ways, he’s responsible for my own exploration into the world of local roots music, whether during our earliest days of getting to know each other when he played the blues at the Woodfire in Dowagiac or showing me the magic of the historic Midway Tavern. Recently, after the passing of his longtime friend, Neil Raby, Tom started to tell me the tales of his own exploration of the world of music, framed around the record collection left to him by his departed friend.

“It’s a spectacular collection,” Tom said. “I knew pretty much every record in there. As time went on it had more of a personal quality to it. There’s a story behind every one of these records.”

Tom begins telling me the effect on his life of his friendship, what he refers to as “the Neil Raby phenomenon.” He described the first time he was aware of Neil, seeing him playing in a school basketball game when the two were young.

“He looked like a little version of Freddie Prinze,” Tom said. “He had this long mop of hair flying. He was all over the court. He was constantly yakking to his teammates, to the referees, to everybody. I was just like, what a character. Who is this guy?”

Some time later, Tom would have another encounter with Neil, riding his bike along the road on a hot summer day on a trip to a neighborhood where another friend lived, seeing him standing on the street corner.

“He’s got this immaculate white leisure suit,” Tom said. “He’s got a white beret on, sun glasses. He’s got these white gloves on and a cane and he’s standing there on a street corner with a girl on each arm. That’s the guy! I’ve gotta meet this guy!”

He soon would, meeting as Freshmen at Saint Joseph High School in South Bend. The two became fast friends, bonding over their shared interest in music. At the time, rock blues bands such as Led Zeppelin and Canned Heat were common in their playlists, but Neil was already exploring outside of the style, listening to the acoustic blues of Muddy Waters and Lightning Hopkins. Tom described the evolution of his taste in music, led both by Neil and by the record collections of the parents of their African-American friends.

“The sound was a little more stripped down, a little more scaled down,” Tom said. “Something about that really grabbed me.”

The pair, along with their peers, would find influences throughout their environment. Both their high school and the Town & Country Theater would bring in concert films featuring Woodstock, Santana, Sly & The Family Stone, and The Rolling Stones. They would meet Perry Aberli, who started the Midwest Blues Festival and had connections to Chicago blues labels, going over to his house to hear records from Johnny Shines and Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss.

“I think for me, it was like ‘wow,’ that’s when music really started to get interesting,” he said.

He described the impact of seeing the same musicians live at festivals he was listening to at home. Neil especially had a habit of picking up the record for the musicians who would be coming to town. When the two went off to Ball State together, Neil’s collection really started to expand. They met another music aficionado, Jeff Harell, and the three would share a house together.

“We’d fall asleep listening to records and wake up listening to records,” Tom said. “He would spin records until three in the morning.”

Tom, pictured with Jeff Harell in front of the collection with the rare copy of Lightning Hopkins Live At The Bird Lounge.

Tom, pictured with Jeff Harell in front of the collection with the rare copy of Lightning Hopkins Live At The Bird Lounge.

Both Tom and Jeff refer to Neil’s impact on their musical tastes as significant. Jeff described Neil’s collection as “a big education” and explained how it increased his awareness of the wide spectrum of blues music.

“He had such a well rounded collection,” Tom said. “It’s kind of like this blues museum.”

Neil never stopped collecting. In addition to vinyl, he had sets of concert posters and other memorabilia. He would move into the world of CDs and boxed sets, but as Tom said, “he always played his vinyl.”

Tom hopes to find a way to bring the joy of Neil’s collection and their stories to music fans. I will bring you more of those stories here in the future. You can keep up on Tom Moore’s latest projects, including an upcoming release from The Moore Brothers, by visiting facebook.com/themoorebrothers.

These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.

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