Records

In defense of vinyl-loving hipsters (Or, Record Store Day 2016)

There’s a lot to hate about hipsters — I get it. The coffee is never good enough, the beer selection is lacking, we’re poor but always wearing expensive clothing.

Also, we love vinyl records.

Get out of here with your Spotify, Apple Music, MP3s and compact discs. That’s all dirty, digital dope. We want the pure stuff.

Side Note: Yes, I used “we” in the above sentences. Results are in — I’m a hipster. I know it, I can’t help it, it’s what it is. I’m 29 now. The theory is once I turn 30 I’ll graduate to adulthood and can forget about all these silly labels.

Anyway, today is Record Store Day (RSD). Find your favorite local record shop and go buy a few things. They’ll probably have free coffee. You’ll love it. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with RSD. I always go. But to engage an overused cliche, RSD was great before it went “mainstream.” Typical hipster drama. Let’s just say the romance left once 14 year-old girls started stealing records out of my hands (long story for another time).

This year, however, was fun. The lines weren’t too long, everyone was friendly. And best of all, I got mostly what I set out for. As my friend Jake says, “The wax gods were in my favor.”

Here’s the loot:

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  • The Vandals — Sweatin to the Oldies (Live)
  • The Get Up Kids — Red Letter Day Ep
  • Robert Johnson — 10 inch repress (1936)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Picture Disc 10 inch
  • Violent Femmes — Memory/You Move Me (single)
  • Death Cab for Cutie — Tractor Rape Chain/Black Sun (live)

Back to the Quick Defense

I admit it: there’s a lot of showyness about vinyl collecting. It’s great to showcase your collection with a fancy shelf and brag on social media. For me, however, being a vinyl lover (there’s got to be a better name for it?) is about more than just pretension and affectation.

Vinyl records are a treasure hunt. You find the one you want, say an old record you used to love, and it’s like striking gold. In some cases, the prices are so high, you might as well just buy gold, but I digress. Record hunting is also a great way to discover old (but new-to-you) music. I’ve gambled on many dusty, used LPs at yard sales that have later become personal favorites.  (more…)

Memoirs of a Music Fanatic

We saw mewithoutYou last night. They’ve been a favorite band of mine for eight years now (geez). My fifth time seeing them and probably my last considering the average lifespan of indie-bands, I was reminded, during the show, of a time when life was simpler, when good music was the priority and everything else was dreck.

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It started in high school. My afternoons were spent visiting record shops and my weekends spent seeing concerts. It wasn’t just about consumption; no, the music-life was about discovery. I was a California 49er searching for gold—staying hip and ahead of the curve—perusing the used and new-release bins for the unknowns and the yet-to-be-discovereds, old-favorites and new.

When a good group traveled through town I’d buy tickets and request time-off in a second-natured trance. The live-show, you see, completed it all.

What I realized last night, while watching the opening acts (in a dark smelly club I’ve never been to before, and yet, have been to so many times), was that almost all of my favorite groups from the last ten years have gone away. They’ve just left. Soon, I’m sure mewithoutYou will sail into the fog too.

I’ve noticed it before. I mean, I get it. Groups come and go; not everyone’s favorite band gets to be The Rolling Stones.

But what strikes me is the perspectival meaninglessness. Does it all just boil down to a ticket stub in a scrap book, a CD case on the shelf? Is that good enough? I used to pretend it meant something more, the music, the experience, but now, when another favorite band bites the dust, I’m surprised at how little it affects me.

The lead singers, the drummers, the guitar players I foolishly idolized—I’m curious if these days they wonder about me more than I do them.

Diskney 

On the second shelf of my bookcase, here in Rochester, lies two stacks of CDs. There’s maybe thirty albums total, “Quintessential,” I guess. If a fire burned my building tomorrow and I lost them all, I’d be sad, but I’d move on. Sometimes, I wonder if holding on to them keeps me from moving forward.

When we were preparing to move across country, we sold and gave away just about everything that wouldn’t fit in the car. Included was a box of maybe a hundred CDs, a box I had been meaning to donate to the local public radio station but never could.

Finally the day came to move, and they had to go, so I dropped them off. I wanted the moment to be something bigger than it was, a Toy Story 3-esq ending where a young, inexperienced music lover discovers my box of give-aways, presses play and falls in love. With courage, I’d drive away and wave, “Goodbye, pals.”

But that didn’t happen. Instead, a grubby, uninterested hipster threw them in the corner and probably the trash after I left: “You want a receipt?”

Getting older is weird.

mewithoutMe Part 2

Thoughts of meta-meaninglessness and perspective aging filled my brain between every set and song last night, more distracting than a young couple making-out in the front row. Finally, mewithoutYou came on stage and tore into “The Dryness and the Rain,” one of my favorites. At this point the crowd moved, and so was I, remembering—if only for a moment—the key to it all. Music doesn’t need to make sense. It just needs to have feeling.

Maybe that’s a good enough reason for spending a life chasing it.

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“The fish swims in the sea, while the sea is in a certain sense, contained within the fish! Oh, what am I to think of the writing of a thousand lifetimes could not explain if all the forest trees were pens and all the oceans ink?” –mewithoutYou