I’ve spent this morning at the New City Arts Forum, witnessing and participating in a lot of good conversations about the arts, social engagement, media, etc. I’ve had a lot of thoughts about the balance of making strong work while dealing with the contemporary culture of accessibility, the crowdsourcing of funding, etc. There’s also been some really inspiring indications that those things might not be mutually exclusive; that it’s possible to make critically great work and address a broad audience at the same time. (It’s also because increasingly clear that the arts community in Charlottesville — heck, Charlottesville in general — does not know how to talk about race. When specifically asked to talk about race, we talk about class instead, because that’s a thing we have the tools and the awareness to talk about). Anyhow, I’ve found myself really enjoying the conference so far, and I hope a lot of good things come of it.
I’ve also been really eager to sneak away for the lunch break and write a blog post as soon as I could, though, because I wanted to remind everyone that today is Record Store Day. I’ve written extensively about Charlottesville’s record stores in past years, but I think it bears repeating that, despite the widely reported death of the record industry, we still have several good shops here in town. Sidetracks (on Water St. and 2nd SW) is your classic hometown record store; Melody Supreme (on Water and 4th SE) is a world-class vinyl-only shop that somehow happens to be in Charlottesville; Low (formerly Antics; on 5th just off of Main St. E) is a vintage clothing & antique store with some remarkable gems in it’s sizable record selection; and Plan 9 continues to solder onwards (it’s moved from Albemarle Square to Seminole Square, now about half a mile closer to town on 29N); the CD and DVD selection is as paltry as it’s ever been, but there’s still a good collection of vinyl stuff rotating through on a regular basis, and I’ve scored some classics there for sure. (Strangely enough, Charlottesville’s Plan 9 made it onto Pitchfork’s staff roundup for Record Store Day; exactly how many high-profile music critics have lived in Charlottesville?) Of course there are the usual Record Store Day special-box-sets and everything; I think those often have more value in helping to keep record shops in business the rest of the year, which in my eyes usually outweighs their value as musical / physical objects, although there’s probably some good ones out there, too. (They may have been picked clean already, though; I definitely saw a line of folks waiting outside Melody Supreme at 9am, which I don’t think is a think you’ll see at any other time of the year). Plus a lot of shops are having fun in-store performances today; I know High Noon and Gold Spur are playing sets at Sidetracks at some point this afternoon (probably right about now, actually…)
It’s a shame that Record Store Day always seems to happen at the time of the year when I have the least money to spend on records… but that’s usually because I’ve spent it all on records the remainder of the year. I know many folks are increasingly digital-only in their music consumption, but there’s something about physical music objects that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to (or want to) let go of. It’s not just because Record Stores have been a valuable part of supporting underground music culture throughout the decades, and not just because I have an music-object fetishization that digital files will never satisfy, and not just because I’d feel foolish paying money for mp3s that are sure to get lost or deleted or corrupted in my next inevitable biannual hard-drive-death; it’s also because plenty of the best music being made out there isn’t actually commercially digitally available; there’s a whole part of exploring new musical worlds and discovering new genres and old forgotten ones that would be impossible without the continued existence of cassettes, vinyl records, CDs, and CD-Rs.
So in addition to encouraging you to check out your local vinyl retailers, I’ll also give my annual shout-out to my two favorite distributors, whom I order from regularly: Aquarius Records in San Francisco, which has been around since the 60′s (their store was right next to Harvey Milk’s office, at one point); their staff all write lengthy, rambling, gushing, enthusiastically hyperbolic reviews, and in addition to their enthusiasm for heavy psych, weird punk, underground rock, drone, indigenous musics from around the world, and a broad range of experimental stuff, they’ll also achieve the seemingly-impossible task of convincing you to consider getting into black metal, even if you’re the sort of person who might never try such a thing otherwise. There’s also Mimaroglu Music Sales up in Massachusetts, which has probably the best website I’ve ever seen for browsing and discovering unfamiliar music; (there’s no search engine! it enforces browsing! and it works!) it’s run (and built) by Keith Fullerton Whitman, who’s also a notable musician in his own right (among other things, he was Hrvåstki back in the 00′s). Don’t feel intimated if you don’t recognize any of the names or labels mentioned on those sites; I often don’t either, but I’ve discovered so much excellent music over the years by trusting their recommendations and encouraging my own curiosity. Both sites are a great way to discover new things, and they have plenty of helpful descriptions and lengthy sound-samples to check out. (actually, the write-ups on those two sites are probably my favorite contemporary music writing; they’re totally honest, but also enthusiastic, and refreshingly free of so much of the cynicism and bitterness that characterizes so much of the rest of the internet).
It’s a shame cramming them down here at the end of a long blog post about other things, but there’s no way I couldn’t mention the Corsair show tonight; they’ve been around over three years now, playing retro-70′s metal / hard rock, led by Paul Sebring’s killer glam vocals and Marie Landragin’s sweet guitar riffs. They’ve released two EPs of songs about warrior wolf-women and doomed starships, and tonight is the release of their newest CD (I’m not sure if it’s a full-length or another EP); they’re playing at The Southern, the cover is $8, and Sharkopath are the openers!