Record stores rebound and celebrate their day this weekend

April 13, 2014 

Not too many years ago, people were talking about the impending death of record stores. It was so easy to order CDs on Amazon

or just download the songs you liked. It was cheaper to buy CDs at Walmart.

Record stores, it seemed, would soon go the way of dinosaurs, $3 gasoline and respectful political discourse.

The demise of record stores hit me personally.

It's not just that I think record stores are cool. It's not just that I thought the era of flipping through racks of old and new vinyl albums and finding some odd cool item you never knew existed, or finding some record from your past that you thought you'd never hold in your hand again, would soon be over. It was even more personal than that.

Back in the '90s, I owned a record store in Tampa called Blue Chair. It was the best time of my life.

My place closed 18 years ago, but I still love record stores, and go regularly. Usually I don't even intend to buy anything. I just like to browse and talk about music with the clerks and customers, maybe hear about some new music worth checking out.

For a long time, I thought my days of being able to do that were dwindling. But record stores are enjoying a renaissance. In fact, two new independent record stores have opened in the Bradenton area in recent months.

They, and other record stores across the country, are gearing up for Record Store Day on April 19.

When it started seven years ago, Record Store Day seemed like just another one of those silly made-up days that didn't really mean anything. It's the day after National Columnists Day, which no columnist I know has ever heard of, and the day before National Lima Bean Respect Day. I didn't make that up, it's an actual thing.

But Record Store Day, which was dreamed up by a bunch of small record labels and independent stores, has actually developed into something for music lovers to get excited about.

"It's getting better every year," said Christian Downing. "In the past, as a consumer, I would have cared about Record Store Day."

He's jazzed about this year's Record Store Day, he said, and it's not just because it's the first one since he and Katelyn Booth opened Vatican City Vinyl Records in Sarasota this past October.

This year, he said, Record Store Day is bringing some cool new releases, including a limited-edition album from the legendary jazz label Blue Note. It includes the first sessions from that label, in 1938, and it's on blue vinyl.

In Bradenton, Doug Holland is holding the grand opening of his new store, Jerk Dog Records, at 1119 12th St. W., in the Village of the Arts on Record Store Day. (He actually had a soft opening earlier this month.) He specializes in garage rock, and he'll have live bands from 6 to 10 p.m. playing in the garage behind his shop on Record Store Day.

Jerk Dog will only be open a few days a month at first -- from noon-4 p.m. Saturdays and during the Village of the Arts art walks on the first Friday of each month.

Up in St. Petersburg, Daddy Kool Records, which started in Bradenton before it relocated, has free live shows in nearby locations.

Holland plans to carry a few Record Store Day special releases, including a limited edition of a Waylon Jennings doing a song that's never been heard before. Manny Kool, the manager of Daddy Kool, is looking forward to some new live Devo releases that day, an album of previously unreleased material of Gil Scott-Heron, that's just him playing piano and singing.

But the symbolic significance of a day that honors record stores is more important than limited releases or live bands.

Simply put, record stores are cool. Online shopping is dull.

"It's a social thing," Downing said. "You get to talk to someone who shares your interests, who tells you about stuff that you might like. And not because they're trying to sell you something, but because they just like talking about it."

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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