WILKES-BARRE — On the morning of April 16, vinyl aficionados will do the same thing they’ve done every third Saturday in April for the last eight years: wait in line outside their local record store to pay premium prices for limited edition releases.
Record Store Day can be just as stressful (and expensive) as the holiday shopping season, but according to Gallery of Sound co-owner Joe Nardone Jr., this year’s release list should be more manageable than the last.
“They lowered the number of titles this year to calm it down a little,” Nardone said. “It was up to almost 500 last year and they’re at 350 this year, pushing 400.”
“I actually like this year’s crop,” said Jay Notartomaso, owner of downtown Wilkes-Barre record store Musical Energi. “It’s a little smaller than usual, but it’s a little more intense. Obviously the Bowie releases (a singles collection and two picture discs) are going to be really big; there’s Regina Spektor, Fleetwood Mac, Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty.”
This year’s RSD list may be smaller, but it features representation from a variety of genres and eras. From The Flaming Lips and The Turtles to NOFX and Lil’ Wayne, the range of artists with RSD offerings is eclectic, and Nardone is as confident as Notartomaso that this year’s list will bring collectors to the record store.
“First they look at the list and go, ‘eh,’ then they look a little closer and there’s some pretty cool stuff,” Nardone said. “There’s a Phish thing. Another Grateful Dead thing. The Doors, The Kinks, The Monkees… there’s a pretty cool Monkees thing.”
Some special editions are more special than others
That Monkees thing — a 7” single that’s shaped like a guitar — is one of a few particularly cool selections hitting the shelves this year. In addition to soundtracks from the Beatles-themed film “Across the Universe” and cult hit “The Guest,” a collection of songs from the NBC series “The Blacklist” will be released with a 16-page booklet featuring hidden messages that can only be seen through the transparent red vinyl record.
RSD releases can sometimes tow the line between creative (the aforementioned “Blacklist” soundtrack) and gimmicky (“Turntable Baseball”), but one of the most unique items this year isn’t a record at all. Critically acclaimed rap group Run the Jewels is releasing their own virtual reality viewer, dubbed VRTJ, which can be used to watch the duo’s “Crown” music video as well as an interactive art gallery.
VR viewers aren’t the only non-record item coming on Record Store Day. RSD 2016 ambassadors Metallica will release a live CD recorded at the site of the November 2015 attack in France, The Bataclan. Proceeds from the release will be donated to the charity Give for France. On the vinyl front, Anthrax and Twenty One Pilots will both release 7” singles featuring the phrase “Disquaire Day” on their packaging in a show of solidarity with the French music community.
According to Nardone, one of the most anticipated releases this year comes from a staunch supporter of RSD: Jack White and his label, Third Man Records, will release a live recording of The White Stripes from BBC Radio 1’s Peel Sessions.
“The White Stripes dropped the bomb that there’s going to be a record,” Nardone said. “They’re going to release a double LP, one red one white. That’s the new headliner because they always step in and over. (Jack White has) always been pro-record stores so it’s cool.”
Soundtrack to a holiday
Local band Mock Sun has made their late afternoon Record Store Day performance at Musical Energi a tradition, and the band will deliver a performance that caps a day of record shopping and DJ sets.
Music starts at noon at Gallery of Sound with Skip Monday, and continues throughout the day with performances from Aaron Fink and The Fury, Dustin Douglas & The Electric Gentlemen and Havira, Kehr and Driscoll. Of particular note is Harrisburg band and Hopeless Records act Young & Heartless, who take the stage inside Gallery of Sound at 1 p.m.
“We’ve actually never played Wilkes-Barre,” said guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Henninger. “We’re going to play some stuff off our new record (‘Stay Away’) and two songs off our old record (‘The Pull of Gravity’), so if anybody likes our old record we have something for you but if you haven’t heard of our new record yet it’s a good chance to hear some of the songs stripped down.”
Young & Heartless will have copies of “Stay Away” with them at Gallery of Sound, adding to the already hundreds-strong list of titles vying for collector’s attention on RSD.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, vinyl sales were up 32.2 percent from 2014 to 2015 and single sales were up 2.6 percent, and vinyl records made more money for the industry than ad-supported streaming. The downsized list of RSD 2016 releases may make things a little easier this year for collectors, but the vinyl boom means more buyers, and the words “limited edition” still mean limited edition.
Both Musical Energi’s 21 South Main Street location and Gallery of Sound’s 186 Mundy Street location open their doors at 8 a.m. Notartomaso described his five-plus years taking part in the event as civil experiences, no matter when they opened or how big a crowd they opened for.
“We put all the releases on a big table; no limit, first come first served,” Notartomaso said. There’s usually people lined up in the morning when we get here and we’ll be open late too. We’re usually here until 10 o’clock that night.”
Gallery of Sound is scheduled to close at its normal time of 9 p.m., but Nardone will keep the festivities going with an after-party at Exeter establishment Sabatini’s Bottle Shop & Bar.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts