Record nerds rejoice as Record Store Day (RSD) officially returns to independent record stores across the country on June 12, with a second drop on July 17, 2021.
Since its first event in April 2008, RSD has swept the globe, celebrating independent stores, collectors, and customers united by a love of vinyl and the thrill of the rare-release hunt.
Triad stores and artists are gearing up for a banner holiday, stacking inventory and dropping hints about the titles they’ve acquired from the coveted list of releases distributed exclusively through RSD channels—the variety reflective of the diverse facets of collector culture and the unique shops that exist to serve.
Each shop is celebrating its own way, with a central focus around wax and equity amongst collectors through a protocol and RSD pledge: no-holds, no-gauging, one copy per customer, independent stores only.
For Jonathan Hodges at Underdog Records, it “keeps everyone in the same boat,” he said of the pledge signed by all participating stores. Located at 835 Burke St., in Winston-Salem, Hodges has participated in every RSD thus far. “We’ll celebrate this RSD the same as we have in the past (2020 being an obvious exception),” Hodges said. “Because we’re such a tiny staff, it’s difficult to pull off day-long events parallel to all the exclusive products we carry, so we rarely have in-store performances on RSD. But, we’ll have a storewide sale on all non-RSD products, as we always do, and we’ll open early that morning at 8 a.m.”
It’s a welcome return to normalcy. “Even before COVID, we’ve always let folks in incrementally, once we open rather than just letting everyone stream in at once,” Hodges explained. “It helps keep the store calm and prevents anyone from being bullied out of the RSD bins.”
While bullies can be a concern, “as a store, RSD is an absolute blast every year,” Hodges noted. “The vibe is always incredibly positive, and there’s always a camaraderie present amongst those who’ve been waiting in line all morning (and sometimes all night) that’s palpable once they get into the store.”
“We usually have a few campers, but, honestly, everything is a big unknown this year,” he added, recalling years he’s opened the store amongst a string of tents along Burke Street, harkening old-school days of box office campers looking to score limited concert tickets. “This is our first traditional Record Store Day in two years — we had to do things completely different last year — and a lot has changed in two years.
So I’m honestly not sure what to expect.”
Hodges does expect a large inventory. “We ordered the entire list,” he said. “And based on what I’ve checked in already (with still some more product to arrive), we’ve received virtually the entire June list with only a very few exceptions. It’s, by far, the most we’ve ever had in stock for RSD — and this is just one of two drops.”
Priming itself as a destination for deep-diggers, Underdog has been releasing inventory sneak peeks daily over social media. While personal excitement mounts, Hodges draws a line between his love of records and his love for the customers. “I’m really excited for the VAST’ Music for People’ release,” he said, noting it’s his “keeper” from the June drop. “I allow myself one-keeper right out of the box each RSD,” he explained, the rest he’ll leave to chance.
Assuming they “survive the morning rush,” Hodges is eyeing RSD releases from Mulatu Astatke, Ihsahn, Al Green, Celia Cruz y Willie Bobo, the Zombies, Opeth, Jazz Dispensary, and live albums from Def Leppard and the Police.
At Hippo Records, Patrick Lemons and his crew are looking forward to their first RSD in two locations. While the Greensboro store has been open since 2013, Lemons acquired Earshot Music in March, following the passing of Phred Rainey [to whom this record nerd unofficially dedicates RSD 2021.]
“Having met Patrick in the early 2000s, Phred felt confident his store would be in good hands with him,” explained Hippo employee Gigi Galdo, who’s been busy building the Winston stock.
“We don’t always know exactly what we will get,” she explained, “but June RSD Drops include Deftones, Thelonius Monk, Black Sabbath, Notorious BIG, The Doors, Ariana Grande, Sublime, The Cure.”
Filling big shoes, the Winston Hippo is in a long-time record store location, which began as a Plan 9 and Record Exchange before becoming Earshot Music. And Galdo is excited to honor its history and kick off its inaugural RSD. Both locations will open at 8 a.m., with “hundreds of exclusive records waiting - and thousands more in the store.”
“RSD is all about celebrating independent record stores,” she said. “While collector-culture absolutely has a place online, collectors also want to see what they’re getting, hold it, inspect it. “
From behind the counter, Galdo considers RSD “a bit like a return to the ’90s, before digital music. People line up and even camp out to find records they’ve been waiting for. It’s a really cool experience all around,” she said. “RSD drops are as eclectic as the people who shop at record stores. The records make it fun, but the people create the best atmosphere. They come with friends and family or strike up a conversation in the shop. All ages. All backgrounds. People connect to music, and they connect to others through it.”
In Greensboro, those outlets of connection are clustered along Spring Garden Street, with Hippo at 2823-D, Buffalo Boogie Records at 1827-B, and Soul Relief around the corner at 934-A S. Chapman St.
“There’s a bit of magic in the air,” said Mike Moore, owner of Buffalo Boogie Records, who relishes “being a part of a worldwide event, and the joy it brings to so many people, in this universal explosion of fresh vinyl. It’s a celebration in and of itself.”
An avid RSD customer since its inception, and shop-participant since opening in 2019, Moore is looking forward to his largest RSD order yet. “I’m pushing 40 titles for the June Drop spanning a wide array of genres,” he said, boasting an inventory that’s been growing since he began collecting in his early teens. “I’m in my late 60’s now, so let’s just say there’s quite a few,” he noted.
For customers, Moore makes the best attempts to fulfill requests after the list is published. “It’s always a roll of the dice as to what you’re shipped,” he explained, “but I’ve been very fortunate since opening the shop receiving at least 90 percent of the albums I’ve requested since participating.”
Buffalo Boogie will open at 8 a.m., with customers allowed in 10 at a time. “From a shop owner’s perspective, RSD is always pretty wild,” Moore mused of the holiday. “Arriving before the sun comes up and seeing people already in line reassures the hard work leading up,” he said. “When the clock strikes eight—the doors open with a bit of hoopin’ and hollerin’—and the shop crackles with excitement. There’s this wonderful vibe and seeing everyone’s faces light up as they go through the bins.”
Meanwhile, Harley Lyles at Soul Relief continues vibing his own way. Good-natured and easy-going as they come, Lyles will open at 10 a.m., with “tons” of new stuff and RSD titles.
“I don’t really go crazy about RSD,” Lyles said, and while he officially opened Soul Relief on RSD in 2018, this will only be his second time participating as a shop.
“It’s a great way to get people out who aren’t normally going to record stores often,” Lyles noted, though he’s never been a big participant—likely because, as an extreme crate-digger, he practically lives in record stores across the country throughout the year. Soul Relief itself serves as a means to house and cycle Lyles’ ever-growing collection.
“Running a shop definitely changes your perspective on collecting,” he said, “and as I get older, I cycle out records I’ve held onto for too long and re-release them to the ‘wild.’”
With an inventory of around 8,000 records, Soul Relief “tries to stock records you don’t often see, and we pride ourselves on our jazz and soul sections while still focusing on used rock, psych, metal, and punk,” Lyles explained. “I’m excited about having some new vinyl for my customers, just because I’m so heavy on old used records.”
Lyles’ passion for DJ culture and local music history exudes in his inventory. Flyers from Greensboro soul shows in the 1960s line the walls, and the shop serves as an outlet for a line of shirts featuring NC music labels of yesteryear from music historian and record-collector Jon Kirby. Printed by Peter Daye (aka DJ L in Japanese) of Cut the Music Prints, “they’re great to keep the memory of the former titans of the industry that thrived in our state,” Lyles said of the shirts, which feature the logos for Linco Records, Justice Records, and Dolphin Records.
For RSD, Soul Relief will host DJs, including San Francisco’s Brycon the DJ, spinning records throughout the day.
From passion projects for music lovers with collections too big to house to shop clerks forging their own path and retirement goals, Triad record shops reflect the gamut of diverse peoples connected through a personal history with vinyl.
“Records bring people together,” said Moore from Buffalo Boogie. “It’s both a personal and a shared experience. That’s why I feel so fortunate in having a record store.” Moore opened Buffalo Boogie after retiring from a career as a world-traveling videographer. “Through my travels, I’ve experienced a treasure trove of many different cultures and the music which infused it. I wanted to offer a wide variety of music genres. Walking into my shop, you’ll likely be hearing anything from Guns N Roses to War to Joni Mitchell as well as jazz, classical, classic rock, punk, and a rainbow of all kinds of boogie from all over the globe.”
The idea is echoed by Hodges at Underdog, who’s spent nearly eight years clerking at the Record Exchange before opening his own shop. “I sometimes feel a bit cheated that I have always worked in a record store since Record Store Day began in 2008,” he said. “So I’ve never had the experience of waiting outside for the store to open, the slow build of anticipation and excitement, then the release of grabbing the titles you wanted and rushing home to spin them. But, by that same token, I’ve been super lucky to experience every Record Store Day from the side of the counter that I have.”
Looking back on RSD, Hodges remembers the fanfare was lacking such that “our manager actually took that day off,” he said. “Caleb Caudle came by the store that morning just to shop, I asked him if he’d like to do an impromptu in-store in celebration of Record Store Day, and he managed to round up his entire band and come play an in-store later that afternoon with virtually no warning. It’s just grown exponentially since then.”
Hodges is thankful for the customers who’ve been the driving force behind that growth. “A record store lives and breathes thanks to its regulars,” he said. “We have customers who come in once a week, every single week, without fail. They keep us alive, and sometimes they credit us with keeping them alive, so it’s a beautifully symbiotic relationship.”
Lyles agreed. “The cool thing about a record shop is you get regulars from as far away as Japan and as close as a block away, and you try to keep them in mind when shopping for stock.”
For folks out there looking to get into collecting, shop owners have their own advice. Hodges recommends investment in a solid, but not necessarily expensive, turntable and recommends the Audio-Technica ATLP60. “They’ll run you $100-$150 depending on which features you’d like them to have, and they’re solid tables that produce good sound and virtually never, ever break down,” he said. “They’re extremely reliable.”
Lyles takes a more Zen-like approach. “If you’re just getting into records, just have fun with it and don’t get caught up in the hype. Be patient and let the music take you where it’s gonna take you,” he said. “Keep an open mind. The search never ends for new sounds and records—it’s truly an endless quest. Some of my most cherished records I have let go over the years, all in hopes to find again, but some records, you only get one shot at finding. I go to extremes in some cases to find and obtain these records, and sometimes they just fall in your lap.”
In that quest, Lyles still loves flea markets, “Richard and Evon Hill at Cooks are the best,” he said. Throwing nods to area shops like McKay’s, Lyles is quick to celebrate his fellow stores. “I feel like the bar is pretty high all around the state,” he said.
Both the Winston and Greensboro McKay’s locations will be opening for RSD at 9 a.m. According to Caitlin Davis, assistant manager at the Winston store, “we’re planning on doing a $100 store credit raffle that day, so anyone stopping by to shop our selection will be eligible to enter that.” Meanwhile, King Records in Archdale is hosting an RSD rock’n’roll revival starting at 8 a.m., with giveaways and RSD swag.
And what are records without the musicians? Winston-Salem’s Jeffrey Dean Foster is putting out his latest EP, “I’m Starting to Bleed,” as an official RSD release. “It’s a big beautiful deal all over the world, but in our little corner, it’s really special,” Foster said.
Recorded remotely during the pandemic, “I’m Starting to Bleed” addresses the cruelty Foster witnessed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, over five tracks blended together thanks to “some good friends who contributed in some really important and groovy ways,” he said. Don Dixon and Mitch Easter mixed the songs. Dixon, Beth McKee, and Marti Jones enhanced the backing vocals and instrumentation, and Eddie Garcia (1970’s Film Stock) “added a beautiful orchestra of guitars to an alternate version of “I’m Starting to Bleed” that gives the track a whole other feel.”
Proceeds from Foster’s RSD release will go to The Shalom Project, which offers low-income assistance in a pursuit against poverty around Winston-Salem. In addition, fellow NC musicians Chris Stamey, the Veldt, and The Backsliders are also releasing official RSD titles to benefit the same cause. “All of these people are friends and people that I’ve always loved,” Foster said.
He’ll make the jump to the Triangle (along with Greensboro band Sweet Dream) for an RSD show with the Veldt at the Pour House Music Hall & Record Shop (a bar-venue-record store trifecta) in Raleigh.
Foster will be in the Triad on Aug. 7 at the Ramkat with Beth McKee. Sweet Dream has a show on June 10 at the Blind Tiger with BadCameo and Emanuel Wynter.
Beyond RSD, wax-lovers aren’t limited to drop dates. Oden Brewing hosts a “bring your own vinyl” session every Wednesday, and Prez (from WUAG’s “In the Beat of the Night”) spins an all-vinyl “Jazz Dinner” series, Sundays at Cafe Europa. In addition, Soul Relief will host a hip-hop show organized by C.R.I.S.T.E.N. on June 26th.
As RSD looms, area shops are abuzz with previews and announcements in anticipation. Come June 12, hearts will beat at 78 rpm as Record Store Day returns to the Triad (and beyond.)