Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Record Store Day: Where the Cool Kids Go

You know what the biggest problem with Record Store Day is?  It's not the eBay flippers, it's not the snobby audiophiles, it's not the limited-edition/wild goose chase print runs of some of the titles, and it's not even (generally) the BO of the guy in line ahead of you.  The problem is finding time to listen to your big bag o' wax once Record Store Day is replaced by Back To Work Monday (and Tuesday and so on)...especially if you've already posted something about RSD on your blog that you hyped on Facebook as being the "first in a series to continue throughout the week." Make that the next two weeks, then: I still intend to review the stuff I bought once I find the time to give it all a fair listen.

In the meantime, let's talk a bit about the event itself.  In my last post, I mentioned a nasty store experience that Rhea and I had - and even called out the store itself for those savvy enough to click my hyperlinks.  Fortunately for Rhea and I, that store wasn't our primary stop.  We've tried a bunch of different places over the years, generally ranging from awful (NYC's recently late, otherwise-lamented J&R Music World) to mediocre (several, really).  For the last two Record Store Days, however, we've found a great place to begin the day's adventure: a great store with a great staff that gets a good fill-rate on their orders and runs the entire thing in a completely fair manner.  These days, I wouldn't dream of going anywhere else, and that's where the Blogger's Dilemma comes in: do I let everyone in on the secret, or keep this awesome bit of knowledge to myself?

Actually, the decision's not all that hard: what the flippers, snobs and stinkers I mentioned above all have in common is selfishness, and since that ain't the crowd I'm looking to hang with it's time to come clean.  If you are in the NY/CT/NJ tri-state area, the place to go for your Record Store Day needs is Scotti's Record Shop in Summit, NJ.   Everything about the experience is as good - and fair - as it can possibly be.  The staff are polite and friendly to a person, the free coffee, cookies and live music are wonderful, and the way they run their show - folks let in a manageable few at a time and then given time to adequately browse, with a one-copy-per-customer limit upheld - couldn't possibly be improved upon.  Scotti's atmosphere and policies, in turn, attract a fun, well-mannered crowd: no pushers-and-shovers, just fans there for the same reason you are.  It's everything that RSD is supposed to be about; you know, the kind of experience that makes you want to go to the record store more often.  This line video, shot just before opening on Saturday morning, gives you a little taste of what I'm talking about.  (Oh, and Rhea and I are in this: she's the one in the Muppet shirt; I'm the guy in the Replacements hoodie talking about Joe Strummer and Cheap Trick.)

The pros and cons of Record Store Day have been beaten like a dead horse on the intertubes, and I'm happy to let those discussions exist elsewhere, after this quick Cliff's Notes version of my thoughts on it: it does far more good than harm. Yes, there are things that could be improved by the event's national organizers - and there are things that have been improved as the years have worn on - but it does bring a sense of excitement to a hobby and scene that was more or less left for dead a few years back.  That as many people as you see in that video would line up early in the morning in 2014 to go to a record store is a wonderful, amazing thing - and if it helps to keep great local businesses like Scotti's a going concern once the lines die down, then may both RSD and the stores it benefits continue to thrive for years to come.

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ETA: I've never been to the store it promotes - Darkside Records and Gallery in Poughkeepsie, NY - but a former employee of Rhea's (back when she ran a Sam Goody's; see, all roads really do lead back to the record store) passed this along to her - and her, in turn, to me.  Looks like these folks "get it", too; looking forward to checking this place out sometime soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Good Grief! The Crosley - Peanuts Dilemma

Look at the adorable thing pictured above.  It's a Crosley portable turntable, adorned with Peanuts comic strips.  It was made available exclusively yesterday as a part of Record Store Day, that yearly gathering of the geeks (in a good way) for my chosen hobby.  Now look at it again, and this time ask yourself a question as you gaze: "how could something this absolutely lovable be a lightning rod for obnoxious snobbery?"

My darling fiancee Rhea saw a picture of one online on Friday, and immediately decided she had to have one.  Being the smart, well-informed cookie that she is, she immediately followed her joyful, gasping-and-shrieking discovery of the item with "Maybe I should research them first."  I told her not to bother, knowing exactly what she would find.

Let me pause for a second to make a bold, important statement: audiophiles are, more often than not, horrible human beings.  I'm not talking vinyl fans in general, but that certain strain of snob who seems to derive joy only from having something better than you.  They don't like music at all.  In fact, they don't really even like equipment at all.  They like snobbery, and they make me ashamed of my hobby every time I encounter their soulless bullshit.  They're like the Simpsons' Comic Book Guy turned up to eleven, with even less of a sense of humor.  And good lord, do they hate the very concept of a Crosley portable turntable.

I did a good job of shielding my darling from the internet trolls, but real life gets more troublesome.  We had to go to several stores to finally procure this awesome little bundle of cuteness, which should tell you a thing or two about the good taste of consumers in the real world.  At the second store we tried, my darling got IRL trolled, as the kids would say:

Rhea: "Did you get any of the Crosley Peanuts turntables in?"
Dickhead: "No,  We don't order that crap.  We respect vinyl too much for that here."

Fuck off with that shit, Slappy.  First off, I've browsed your used section more than once; the only thing you respect about vinyl is the ability to price-gouge for records in somewhat questionable condition.  Secondly, really?  REALLY?  High Fidelity wasn't a documentary, you know.  It was a parody.  Let that sink in for a minute or two, chief.

Happily, we found one a few stops later, at a store that was more than happy to make a $120 sale and keep its opinion - if it even had one - to itself.  Obviously, from what you've read so far, I'm familiar with the debate over Crosley's products, but I've never tried one for myself until last night.  And honestly, I'm wondering exactly what in the hell the problem is here.  To wit:

It's a small, mostly plastic, suitcase-shaped portable turntable.  Anybody mistaking this thing for a piece of HIGH-END, HIGH-FIDELITY AUDIOPHILE EQUIPMENT frankly needs their head examined.  It does exactly what it's supposed to: plays records at a consistent speed and emits the results through the small speakers at the front, which sound fine for what they are.  It's fun, it's cute as hell, and it just might get somebody who has no time - or desire - in their hectic life to deal with HIGH END, HIGH-FIDELITY AUDIOPHILE EQUIPMENT to spin a few records.  How is that anything other than wonderful?

While we're asking questions, my big one is this: what, precisely, does a portable Crosley turntable claim to do that it doesn't?  And what, precisely, is so wrong with enjoying vinyl on such a basic, plug-and-play level?

I'll answer the second of those questions based on my own experience from last night: nothing at all.  We listened to three records on our new Crosley: The Velvet Underground and Nico, Aerosmith's Toys in the Attic, and Laura Nyro's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession.  The first two of those I know quite well, and they sounded just as fine as ever.  The Laura Nyro I'd heard plenty about, but had never actually sat down and listened to before...and I immediately wanted to know more about it.

I very likely found a new-to-me record to love last hearing it for the first time from a beat up, well-loved old LP played on a Crosley portable turntable. Respect the vinyl, indeed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gone Again, Home Again

It's a funny thing: I held this post for today, in the fear that anyone who's still got an eye on this dusty little corner of the intertubes would see a new post on April 1st and fear the Fools Day thing was going on.  Okay, maybe not "funny".  Maybe "neglectful" or "I need to find the time to..." or "Holy shit, it's APRIL and I've not posted on my blog yet this  year", but certainly not "lazy".

Since last we spoke, I've gone back to school for a CCNA course that taught me both (a) that I can in fact be a student again regardless of how poorly college ended for my younger, undisciplined ass back in the day, and (b) I still have a bit to learn about corporate-level computer networking.  Which I am currently learning instead of writing, but that's surely a temporary condition: once the career-change thing is nailed, writing - and the time for it - become easier commodities to obtain.  (That whole bit about starving artists?  Utter bullshit - I defy you to find anyone who's written/created anything good while wondering how the bills will get paid, resumes aside.)

Rhea and I are also planning to really, Really, REALLY get married this year.  The process of sorting this out is utterly, completely ridiculous; anyone who tells you that the path to Eternal Love doesn't lead straight past a bottomless money pit has clearly never attended a wedding expo in Westchester County.  Unlike the Cisco Certification stuff (which is completely uninteresting to anyone not in, or aspiring to be in the field), the wedding planning bit is ripe with blogging possibilities based on the remarkable absurdity of it all.  Here Comes the Groom, coming your way real soon-like, right here on this very channel!

While the dust has been collecting, I've received several comments and/or emails relating to various old entries.  I'll be replying to 'em over the next week or so if I haven't already - thank you all for reaching out, and please accept my sincere apologies for the fact that my busy-ness sometimes leads to tardiness.

And as for the silent visitors documented in my page-counts, thank you for still checking in as well.

See you all soon!