Saturday, April 18, 2015

RSD 2015: Toaster Strudel Day

I love Baltimore. It's one of my favorite cities in the US. I once described it as what would happen if New Jersey and Savannah had a baby. I mean this with all the love in my heart. To me, Baltimore is an interesting and odd mix of Southern charm and Northeastern industry that is both grimy and endearing. If the commute were better I'd probably live in Baltimore. Since I moved back to the DMV I've celebrated Record Store Day in DC and Virginia so it's time to take a little trip and visit Charm City and one of my favorite record stores, The Sound Garden.

Joining me on this year's adventure are RSD champion Anita and RSD newbie Matt. Our planning was relatively easy: there was an email circulating yesterday that involved snack planning (we're counting this as a road trip), coffee orders, and an inexplicable picture of a kangaroo. I also made mix CDs (yes I burned them on actual CDs). This was a major conversation topic on the way home - Matt is convinced that I need to sign up for Spotify immediately. Anita complimented my extensive liner notes. I'm a person who buys records so I don't see mix CD making stopping anytime soon.

I digress.

If I had to pinpoint what I enjoy most about RSD it would come down to two things: the record hunt and the feeling of community that you feel in a record store. I get that digital music is easier in many ways (accessibility, storage, sharing) but I have never felt the same downloading a song as I do listening to it on a record or a CD. Or physically giving someone music or finding that one album that completes a collection. It's satisfying in a way that downloading music is not. Nick Hornby said it best, "Record stores can't save your life. But they can give you a better one." I like to believe that the majority of people who come out for RSD feel the same way or at least love a band or a musician enough to enjoy the spirit of the day rather than buying up special releases and selling them on eBay. I can dream.

Today was an absolutely beautiful, sunny day; more summer than spring. I dare say it was the perfect day for waiting in line outside a record store and for a privateer festival. That was our first surprise of the day: a privateer festival was going on just up the street from The Sound Garden. I had no idea this was going on but was wondering why a guy was getting into a costume in the parking garage where we parked. As we joined our newest friends in line at The Sound Garden, a stream of pirates (ladies too) and privateers and fans of pirates and privateers paraded by on their way to the festival. (Fun fact: a privateer is basically an authorized pirate; a government wants to use the ships and crews so they authorize them to attack vessels on their behalf.) I give them all credit for excellent costumes and enthusiasm that can only be matched by an RSD fan in line in the hot spring sun. Pro tip: always bring sunscreen to RSD - I am paying for forgetting this as I type.

I've had to wait in line before but not like this. The Sound Garden just expanded their vinyl room and set up a great flow for the day. The entrance was actually the back entrance of the store and then you exited through the front where the used CDs and DVDs are. That way, people who didn't want to come to RSD could still shop. However, they could only let so many people in at a time so we waited about two hours just to get in. Hats off to The Sound Garden staff though; the line moved as fast as it could, they were super helpful and friendly (as they always are), and the new vinyl room is wonderful. It was easy to find the RSD special releases and browse the regular new and used vinyl. 

What was most fun this year was waiting in line. I know that seems silly but it was. We made friends with the people in front of us and chatted with them throughout the wait. Matt and Anita had not met prior to today but got along famously so our conversations were fun and interesting (and didn't involve work talk or mega awkward lulls). There were Wayne's World jokes ("Car", "Game on") and a discussion with the couple in front of us about what the new vinyl room would smell like (Matt's answer: Dave Grohl's hair; true answer: new paint, fresh wood, and plastic). Anita and I also did a mildly dramatic reenactment of past RSDs that was both funny and a little sad. The best part of our line friends had to be the guy who told a young woman who asked him why we were waiting in line that it was Toaster Strudel Day and we were waiting for free toaster strudel. She believed him. I'm not sure what this says about him or her. Of course this led to a discussion of how else we could answer this question and my absolute failure when a guy asked me the same question. I told him the truth and Matt called me on it. The guy was on the indie/punk rock boy spectrum of my "type" so I wasn't going to lie. Full sleeve tattoos are distracting.

So what did we end up with for two hours in line, a parade of privateers (which honestly was a gift in itself), and a sunburn? For the first time in four years I actually bought almost exclusively RSD releases with only three non-RSD albums in the mix (Big Star and Johnny Cash). I was pleasantly surprised when I found the Alex Chilton 7" special release (the only special release I really wanted); I may have squealed when I found it. Matt had initial RSD newbie panic when he first started looking around but recovered quickly and found several items on his list. Anita was really just browsing but did find an odd Heart record where they sing with Sarah McLachlan. Who knew?

All in all a successful RSD. We all got some new additions to our collections (special releases and stuff we just like), we made some new friends, my plan to dress like an extra in a John Waters movie worked (apparently), and we ended our day with the Matt College Tour through Baltimore. This culminated with a very late lunch at Ryan's Daughter (excellent food by the way) where we ran into one of Matt's friends, Derek with whom we discussed how Baltimore and Detroit are similar (this may explain my Baltimore love a bit more - you know how I love Detroit). This is my fifth RSD and I believe it's my favorite so far. It was exactly the day that I wanted it to be without doing anything but enjoying myself and my friends. It wasn't overly planned, there were privateers, and I spent time hanging out with a bunch of people who love music the way I love music. And who don't mind a plastic dinosaur coming along for no apparent reason (his name is T-Rex Manning). Until next year...

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