Monday, April 13, 2015

Outfitted for the Apocalypse

VVer #1 got out of work a little early and decided to stroll to and through Chinatown.  After a coffee break he got set to hit the metro before the full swing of rush hour.  On a whim he popped his head into the huge Urban Outfitters which is a mere minute from the metro entrance.  Why not check out what the kids are listening to these days?
Ugh, not Journey.  Ralph!

A little background: for years UO has been selling new vinyl and basic all-in-one turntables for the hipster set.  Prices are usually moderate to pricey (except for the extremely rare super-sale).  Selections are often interesting; heavily geared toward hipster and aging hipster alike (not a bad thing, but somewhat limited).  Quite a few years back the VVers picked up the Black Market Clash 10" -- a strange but solid addition to the collection.  UO is always good for a reissue as well.  An example being a not-long-ago purchase of Mr. Bungle California; said Pitchfork "one of those albums that you can't believe a major label had anything to do with."  A bizarre album to find at an UO in VVer #1's former neighborhood mall.  An aside: decades ago, this mall housed no less than three actual music stores.  Now the only place to find any substantial selection of music is the UO, which has filled the void of quasi-music stores similar to Hot Topic, Sears, or Woolworth's (that's going back a lot of years).  If you don't happen to live near one of the few remaining independent record stores, UO and the interwebs are pretty much it.  Most indie stores feature a large used section which affords the visitor to do a significant amount of digging (half of the fun), discovery (the other half), and hobnobbing with other music lovers (essential).  How does UO fit into all of this?  Since they have always stuck to new vinyl and newish artists, much of the records could just as easily be found on Amazon or the like (think Santigold Master of My Make Believe or Tune-Yards Nikki Nack, two examples of purchases by the VVers from UO in the past few years).  Less direct competition for the indie record store which can get wild with variety and keeping that used section flowing with goodies.

You dirty bastards.
Back to the mega-UO in Chinatown which has an equally massive vinyl display.  While this section isn't exactly set up in a user friendly manner it does present very prominently in the shop.  Form over function -- the upper racks are so high up off of the ground that you would either have to be a basketball player or sit on a friend's shoulders to check it out.  That aside, it was an interesting passing of the time until VVer #1 spied two new wooden crates on a table, each slab in said crates marked with a massive orange sticker reading "vintage vinyl," i.e., used vinyl.  Used. Frickin'. Vinyl.  What in the name of Wilford Brimley's mustache does UO think they are doing messing with indie record stores bread and butter?  Aghast, VVer #1 proceeded to check out their offerings and it was a joke.  Not only were the prices stupid high, but the selection was just laughable.  One album in particular that really galls is Steve Martin Let's Get Small for thirteen bucks.  Really?  A copy of that can easily be had for a dollar, oh just about anywhere.   Oh well, suppose a sucker is born every minute.  VVer #1 pulls over a manager and politely asks "what's the deal?"  The guy, very nice, doesn't know much about it except that it is a pilot program isolated to just a few UO stores.  Other stores aren't doing it... yet.  He has no idea who is buying the records, where they came from, who prices them, etc.  Seriously UO, you are not allowed to further mess with indie record stores.  Back away from the used vinyl.  Whichever jerk in the UO business office decided this was a good idea; may you please fail miserably.

The VVers tolerate that UO is selling glossy new releases (to an extent), but delving into used vinyl is unacceptable, bandwagony, and horrifying.  This week's edition of Parade (the glossy, pulp-portion of the Sunday edition of the anywhere-USA newspaper) has a full spread on Record Store Day.  Why are the VVers not dancing the watussi about this?  The article doesn't say a whiff about a single actual record store (and proceeds to interview Barry Manilow and the likes; the VVers disapprove).  Mainstream stores, such as UO, and mainstream press continue in ignorance of the vital part of what makes music interesting, irreplaceable, and community-oriented.  Long live indie record stores!

RSD is this Saturday, April 18th.  Most shops, in addition to having extended hours and fancy special limited releases, also will have other fun things like live music, contests, freebies, used vinyl sales, etc.  The store closest to the VVers usually has free coffee and donuts as well as a store-wide sale.  For a solid list of stores, check here.  Most importantly, make it a point to go to your neighborhood record store and embrace it for all its friendly, knowledgeable, un-corporate glory!  If these stores are passed-over, all that will be left is the UO at the mall and Amazon.  Prepare for the apocalypse.

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