STILL LIKE YOUR music the hard way - on albums and singles that you can spin on a player, hold in your hands, study for insights, and treasure forever?
If so, get primed for Record Store Day, a national consciousness-raiser and cause for celebration happening tomorrow at independent retailers.
Actually the second annual Day of the Disc, RSD has grown to an event of significant proportions, earning official recognition in several cities. Why, the mayors of Bloomington, Ind., and Portland, Ore., will even be spinning faves in their local music shops.
Our Mayor Nutter won't be in on the fun, drat. But dozens of the region's indie stores will participate, offering up special discounts, a variety of giveaways (from stickers to samplers), scores of limited-edition, RSD-only releases, plus some free in-store shows.
Pulling in the diehard loyalists won't be hard. But its is hoped that RSD will lure in some who've forgotten (or never experienced) how much fun it is to go digging for musical riches and communing with kindred spirits in a pure, deep-catalog store environment.
On the performance front, AKA Music (27 N. 2nd St. just north of Market) jumps the gun with a big-deal show tonight at 8 by Bill Callahan, an intensely introverted singer/songwriter who used to go by the name Smog.
Tomorrow's in-store action includes two shows at Main Street Music (4450 Main St., in Manayunk). At noon, the noteworthy Australian band Youth Group does a set; on at 2 p.m. is a Philly-based acoustic act, Old War, evocative of Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Main Street proprietor Pat Feeney hopes for a repeat of last year's RSD showing. "The store got so crowded we had to take the music bins outside for a sidewalk sale," and the retailer enjoyed "the most business of any day in the year."
Down at goth-rock domain Digital Ferret (732 S. 4th St.), there'll be music spinning from noon to 10 p.m. courtesy of DJs Robin Graves, Blackwidow, Totentanz and Data Drift.
Over at Sound of Market (15 S. 11th St., between Market and Chestnut), you'll find Jessica Greene and Isaiah D. Thomas - recent winners of prestigious Stella gospel awards - holding forth at a 2 p.m. meet-and-greet.
Urban-music-centric stores were badly under-represented at last year's inaugural Record Store Day, admit event organizers at the Music Monitor Network, Coalition of Independent Music Stores, Newbury music chain and new sponsor, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers.
But retailers like Sound of Market have climbed on board this year, said longtime manager Darryl King, encouraged by record company reps who've come up with discs "to give away to our customers."
King is particularly excited by the free samplers Sony Music is sharing - "a CD with a good balance of different artists like Raphael Saadiq, Bow Wow and Jazmine Sullivan," and "a vinyl album with rare and previously unreleased tracks by everyone from Q-Tip to Franz Ferdinand to Charles Mingus."
Going in circles
Yeah, you read that right, music labels are pushing vinyl again - and in an especially big way for Record Store Day - to please the collector-conscious shoppers who frequent indie shops.
"When people think music these days, they're mostly thinking where they can get it online," said Chris Georges, a sales associate at AKA. "But when they're thinking records, the people shopping here are thinking vinyl. They don't want CDs, they want the big pictures on the vinyl package and a big hard copy.
"Vinyl sales have been huge for us lately and, in some instances, equal to Internet downloads."
"Shoppers are even willing to pay more for the vinyl," seconded Main Street's Feeney. "We'll sell the new U2 for $27.99 in a very nice, double-vinyl LP package when, 10 feet away, there's the CD for $13.99."
Making the offerings even more exotic, many Record Store Day exclusives - pressed in limited editions of 1,500 to 2,500 copies - are 7-inch, 45 rpm singles. Among them:
_ Jack White (of White Stripes and Raconteurs fame) is using the day to debut his new group, the Dead Weather, with a two-track exclusive.
_ Flight of the Conchords - here tomorrow for two sold-out shows at the Tower - will be represented in stores with a limited-edition 7-inch of previously unreleased ditties from the duo's HBO series: "Pencils in the Wind" and "Albi The Racist Dragon."
_ The Decemberists have come up with a unique, RSD 7-inch thank-you, with the band's Colin Meloy attesting, "I don't know what I would do without indie record stores. Growing up in a town without them, I can tell you that it's no fun to shop for indie records at chain box stores."
More to score
Split singles - featuring one artist on the "A" side and another on the "flip" - will also be a shopper's lure for Record Store Day.
Elvis Costello has split a 7-inch with Jenny Lewis; the Black Keys did the same with the Flaming Lips; and Sonic Youth has two RSD exclusives, shared (respectively) with Beck and Jay Reatard.
AKA's Georges is buzzed over a Jesus Lizard box of nine 7-inch discs, and a Tom Waits concert single, "Live from the Glitter and Doom Tour."
Yes, there will also be some special long players, like a four-platter history of Def Jam, available exclusively in "physical" form at indie stores on RSD.
And heartland rockers Wilco are releasing their concert DVD "Ashes of American Flags" at independent retailers tomorrow. The video won't be in chains and on iTunes or Amazon.com until April 28. RSD buyers get a special access code to download a complete concert recording.
"My introduction to a lot of great music and to the 'music business' came from hanging around and eventually working at independent record stores in Belleville, Ill., and St. Louis many years back," said Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. "It's the life I know.
"Nothing beats browsing in your favorite store, listening to music, finding something new or old that you've been searching for, being ignored by the store clerks, all that. And without these stores, there's just no way Wilco would still be around."
Sound of Market's King is curious to see how his first participation in Record Store Day pans out.
"The day is about trying to get stores to be interactive with customers. But I feel, as an independent store, that's something we've always done," he said. Sound of Market has been around for 30 years and once had two locations on Market Street besides the 11th Street store.
"We always have performances here at the end of the month - one's coming up soon with Norman Connors. We've had jazz classes taught here," said King. "You're often bumping into celebrity shoppers - T.I., Kirk Franklin, Mary Mary. That's how we've lasted this long, by giving consumers an experience outside of just buying music."
King has a great idea for upping the "interactivity" component at next year's RSD.
"If the labels are really serious about doing this, I think all their senior executives should have to work in a record store that day, just to feel the customers, talk to the people who're buying your product. That might spur you to see if what you're doing is right." *
For a full list of participating retailers, visit www.recordstoreday.com.