“For me, every day is Record Store Day,’” says Gwenaël Berthy. Since 2010, Berthy has been the owner and sole staff member of Melody Supreme, a vinyl-only record store on 4th St. downtown. Record Store Day, founded in 2007, is an international “holiday” founded with the intention of helping to keep stores like Melody Supreme in business in the era of digital downloading, by providing exclusive limited-edition releases aimed at die-hard fans and collectors. The event invariably draws a crowd at record stores around the world, as collectors line up hours before opening in the hopes of grabbing rare (and expensive) releases from their favorite artists. “I am like a priest, in church on Christmas Day.” Berthy says, “I never see these people the rest of the year.”
Berthy is looking forward to Record Store Day re-issues of several classic records, including The Roots’ Things Fall Apart, Daniel Johnston’s Fun, the respective debut albums by The Zombies, Orange Juice, and Hüsker Dü, and the first Pink Floyd single. He’s also excited about newly-released archive material from Nick Drake, Fela Kuti, and Big Star, and a Sub Pop compilation of unknown acts entitled Sub Pop 1000. “I have never heard any of these bands [before], but it’s good,” he says.
Dominic DeVito, a longtime employee of Charlottesville’s remaining Plan 9 location in Seminole Square, is anticipating a re-issue of the 1980 debut triple-album by Half Japanese, as well as a new single by The Invisible Hands — not to be confused with the singular local band Invisible Hand, the pluralized group is a rock outfit from Cairo, fronted by ex-Sun City Girl and Sublime Frequences label-owner Alan Bishop.
Every record clerk I spoke to excitedly mentioned the forthcoming full-length “cover album” by onetime Charlottesville resident and former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus, who has recorded his own version of Ege Bamyasi, the legendary experimental-funk album by the German group CAN, in it’s entirety. Malkmus’ version of the album is a Record Store Day exclusive, retailing for almost $30, and sure to fetch greater prices online in the future.
Another ubiquitous mention is the re-release of the notorious Zaireeka, the 1997 Flaming Lips album which was released on four CDs, intended to be played simultaneously in order to hear the album in full. In addition to containing many of the Lips’ best songs, it’s also never been issued on vinyl, for obvious reasons.
“I guess you need four turntables to listen to it,” says Sidetracks owner Cal Glattfelder. “Well, you could listen to them one at a time,” points out his employee Patrick Shelton, “if you don’t mind all those 90-second moments of silence,” when the songs’ critical elements are concentrated on the other 3 LPs.
Glattfelder is excited about Record Store Day, and is hosting four live acts in the store to promote it. Between Noon and 5pm on Saturday, Willie DE, the Anatomy of Frank, Sons of Bill, and The Fire Tapes will each pack into Sidetracks’ tiny storefront. “It’s going to be pretty crowded, particularly for Sons of Bill,” Glattfelder says, “Maybe we’ll have to have some folks out on the sidewalk.”
“We’ll be opening up a little early, probably around 9:30, since usually there’s a crowd waiting outside,” Glattfelder says. “We usually have about 20, 25, maybe 30 people by 10am. It’s crazy, there’s a big rush right when we open, a lot of people running in to grab things first. I wish it was easier to get more copies of things, a lot of time you don’t even get any copies of the stuff you thought you were going to get. There’s a limited-edition Dave Matthews live record that’s supposed to be coming out, everyone’s been calling about it, we’re all calling each other, it seems like nobody actually got the thing.”
But while the in-demand items can disappear quickly, unwanted vanity releases can remain in stock for months. Berthy, who is more hesitant in his enthusiasm for Record Store Day, says Melody Supreme will be stocking about 120 items. “This year I took only the things I know I can sell,” he says. “I still have some stuff [left over] from last year.” Record Store Day has a reputation as a business-booster, akin to Black Friday sales in November, helping to keep record stores afloat. But when asked if the event helps keep the books in the black, Berthy responds “Not really. It’s a lot of work, and a big payout, a lot of this stuff is very expensive. All day I am like a machine, ringing up a line of customers, with no time to talk to any of them, say ‘How is your day?’— I really do appreciate it, though. But I wish I could have that same business, spread out through the year.”