In case you missed it, April 17 was Record Store Day, a tradition that started in 2007 when independent record stores came together with artists to celebrate music with special releases. New music is put out in limited quantities and out-of-print stuff is given new life, like R.E.M.’s Chronic Town EP, which I managed to get one of 5,000 copies of – on blue vinyl!
Yes, Record Store Day is a boon for people like me. I’ve been a full-fledged music geek since the age of 10. The local record store was as sacred a space for me as the local library. But it wasn’t until I moved to Forest Park that I got the kind of guidance at a record store that I got from librarians. Record store clerks either seemed too pretentious to approach or were much older than me and had no idea about the type of music I was into. Finally, I met Jodi and Peter Gianakopoulos at The Old School Records on Madison.
They opened their doors in 2003 and have since become a Forest Park institution. As I recently explained to a Forest Parker who’d never been there, “Jodi and Peter will treat you like family. Most likely their adorable little girl, Evi, will be there and so will their little dogs. They’ll learn your favorites and give you recommendations. What they don’t have, they’ll order for you. You have to go!”
Of course, Old School was where I chose to celebrate Record Store Day 2010.
Evi and the little dogs weren’t around, but all of the Old School’s employees were working hard. It was a busy day with extended hours, a major sale, and local musicians playing live in and right outside of the store. I managed to catch Forest Park resident and former Stax recording artist, Ernie Hines.
I returned the next day to ask Peter how Record Store Day had gone for them. He estimated that sales doubled from last year’s special day and they’d come a long way from the first Record Store Day, which had been a total flop. Their top two sellers this year were a Bruce Springsteen vinyl and a Flaming Lips vinyl. They’d had only five copies of each since limited pressings were made, had only allowed one per customer “to be fair,” and sold out very quickly.
Some may wonder why go to a record store and buy vinyl when you can just download music at home? Peter and I discussed this. As I told him, “Music sounds better on vinyl to me. I use my iPod purely for convenience when I’m on the go.”
He took it further, saying, “A download doesn’t feel real or tangible to me. It treats music as if it’s a magazine, something you can just throw away. Also, downloads have no resale value.”
But even if you aren’t a full-blown record geek like me, you’ll get a lot more out of the music-buying experience by going into a store like Old School. Before I left, Peter played me some songs by a band he thought I’d like. And this isn’t something he just does for me.
The Gianakopouloses hope to introduce all of their customers to undiscovered music. Perhaps someone will come in looking for a jazz record and hear world music playing over the speakers that they really like. Next time they’ll come back looking for that and discover gypsy punk.
There is a world of interesting music out there, so make every day record store. Head into Old School Records and let them be your auditory guides.
Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.