On April 19 independent record stores across the USA are marking Record Store Day. The purpose is to highlight and celebrate the role independent record stores play in promoting and providing an outlet for the music that your supermarket, chain store or Warehouse doesn't stock. These stores are under threat world wide. In Auckland probably more record stores have closed in the last ten years than remain open. The result isn't just a decline in convenience. When small and specialist record stores disappear there is an impact on the kind of music that can be made, distributed and purchased. Chain stores just don't stock music from outside of the mainstream, their focus is on the dollar. While the people who run really good independent stores definitely want to make a buck they are also music fans and that makes all the difference.
One of the greatest record shops I've ever known was Crawlspace Records on K Road in Auckland. Focussing primarily on the punk / alternative end of the musical spectrum Crawlspace was well stocked and the staff were incredibly knowledgeable. I love it when you can discuss music with the person behind the counter. The fact that you can't do that in Real Groovy is the factor that means that store is not nearly as good as it could be, despite the huge range. I would go into Crawlspace and Stu would recommend stuff that had come in, because he knew my tastes and interests. Brilliant.
Crawlspace took love of the music to a new level. In addition to a shop there was a record label. They released material (mainly on vinyl)by up and coming New Zealand bands like Jakob, re-releases of lost classics like The Victor Dimisch Band's 'Native Waiter' and provided an outlet for people like Chris Heazlewood of King Loser to make excursions from their musical day jobs. Then there was the Artist Series, extremely limited run releases of experimental or "peripheral" NZ music pressed on 8" lathe cut plastic records known as Geraldine Pressings. These releases were always challenging, sometimes extraordinary. Take for example The Pointsman, a group that featured another shop staff member, Gonzo. While not to everyone's taste the eerie sound of a pickup being scraped over a balloon, accompanied by squalls of guitar feedback and drone released in a limited run of 25 is testament to a passion for art over economics. (Some of the Artist Series were collected on the CD compilations Fit for Kings and Fit for Kings 2)
I was genuinely upset when Crawlspace closed. I couldn't just go to another store and buy what I wanted there - it was actually the end of being able to access that music at all. While I have never found another record shop like it there are others that rate a mention, in particular Galaxy Records in Christchurch and Slow Boat Records in Wellington. In fact, to mark Record Store Day, Slow Boat are hosting an in-store performance by Samuel Flynn Scott.
I would be interested in hearing your record store stories and recommendations. Just click on comments below.
Download the Counting The Beat - Record Store Day Podcast