|Sounds of the Universe enjoys a healthy crowd|
The importance of record store day in reviving people's interests in buying physical records cannot be underestimated. As someone who loves buying old and new records, CDs, music magazines and fanzines, having physical stores in which to snaffle the latest Ninja Tune delight or discover a new recommendation is vital.
But it's also not a day for the preachy, everyone knows records are great and some of us know it's more important to spend your wages on them than, say, food or bills. Yesterday's sixth annual Record Store Day was as vintage as they come as attendees basked in the spring sunshine across the country.
Personally, I had a nip down to Rough Trade West only to find a gigantic queue back to Portobello Road as shoppers thronged to get hold of exclusives only stocked on that day. Then it was over to Soho where Foyles were also celebrating and Broadwick Street and Berwick Street had been closed and a large stage erected on the latter. As far as shopping went, I plundered Sounds of the Universe - one of my favourite shop's in the world - and emerged with some great stuff including Martyn's Ghost People (Brainfeeder) which is proving a pulsating banger of an album.
What struck me was how the serene art of shuffling round record shops had become essentially a mini-festival (complete with outdoor boozing, stewards and nips into pubs for the loo) with various stages and people looking ridiculously trendy. The main stage outside one-time ShadowPlay stockist Sister Ray ploughed the indie rock furrow and Black Market Records on D'Arbley Street hosted some great house and dubstep.
The biggest cheer of the day came when a bloke in a Bentley attempted to get through the crowds looking exasperated, was roundly booed before a Majestic Wine van stacked with booze is cheered by a crowd feeling quite anti-establishment having tininess in the street. Sounds of the Universe was its usual eclectic self with plenty of Soul Jazz Records delights with speakers outside, finishing with a storming set from Neil Birnie who's SunCut show on NTS is worth a listen.
One gripe was that it would have been good to have the set times for the bands easily accessible online - given the length of the event - and I also missed the Last Shop Standing author Graham Jones' Q&A for the same reason which was gutting. It would've also been good to have some of the independent labels taking stalls - as has been the case in previous events - down Berwick Street but maybe that would've undermined the shops. But it's hard to criticise a free, fun event.
Ultimately records will always remain close to my heart as they allow you to have a physical relationship with music which can genuinely change your life. Moreover, with a terrible memory like mine, a physical reminder to listen to something is vital.
I don't believe every town, or even every city, will have a record shop - independent or otherwise - in the future and I hate that fact. Record stores are not charities, and many of those who work in them are rather grumpy, but they do need support to allow great labels and great artists to have an interesting and enjoyable avenue in which to be discovered. A record store's for life, not just for record store day.