There's something to be said for convenient music. You can click "Buy" on your laptop in the confines of your white-walled bedroom to download your favorite song of the minute. Or browse for albums in your local big box store in the midst of vacuums and blenders. But come on, forget about all of that.
There's only one place that will make you remember what music means to people, and what people mean to music: a record store. An authentic, hole in the wall, vinyl-smelling, bass-thumping record store.
Saturday is the second annual Record Store Day, a celebration of the culture of music now observed by more than 700 independent retailers nationwide. Hard to find vinyl releases will be exclusively available in record shops, including names like Neil Young, Regina Spektor, Jenny Lewis and early anti-pirating advocates Metallica.
Eric Levin, founder of both the Association of Independent Media Stores and Criminal Records of Atlanta, co-founded Record Store Day after his comic book shop observed Free Comic Book Day. He said he took the same mentality of celebration and sales and applied it to record shops.
"I think it's amazing what we've accomplished in two years," Levin said. He's seen vinyl sales increase, partly due to young kids who find more enjoyment in physically owning music.
"I think we're going to see more record stores," he said. "I'm always hearing about new stores. There's always going to be an entrepreneurial spirit behind this art."
Dan DuChaine is the co-owner of Rush-Mor Records, 2635 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., an establishment that has quite the story in itself. DuChaine was a longtime customer of the record store and bought it in 1996, along with employee William Rouleau, when it was going to be turned into a cigarette depot. The two guys decided they'd give business a go for a year and see how it treated them. One year turned into five, and it's been breathing ever since.
In a culture of instant gratification, technology and anti-social habits, DuChaine said record stores are becoming more of niches in themselves these days. But he is quick to deny fears of record stores' extinction.
"You can buy beer and drink it at home, but people still go out," he said. "People want to interact, meet more people."
The average visitor that strolls into Rush-Mor is between the ages of 25 to 45, DuChaine said. A steady customer base of regulars keeps the place going, and he still sees a few customers that recall the day they saw Elvis perform.
When DuChaine and Rouleau were about to buy Rush-Mor, another record store owner shared some wise words with the men.
"He said to me, 'You'll never get rich, but you'll meet a lot of cool people, learn a lot of culture and hear a lot of new music,' " DuChaine said.
For Record Store Day, Rush-Mor seems to be applying that mind frame to their celebration: an all-day pub and live music crawl through the Bay View neighborhood starring local artists and bands.
The afternoon will start around 1 p.m. at Frank's Power Plant, 2800 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., with a performance by Bear Proof Suit, a local hardcore punk band. A congregation of people will travel to various venues for acts including Father Phoenix, Wereworm and the hip-hop of C-Section. Finally, at Club Garibaldi, 2501 S. Superior St., at 8 p.m. both the Ill Ego Aliens and hip-hop group The Rusty P's will perform.
"It's easy to be selfish and be like 'Hey, come here and hang out here all day,' " DuChaine said. "But it's more like, 'let's go explore the neighborhood.' "
The Exclusive Company, 1669 N. Farwell Ave., is also participating in Record Store Day. The store sells all music under the sun — from old school soul and funk to obscure bands to the top 40 of the day. Manager Terry Hackbarth said the store is 100 percent regulars and caters to hardcore fans who see music as a lifestyle.
On Saturday, 15 Milwaukee — and Madison area — bands will be playing at Exclusive as part of an all day party at the store, complete with free food, beer and record sales. Bands playing include Pezzettino, Sleep Tight Co., The Candeliers, Invade Rome, Plexi 3 and The Nice Outfits. The store will also be selling an album with various selections of the featured bands. All proceeds will go to Milwaukee's independent radio station WMSE 91.7.