Get into the grooves

Posted April 16, 2009, at 7:22 p.m.

While the vast millions are zoned out in iPod land, getting carpal tunnel syndrome from excessive use of the click wheel, there are still some who prefer the warm crackle of vinyl. Who’d rather buy the latest album from their favorite artist first thing Tuesday morning, rather than download it. Who like having album art, lyric books and something you can actually hold in your hand, instead of an mp3.

Independent music stores and chains across the country and the world want to thank those devoted people, and those dogged music fans can show their appreciation back, with the second annual Record Store Day this Saturday, April 18. More than 1,000 stores from Waterville, Maine, to Wellington, New Zealand, will participate in the event, which features in-store performances and a host of giveaways, special releases and sales.

What you may not know about Record Store Day, however, is that it was started right here in Maine.

“I honestly thought we’d need a few more years to build it up. We’d need to build up support from the industry and prove it,” said Chris Brown, vice president of operations for Bull Moose Music and the originator of Record Store Day. “But, as it turns out, it took off immediately. We had around 600 stores last year. This year, we have over 1,000, and in multiple countries. The fact that it’s got its roots in Maine is just even cooler.”

Bull Moose Music, which celebrates its 20th year in business this year, is one of the biggest independent music store chains in the Eastern U.S., with 10 stores, eight of them in Maine.

At the Bull Moose in Bangor, Record Store Day will feature performances starting at 4 p.m. from electro-indie band The Sophomore Beat and pop-punkers the Exclusive.

“It’s like a holiday. I love it,” said Mark McCrillis, manager of the Bangor Bull Moose, “People know about it, and ask about the special things that are coming out for it. We’ve got all this great stuff from the big-time names this year, like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. I think all kinds of artists really enjoy a chance to give back to their fans.”

Some of those special releases are from the aforementioned Dylan and Springsteen, as well as Ben Harper, My Morning Jacket, The Smiths, Magnolia Electric Co. and Pavement, as well as special vinyl releases from Taking Back Sunday, Green Day, Neil Young, Regina Spektor and many more.

According to personal testimonials from music stars featured on the event’s Web site, www.recordstoreday.com, the corner record store is still an important part of musical culture, despite the dominance of digital media.

“I hate to see record stores disappear, and I’m old-school in that I think you should pay for your music,” said Bruce Springsteen. “But what my kids do is download a lot of things, pay for them, and then if they love something, they’ll get the CD. That may be the future.”

“Going from buying music at department stores to Bull Moose changed my life,” said Dave Gutter, lead singer for Maine heroes the Rustic Overtones. “I used to go in as a kid just to look at album art of indie records I had never seen before. Much of this kind of browsing led to my discovery of bands like Dinosaur Jr. and the Pixies.”

From the employee end, the relationship between customer and worker is more akin to that of a librarian and a library patron, or a bartender or barista and the person they’re serving. It ends up being more personal, as each person learns about the other’s likes and dislikes. Almost everyone has some kind of an opinion about music — whether it’s folks who like mainstream pop and rock bands, or diehard metal fans, hip-hop heads or jazz fiends.

“That’s what makes it so much fun — you can talk records with customers. They learn about stuff, and usually you learn about new stuff, too,” said McCrillis. “It’s the art of discovery.”

While Brown recognizes that the average record store has experienced a decline in sales since the dawn of the iPod age, he believes that there will always be a market for those who would rather have the experience of browsing through a store, instead of sitting alone, hunched over a computer.

“Music is about communication, and about connecting with people. That always works better face to face,” said Brown. “The stuff that we sell is stuff that moves people. When someone finds something they really, really like, it can be life-changing. One of the best things about working in a record store is that you get people that come back and say, ‘That thing you turned me on to? It’s awesome!’”

All Bull Moose Music stores in Maine will feature events on Record Store Day, including performances from Ani DiFranco on Friday and Disturbed on Saturday at the Portland store, Dominic and the Lucid at the Waterville store, and the Exclusive and the Sophomore Beat in Bangor. For a full listing of all Record Store Day events, visit www.recordstoreday.com, or visit www.bullmoose.com.

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