Photo of Sonic Boom’s lower level, from their website.
Once upon a time, people shopped for music in these things called “record stores.” Some of these relics still exist, and although Toronto’s motley crew of music retailers is still licking its collective wound after not being deemed good enough to be considered Canada’s best—or even one of the top five best!—in CBC’s initial Searchlight contest, they’re a beloved part of our city’s storefront scape.
On Saturday, April 18, some of our establishments will participate in this year’s Record Store Day, an event in its second year that simply aims to celebrate independent record stores. To participate, according to the official website, a store must be “a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least fifty percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded, and whose ownership is at least seventy percent located in the state of operation.” While Torontoist could wax faux-philosophical all day about the fading aesthetic, principle, or memories that going into a store and excitedly buying new albums used to bring, frankly, we got tired of hauling our collections from apartment to apartment, and, well, we just really love us some shiny music-holding gadgets.
But some things can’t be replaced by a tetra-something hard drive and some earbuds, and one of those things is casually strolling into a store in the middle of the afternoon and watching a band set up and play. Sonic Boom (located at 512 Bloor Street West, and who, as they do for most in-stores, requests a non-perishable food item donation) has an impressive line-up starting at 4:00 p.m., including hometown indie upstarts Hooded Fang and local favourites Lullaby Arkestra, and Criminal Records (493 Queen Street West) welcomes spectators at 6:00 p.m. for Pitchfork darlings Rock Plaza Central and up-and-comers The Great Bloomers. Sunrise Records, the only independently owned record retail chain in Canada, will host a “wicked cool day” with giveaways and lots of performances, including sets by a Finger Eleven “side project,” and…Honeymoon Suite. (Despite a rather underwhelming Record Store Day line-up and general merchandise selection, the Sunrise Records at Yonge and Bloor does have the most friendly and helpful record store staff in the city, which counts for more year-round than one day as partytime participants.) And Rotate This (801 Queen Street West), with their particular brand of bitter charm, is “keeping with the spirit of peer pressure within the record retail community and the accompanying label-fuelled frenzy to sell you even more product in unique formats” by offering a 10% discount on all purchases; silent sideways-glare judgement remains free of charge for this special day. Soundscapes (572 College Street) will also offer a 10% discount on all purchases, and most participating stores will offer exclusive in-store specials and giveaways.
Will this still-new worldwide event actually drive people who don’t normally frequent record stores to empty their online basket and proceed to a real-life checkout? Probably not. But there’s nothing wrong with a Saturday stroll through the city; taking in some local business and culture, all the while, feeling like you’re damning the man.