Whatever your thoughts are about Record Store Day, major label re-issues, or how the “holiday” neglects small, independent labels, there’s no denying that Chicago’s vinyl-slingers have been bringing their A-games the last few years in terms of booking bands and planning fun, day-of activities. There was so, so much going on last weekend, and so this isn’t intended to be any kind of full recap of all of the day’s programming. For that I’d need a cloning machine, a couple extra cameras and cars, and a lot of coffee. That said, here’s some of what I saw and heard from Record Store Day 2015 in the Windy City.
I started my day a little before noon at Vintage Vinyl in Evanston, where I was pleasantly surprised to find a ton of RSD-releases and a store that was pleasantly bustling but not insanely crowded. I was able to grab the new Twin Peaks 7″, In the Morning (In the Evening) before popping outside to see local psychedelic rock group The Luck of Eden Hall. The group debuted in 1990 with a 7″ release on Limited Potential, a local label who was also responsible for Smashing Pumpkins debut 7″ I Am One the same year. Having had plenty of time to hone their skills, the band easily overcame a less-than-ideal sound system, keeping the crowd hooked with their effervescent brand of pop-psych. Drifting, spacious ballads were scorched with streams of lysergic guitar licks, while the harder rock songs benefited from being draped in the glow of some gorgeous, fractal mellotron and synth work. Those looking to get acquainted with The Luck of Eden Hall should check them out on August 29th when they open for The Psychedelic Furs at Skokie’s Backlot Bash.
Made it down to a packed Reckless Records on Broadway about 10 minutes before the legendary Local H was set to perform. By the time this afternoon set kicked off the store was sold out of all RSD titles, but there were still plenty of enthusiastic shoppers weaving through the sardine can-tight crowd looking for new wax. The browsing came to an abrupt halt when a black-clad Scott Lucas and Ryan Harding began blasting out a track from the duo’s new record, Hey, Killer. The record is Local H’s first with Harding, but the two sounded perfectly in sync as they tore through a short set of new material. The crowd was blasted with loud, grizzly, punk-tinted alt-rock ragers that hit eardrums like a runaway train, and then in a blink it was over. Their furious final jam left my hearing fuzzy, my heart pounding and my fingers reaching for my wallet.
Never have I been more thankful for “rock and roll time” than on Record Store Day. After arriving at Permanent well past when festivities were supposed to kick off, I was thrilled to hear that no one had played yet. First up were Chicago punks Buckingham Palace SVU, who accurately describe themselves as “loud drunk pulsing noise.” The group banged out reckless, wild punk jams that sounded like the tantrums of a cornered, viscous animal. Demolition percussion blazed a path for guitars that sounded like a tornado tearing through a needle factory, while SVU’s frontman barreled about the front of the crowd, howling, growling and almost aching for a pit to break out. Had one erupted it would’ve overtaken the bathroom and wrecked plenty of vinyl, but the tease of that energy left me desperate to see these guys somewhere with more room to rock.
Jangling Chicago rockers Clearance were a refreshing change of pace, conjuring up a series of chill melodies that sounded like an in-tune take on some of Sonic Youth’s softer moments. A more accurate “RIYL” for the foursome are probably bands like Weezer and Smoking Popes, but I wasn’t the only one to hear a little Thurston in the tunes. Clearance’s breezy hooks, smooth delivery and frothing guitars sounded a touch edgier live than on Catalogue Nos., a 2014 retrospective spanning the first year of the band’s releases. That said, their recordings are sure to be a solid addition to your summer playlists, and you get fourteen songs for ten bones. You’ve got more bones than that in your hand!
The last band of the day was ADT, an outfit that’s a veritable who’s-who of local skronkers and experimenters. The band features Jake Acosta of Famous Laughs, Kyle Drouin of Banal Anml, Johnny D of Spooky Moon, Ben Billington of Tiger Hatchery and Whitney Allen of Columbia Fasciata, and sounds like a tripped-out conversation between Sun Ra and his alien overlords. The band’s ruminations were quirky and seductive, rude and elegant, and felt boundless. No note seemed careless, and each player looked perfectly locked into the summoning of these curious sonic creatures. Despite the fractured jazz and electronic atmospherics, ADT’s performance felt tangible, felt organic. These strange sounds all swirled and bonded and the result had breath, had a pulse, had warmth. That’s a significant achievement in a medium that can often feel distant, or seriously intellectual or just plain obtuse. Yes, this is excellent music to have in the background while at the computer, but it’s a a stunning experience live.
By set’s end there wasn’t time to make it to Bric-A-Brac or saki, both of whom also had awesome lineups and are generally excellent vinyl shoppes. Chicago photographer Sarah Hess captured some awesome shots of the shenanigans at Bric-A-Brac for IMPOSE, including sets by Cincinnati “trash pop” band Tweens and Chicago ska punks Ultrahazard. Not being able to clone myself was probably the biggest bummer of Record Store Day, and that’s not exactly something I can crow to 2015 RSD Ambassador Dave Grohl about. Or I can, but he can’t do shit about it.