When the average 21st-century music fan wakes up in the morning, he or she often turns on the smartphone and taps away into the digital life that we all now share, like, 18 hours a day. Free download after free download glides past our eyes as we swipe at touch screens, enunciate for Siri, plug in headphones, and turn off the world.
That's all fine and good. But sometimes, an audio junkie needs something to hold, even hug. And of course, we're talking about vinyl, because Record Store Day is nearly here, and it's got us thinking about wax's constantly revolving place in our culture and society. Why is it important? And how can we celebrate it?
Vinyl began to creep back into prominence, yet again, around 2006, as Lauren Reskin, AKA Lolo of Sweat Records, tells us. And it just happened to be around the same time she opened the shop.
Sweatstock 2014: With Sunbears, AJ Davila y Terror Amor, Jellyfish Brothers, Shroud Eater, and others. 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 19, at Sweat Records, 5505 NE Second Ave., Miami; 786-693-9309; sweatrecordsmiami.com. Admission is free. All ages.
On why records continue to be popular today, Reskin notes, "So many people now, generations after me, have never even had a music collection that wasn't on their hard drive. I think younger generations are drawn to vinyl as this big analog representation — you know, finally seeing their music manifest."
That newfound need for the tangible, something to grasp onto and delve into, has led to a change in modern-day decision-making in the music industry. With the vinyl market growing again, labels big and small are taking extra care with the presentation of their products.
"They've been coming out with really amazing packaging of big, full-color inserts," Reskin points out. "There are even cloth-bound books full of seven-inches and all kinds of beautiful packaging that really turn these releases into part art piece, part collectible, part record."
It's all about supply and demand. If we show the record biz bigwigs our open arms (and wallets), they will deliver the prettiest package our sunglass-shielded eyes have ever seen. Plus, they'll add a free digital download code, so we're never without our tunes.
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Helping to nudge along vinyl's current resurgence is Record Store Day and participating events such as Reskin's Sweatstock, an annual celebration of the wax slab and its lovers (not to mention Sweat Records' anniversary), complete with food trucks, giveaways, and, of course, live music.
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The mini-fest is also an all-ages party, because Reskin wants to reach out and recruit the next generation of audio junkies. As she says: "I don't want younger kids who live here to think that nothing cool ever happens that they can actually go to. I hope to see a lot of teenagers and high-schoolers and anyone who has an open mind and wants to experience what's happening in the Miami music scene."
This year's lineup boasts Jacksonville rockers (and Yo Gabba Gabba veterans) Sunbears, Puerto Rico's AJ Davila, as well as some SoFla favorites such as the Jellyfish Brothers, Shroud Eater, Suede Dudes, Bobby Flan, and many, many more.
Celebrating music and vinyl with a big RSD blowout is one thing, but garnering continual support is what really matters to Reskin. "Even if we didn't do Sweatstock, Record Store Day would still be our biggest day of the year. We go through the effort because it's our way of saying thanks to everybody from the scene — the bands, the people, the general patrons of the arts of Miami's indie scene. It's a day that you can come out, enjoy yourself, not break your bank, and run into old friends, see new bands, have an awesome time."