Record Store Day 2013 – Rise Music Shop Bristol

Well another record store day has passed and what a day it was.  More releases than ever before and the most well attended by music fans and those who wish to support independent record stores.

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This year I chose Rise Music store in Bristol for the 3rd year running and it was an even better experience than usual due to the excellent staff and organisation of the large queues that inevitably are formed so early in the morning.

Rise has recently had to branch out and diversify its product range in order to keep the integrity of it’s core activity, namely being an independent record store.  They now have a partnership on the ground floor of the premises with Friska, bringing a high quality independent Cafe and a stage for in store gigs.  This works remarkably well and in someways adds to the record store ambiance rather than taking away from it.

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So for record store day rather than waiting in the freezing cold for hours we were able to spend some of it in the warmth of the cafe while waiting for the fun to begin.

This year I ended up getting to the shop for 4:15am, yes – 4:15!!!! unbelievably I was still 20th in the line!

It was a 2 hour wait before the cafe opened at 6am and slowly allowed the queue of people to enter.  The lucky first 20 in the queue get their items picked for them and a goody bag with some freebies for making the effort.  This is an excellent way of doing it and avoids the scrum for the very rare items that people are after.

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Lawrence (owner of the store) sporting his red fez for the day was constantly looking after people making sure they got the help they needed to find what they wanted.

It’s an exciting time to get your hands on the limited edition items, however, it is easy to forget what the day is really about.  To bring people into the independent record stores all over the country that have been going out of business at an alarming rate.

The record stores still around are excellent and have had to up their game by diversifying and essentially giving people a much better experience.  Rough Trade, Sister Ray and soul jazz records to name a few I have been to recently are all excellent.  One of the great pleasures is talking to the staff who are enthusiasts for new music and are extremely knowledgeable.  Rise Music is excellent at this, and many are in bands themselves such as Olo Worms in Bristol, adding to the live music vibe of the store.

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The much hullabaloo about HMV recently brings into focus how good independent record stores are.  People cry that HMV is the last music store on the high street.  My beef with this is that I don’t think that it has truly been a music store for 20 years.  It lost it’s soul a long time ago and became a bland entertainment store, charging too much on the whole, with little support for local bands hiding vinyl in a corner somewhere if you were lucky.

Whoever has the pleasure of re-organising the HMV business model would do well to look at the independent record stores for inspiration.

So what were my picks of the RSD 2013.  I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on all 3 of the Caribou albums – of which rise only had 3 copies of each in store.  Tame Impala, Paul Weller, David Bowie and Nick Cave were all highlights for me.

Apparently the day became the best in Rise music’s history so far.  The interest generated by the event and the entertainment provided by Rise was superb.  The bands that played all day were excellent and I met many like minded music lovers from as far away as Swindon who will be back next year.  More importantly, they will be back between now and the next RSD supporting their independent record shops.

As if to stress the point – I was back at Rise the next day for an in store free gig by Mathew E White.  A lunch time beer and a free gig is not a bad way to spend a Sunday.  Mathew E White was amazing.  The band played for about half an hour, the ground floor was packed and the music was superb.  Their rhythm section blew the house down.

I couldn’t recommend Rise music highly enough.  Remember to support our local record stores!

Social Cleansing: Yet again government policy not living up to their rhetoric

Today we have a new scandal on the front pages, “social cleansing” and the movement of masses of people to other areas of the country.

This type of action is only something previously heard of in war torn countries or extreme right wing (even fascist) regimes.  Yet today, Grant Shapps, Conservative Housing minister is trying to explain why the actions of Newham Council are happening when he specifically told the country that this would NOT be the result of government policy.

Newham Council, in London, the Olympic capital for 2012, is in discussions with Stoke on Trent, one of the most deprived areas of the country, to take up to 500 residents from their area because they can no longer afford to provide social housing for people due to the caps on Housing benefit.

We were assured by ministers that the idea of “social cleansing” and the fear of wholesale movement of poorer people out of the well off areas of London was simply hysterical, is now looking a little hollow.

We were assured by Grant Shapps in interviews:

Housing minister rebuts opposition critics: “We are not being unfair”
and
Concerns over Housing Benefit reforms “complete nonsense” says Grant Shapps.

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/oct/28/housing-benefit-cuts-defended

Now the very concern dismissed by the government is now becoming fact.  Whether by design or simply government incompetence (it is difficult to tell the difference at the moment) their policy is having the exact result that they stated would not happen.

The BBC reports:

Newham Council says it can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation.

The gap between market rents and the housing allowance is too big, it says.

It has written to the Brighter Futures Housing Association in Stoke, offering it the “opportunity” to lease homes to it.

The letter says the local private rental sector is beginning to “overheat” because of the “onset of the Olympic Games and the buoyant young professionals market”.

It says the council can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation as the gap between market rents and the local housing allowance has become too great.

The council has been “forced to look further afield for alternative supply”, it adds.

And unbelievably this is a “Labour” council.

But along with so much this government says like “no top down re-organisation of the NHS” ; “We are all in this together”; “No Banker will have a bonus of more than £2,000; and that they had no plans to raise VAT, all become hollow in the face of reality.

As with the NHS reforms that will have changed the service for ever, we will not know the full effects of the reforms until several years later, when the damage will have been done and most probably irreversible.

In respect of moving 500 people to Stoke On Trent, I understand that the “people” concerned have neither been consulted or their concerns heard.

This is policy could have some of the most vial consequences our country has ever seen, but we will sleep walk on regardless.

RECORD STORE DAY 2012: A Vinyl extravaganza at Bristol’s best independent record store RISE

Record store day 2012 finally arrived in the early hours of yesterday 21st April.  I chose Rise Records, one of the finest record stores in the UK and the best independent record store in Bristol as my vinyl heaven location.

I nipped into RISE on Friday afternoon to see how preparations were going, the staff seemed a little rushed off their feet! With over 400 titles to put out onto the floor and prepare for what they hoped would be hoards of eager shoppers, they had their work cut out.

Each year the event has been going, it has become more popular with more releases and more interest.  Vinyl sales went up by over 40% last year and a welcome niche market has opened up for the musical connoisseur and a lifeline for “real” independent record shops.  Times are hard, and Record Store Day is a welcome silver lining to the dark clouds of economic gloom for record dealers around the world.

Last year I began queuing at 6:10am for the 8am lift off. By the time the shop opened there was a queue several hundred meters long. This time I was told that people were intending to start queuing at 4am!  So with heavy eyelids I set my alarm for 4am and got to the queue for around 4:30am.

It is essential to be in the first 20 in the queue as people are let in 20 at a time.  I was number 8!  This year I managed to even persuade my partner to join the fun!  Ironically I was standing next to the same people as last year as the geek music chat began!

Time passed quickly as the excitement built and the darkness fell away.  Automatic lights came on in the shop to reveal the hundreds of limited edition titles on display, and then by 7am the staff arrived to prepare for the rush.

It was incredibly well organised as they passed out lists to the first 20 people to pick their items strictly to Record Store Day rules – first come first serve.  This prevents any initial over exuberance and “elbowing” tactics for the ultra rare items.  Last year there was nearly a fight over a Dr Who single!

8 o’clock came and we were allowed in, our piles of records waiting for us.  We browsed in ore at the wealth of vinyl on offer to be tempted with yet more purchases.  It is hard to resist!

Some ask, “what is the point of vinyl?”, usually asked with their mp3 in their pocket full of pirated music that they have neither paid for or on the most part ever listened to.

I love music, all kinds and on all formats.  Everything has its place.  Mp3 players are amazing and very convenient; CD’s are excellent quality these days and are also convenient (the original CD’s in the 80′s and early 90′s were simply awful quality); and Vinyl are a different listening experience, superb quality and playing albums the way there were intended to be listened to, with artwork and an emotional experience.

The Vinyl experience is different and more attentive and more emotional.  When record companies began trying to force the death of vinyl in a re-issuing frenzy on CD of back catalogue items in a “bring them in and pile them high” attitude as a cash cow, the emotional aspect of buying records began to be broken.  The start of the death nail for recorded music.

This year many of the items available for record store day are of high quality and much sought after, along with some titles that are the inevitable cash in.  Record store day is more than just getting your hands on some lovely limited vinyl though, it is an event.  RISE had bands on all day and DJ sets, Record store day beer (very good!) as well as special offers and a few give away’s.  With   physical sales of music declining and difficult economic times generally this day has become very important in the record store retail calender.

The highlight for me was seeing Duke Spirit play live at 3pm.  They were superb and I can’t wait to listen to their live album I bought.

My vinyl highlights were The Kinks re-issues; Lee Scratch Perry 3 x 10″ box set; David Bowie Starman pic disc; Refused “The shape of punk to come”; Blood Music 7″; Keith Howard 12″;  Gorillaz 10″, Edwyn Collins tape box and Velvet Underground Loaded on pink Vinyl!

I’m still counting the cost however, as inevitably over enthusiasm got the better of me! Not to worry, it’s only once a year!

A great day for independent music shops – great music, great live music, great beer and a great day.  Thanks RISE for an excellent day!

Roll on next year . . . . .

FRED GOODWIN no longer “Sir”

It is amazing what happens and who crawls from the undergrowth when the “establishment” is attacked.

In order to gain the favour of the public, the very people who were courting the Bankers, the city and large corporations, are now falling over themselves to nail a banker to the wall and then take the plaudits.

It is all very amusing.  However, we now have the “backlash”, saying politicians and the general public are using “Fred the Shred” as a scapegoat.

Even, the ultra left wing 80′s politician turned new labour “Darling”, Alistair Darling, (seriously no pun intended), is now voicing concern that people who manage to obtain an honour bestowed on them by the state may refuse their honour, because the “people” may wish to hold them to account for their behaviour following their receipt of this honour.

God forbid you may say.  For then we may ask Lord Archer to leave the House of Lords and not allow proven liars, nay, even a perjurer, to make laws in this land.  A ridiculous constitutional arrangement where no matter what a Lord does, we cannot get rid of them.

Or if we give a Knighthood to a dedicated member of the community, who is then found to be a paedophile, should we not take away the honour?

The very argument that we should not take away an honour because some may think twice about accepting it; or that this will just open the flood gates to taking back honours from others that have fallen from grace, is pathetic in the extreme.

I say, let the flood gates open, and let the great and the good and yes the “not so good”, think twice before taking an honour.  They should know full well that if they behave in such a disgraceful manner that society deems it necessary to take back that honour, that this is exactly what we should do.  Not to gain a percentage point in the polls, but on principle and because it is right.

What Nervous Airline Passengers Do NOT Want To See When Boarding The Plane!

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WORLD ECONOMIC DOWNTURN: Yet more evidence

Shock and surprise greeted hundreds of holiday makers recently when they arrived at the airport to pick up their hire cars.  Europcar, one of the most trusted hire car companies appear to have fallen on hard times, as the quality of their fleet is called into question.

What next?

NEWS – HOW ABOUT A POSITIVE HALF HOUR?

So what have we learnt this week.  The wonderful festive season, Christmas; the season of good will and festive cheer. Whether we are looking forward or looking back surely this is a good time of year?

Well so far this week we have endured the commercial greed of the high streets with cries of – Recession what recession??  , fighting on Christmas eve as Marks and Spencer’s slash  their prices on food; a stabbing in the boxing day sales on Oxford Street; and someone shot in Salford along with the inevitable cries of “Did you not know a Dog is for life and not just for Christmas?”.

However, despite the inevitable doom and gloom a lot of good things have been going on.  Despite one person being shot in Salford, many in the community managed to get around without being shot and even see their families along the way.

Many people up and down the country have been, well enjoying themselves.  Seeing friends and family; giving to charity; and even partaking in community activities, making sure those living alone do not become isolated at Christmas and the homeless have a place to stay.

There IS a positive AND a negative, yet looking at the way we portray the world in our news bulletins as they come into our homes, the world is not always such a dark place.

This is why I propose something quite radical.

A POSITIVE HALF HOUR

Yes yes I know – only negative news sells, but all I am asking is half an hour.

We have wall to wall 24 hour news, yet we hardly let ourselves catch breath before we have to “drop the dead donkey” for news of the Euro or some other calamity.

Balance in reporting come in many guises.  Not just between differing view points but between positive and the negative.  I propose that now and again, not even every day, but periodically the 24 hour news channels give up half an hour for positive news.

How about it?  Is it really that hard?