On April 22nd, my alarm went off at 6 a.m. I woke up, showered, ordered an Uber, and was out the door by 7 a.m. Most days, I go to sleep at 4 a.m. and wake up at 11 a.m. The Father, the Son AND the Holy Ghost would have to come down and shake me if anybody wants me awake before noon on a weekend. But on the night of April 21st, something came over me. There was indeed divine intervention that allowed me to wake up so early and energized on April 22nd. It came in the form of Record Store Day.
Record Store Day is an event that occurs twice a year. Once on Black Friday, and once on the third Saturday of April. It’s the largest single-day music event in the world and has probably single-handedly saved independent record stores. But what’s so special about this day, you ask? You can just buy records any day of the year! Well, I could be reasonable, but there’s probably no fun in that. Plus, Record Store Day (RSD) records are my holy grail. There are three types of Record Store Day releases: exclusive releases, limited/regional releases, and RSD first releases. Exclusive releases are records that are only printed and released on/for RSD, limited/regional releases are rare titles in numbered quantities (usually 1000 of each), and RSD first releases are records that are first sold at indie stores before being sold to the public. Depending on where you are in the country, RSD can get competitive and ugly. Being a record collector is serious business. And I am a serious shareholder in this business.
When I got to Exile on Main St. at 7:15 a.m., there were already 20 people in line in front of me. This is not an ideal number of people, but it was only my first RSD in Connecticut (beggars can’t be choosers). I stood in line, preparing myself for the 3-hour-long journey ahead. Though new to the Connecticut RSD scene, I’m no rookie: I was ready with my portable charger, my headphones, gum, and some water. The RSD lists are posted months before the event, and every veteran knows not to be an ass and walk into the store with no idea of what records they might want. I decided I would grab Maya Hawke’s To Love a Boy colored 45”, Paul McCartney and Wings’ Red Rose Speedway 50th anniversary half-speed remaster, Elton John’s Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player 50th anniversary colored vinyl, and The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Incense and Peppermints. The waiting began.
I think this was only my fourth Record Store Day ever. Back home in South Florida, I was somehow able to convince my parents to let me stand in a line at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. It was becoming a yearly tradition for me up until the pandemic hit, and it saddened me to lose it for a year. So many interesting characters camp out overnight just to spend their money, and I dearly missed them. There’s something about standing in a line to get a limited product that makes people really excited. It makes me excited too, knowing that I can hold a piece of physical media that only few will be able to say they have. I love to be able to hold my music and take care of it as if it had a soul.
Last year, I didn’t feel like waking up early to go to the record store. I thought that if I were to go to a RSD in Connecticut, it would make everything about Yale more real. Bringing a tradition from home here would mean I really had grown my little wings and flown away, so I didn’t go. But this year was different. I was feeling extremely homesick, and the existential dread that comes with finals season was really taking a toll on me. When I’m home, I can feel all that yucky Yale dread seeping out of me. Hollywood, Florida has everything I could ever need. Within walking distance from my house, I can get to a record store, food from just about anywhere in the world, the beach, a nature reserve, my friends’ houses, live music, the library, etc. The weather is breezy and warm, and the people are down-to-earth, calm, and funny (my running theory is that people from Broward County are innately hilarious). Yes, I can find all these individual things at Yale, but the loneliness feels more real because no one can relate to or even understand my feelings of longing for Hollywood (most people don’t know it even exists). No one here went to my high school, no one here grew up with me, and I feel no one here is capable of knowing me until they physically visit me in Hollywood, where I am truly myself. Record Store Day is just as sacred to me as Hollywood is—probably because it represents my teenage years and contextualizes the record collection I have spent years building—and I felt then that I should not blur the lines between what I do at home and what I do at Yale. But in many ways, New Haven is like my home—a small, coastal city, with almost everything you could need in walking distance. But New Haven didn’t feel real to me until this semester. I always felt like I was just passing by and not actually living here. Something just clicked inside of me. RSD was really calling to me, in Connecticut, for some reason.
So this year, I decided to go, hoping that standing in a line with a bunch of record aficionados for hours would cure me. And for a little while, it did. I felt I was at home, even if it was only for 4 hours. And yes, I got the records I wanted.