My first “record store” was a pitiful section in a supermarket with a dozen cassettes displayed with criminal negligence. I bought Frogstomp by Silverchair there and tried to talk to the overly made up sales lady about the band and all I got was some side eye and sass. This kind of apathy (sometimes open hostility) was a familiar experience from retail clerks even when I graduated from cassettes to CDs.
It happened so often that it became normal and the default process in which I bought music was to just point at something, pay and leave — kinda like buying shampoo. When iTunes came about, I dove in and happily bought digital downloads because I didn’t miss the side-eye I got from retail clerks if I wanted music other than boy-bands or girls cackling fake soul music in thongs. In other words, the bar was set so low in how I purchased music and it only changed when I got into vinyl.
I had to search out people who still carried vinyl LPs and stumbled onto shops and other colorful sellers and my experiences ran the gamut from playing a willing victim to overpriced records to scoring cherished albums for the price of a wad of gum. Aside from the music, the act of the purchase was the product itself. It seems that I wasn’t alone in that re-discovery.
Vinyl is back, and I feel like such a cliché for saying it, as the past five years have seen over a hundred articles spouting sales figures and charts that indeed prove that a physical medium long considered disemboweled by the CD (which is ironically in decline) is on the up and up. With the vinyl renaissance in full swing, the country is now slowly building up a niche community of sellers and independent stores (both physical and online) that — I’m happy to report — can talk to you about your favorite band without the side-eye and sass I had to endure.
The country’s vinyl momentum leads up to where I am right now, as I’m about to step into Buddha Bar Manila for the country’s first ever celebration of Record Store Day and it’s a happy coincidence that it’s also RSD’s 10th anniversary. The venue is also one of the premier nightlife bars in the country, which translated into a curious but exciting experience for a record dig.
You’re instantly transported to a lux oriental themed space as you enter, with a full on band setup in the middle for the accompanying set of mini concerts after sundown. Flanking the middle dancefloor/band area is an explosion of vinyl and audio equipment that would make any record collector and audiophile drool.
I honestly couldn’t make up my mind where to start and what to do. Should I talk to record collector friends, search for the DJ spinning crackly grooves, start digging or soak up the electric atmosphere? I settle for chaos and indulge in everything by talking, digging, laughing and throwing money around – fiscal responsibilities be damned!
I don’t know whose elbows I’m jostling or whose eyesight I’m blocking but it’s all fair game, we all came here knowing that chaos will lead to joy. We were bonded even as acquaintances by our own indulgence. We came in as alone but end up a community of diggers.
After all, this record store day celebration materialized out of the mushrooming audio/vinyl community long fermenting in the fringes of social media. Spearheaded by Audio Pilipinas, the premier Facebook audio group in the country, the RSD 2017 event was a labor of love that brought together a host of independent record stores, bands and audio sellers to provide everybody with the experience of the joy (and financial pain) of buying LPs, interacting with collectors and being surrounded by recorded music.
After the initial thrill of seeing everybody ogling thousands of vinyl LPs, I got a kick out of the mixed demographic attending the event. Kids, bored housewives, patient girlfriends and teens were added to the usual mix of men, either starting on their vinyl journey or hardened by years of tormenting their wallets for records. Even major brands had dipped their toes in the action as seen in the Audio Technica booth with their new line of turntables aimed squarely at new and old vinyl hobbyists.
Even the burgeoning personal audio hobbyists had their moment as headphone enthusiasts from FAC (Filipino Audio Club) held a headphone gear meet-up in the lounge upstairs to exchange notes on earphones, in-ear monitors and headphones.
The event certainly localized the Record Store Day experience, as the distinctly Filipino hallmarks of family and fiesta were pretty much present in the event. Celebrity singer-songwriter Noel Cabangon was present to sign copies of his Lp. You can see mom-and-pop independent sellers with their whole family helping out and children being carried by their parents so they can flip the LPs like a bunch of adorable music loving kangaroos. Like any good fiesta, people can win just by showing up, raffle prizes included an entry level turntable from Audio Technica and a mind blowing Maserati from Buddha Bar Manila.
After sundown, the event also featured a mini-concert with bands performing in the main area alongside some of the hardcore diggers and night owls coming in fashionably late. Aside from DJs Derick, Fabo, Rae, Ramir, Marlon, Cocoy, Aaron and Diego, band performers included Apartel, The Black Vomits, Itchyworms, The Late Isabel, Hoochie Coochie Mikkie and APB.
Record Store Day has always been about the celebration of the independent record store and how vital the network of these stores can be to sustain a community’s love for music. The country’s first celebration was a success, not just in numbers but also in putting RSD in a distinctly Filipino setting with an emphasis on community, family and just plain fun.
Aside from going home with their record loot, I’m sure the country’s music lovers will also come home with the knowledge that even though music playback maybe an introvert’s hobby, a community exists that will add another dimension to their record collection. The experience of buying music from the country’s Record Store Day is a quantum leap from the side-eye sass I experienced buying my very first cassette.
Special thank to all those involved in Record Store Day 2017. We all deserve a pat on the back for putting our country on the map of official RSD celebrations throughout the entire world and one with a deeply Pinoy feel.
Here are some of the people who worked tirelessly for this event to happen. The Grey Market Records, Northwest Estate and Collectibles, Music Haven, Dp Vinyls, For The Record, Vinylhead Records, TRAX Manila Records, Schallplatten Musik, Plaka Express Online, Groupo HiFi, Photomanila Depot, Gamit Pang Hiwalayan, Perfect Day Records, Rey Dumo Records, Wacky Records, Collectors Items and Vintage Goodies, Spindle Hole Records, Vinyl Cafe, Musika Para Sa Tropa, Omeng’s Vinyl, Freyas Finds, Bizzarre Records, Sounds Inc., Stereofiles Audio, Vinyl Moko, A’s Vinyl and CD’s, Defacto Bespoke Audio, Filipino Audiophile Club, Offshore Music and Audio Technica Philippines. Woodstocks by Boy Bustamante, Igan D’ Bayan of The Philippine Star, Glenda Gloria of Rappler, Pal Marquez of CNN Philippines, Luis Quibranza of SunStar Cebu, Eric Caruncho of Philippine Daily Inquirer, Anna Felicia Bajo of GMA News, Captain Eddie, Derick Villarino of Offshore Music, Alfred and Ness Uy-Oco of RJ Sunday Jam and Mr. Ramon “RJ” Jacinto.