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Will the crowds return on Record Store Day?

David Wolfe opened The Vinyl Groove in Bedford in 2014. Since then, he says Record Store Day had changed a lot even before the two-year coronavirus pandemic. [Kabir Bhatia / Ideastream Public Media]
David Wolfe opened The Vinyl Groove in Bedford in 2014.

This Saturday is the 15th annual Record Store Day. And with COVID case counts down and coronavirus restrictions easing, record store owners like David Wolfe of The Vinyl Groove in Bedford are hopeful that crowds will be back to pre-pandemic levels.

KB: What are some of the releases you think are going to be most popular this Record Store Day?

Wolfe: Devo, Childish Gambino, Rory Gallagher. And believe it or not every Record Store Day, every jazz release, every 'Live at Town Hall,' Art Pepper—jazz has overtaken the spot the Grateful Dead used to hold.

KB: As far as jazz, are we talking Blue Notes, fusion, big band, or the 1980s stuff where it got more electronic?

Wolfe: It's mostly Bop and post-Bop; 1960s into the early 70s. Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, although Miles has kind of dropped off. People are looking at expanding beyond the Miles Davis/John Coltrane structure that everybody thinks of. I think a lot of people are discovering it for the first time, and it's a rabbit hole that never ends.

KB: How are your used album sales affected on Record Store Day?

Wolfe: In the past, people have come mostly for the new releases. Used would make up probably 30-35 percent of our sales that day. This year, we're putting about a 1,000 handpicked clean, used albums. It's actually been a backbreaking effort, and it's going to be everything you could think of: 1980s and ‘90s, New Wave, Alternative, Metal, Jazz, and everything in between.

Maggot Brain

KB: What are the genres or albums that people are always interested in?

Wolfe: Well, the thing that sells well— and this has been since day one but, unfortunately, we can't get our hands on new pressings—is Funkadelic. When it comes to the album ‘ Maggot Brain,’ we used to carry six to 10 copies at a time, and they'd be gone within three weeks of a new pressing of that record. It outsells ‘Rumors’ every time.

KB: Why do you think that is?

Wolfe: I would say it's probably the guitar work on ‘Maggot Brain.’ And the fact that in this region [Akron and Cleveland], it was played at midnight on certain radio stations for years. You have a young crowd coming in that has discovered this stuff and it's like a fusion between rock and funk, which had never been done before at that point in time. It's been done since, but not as well. We're [also] seeing an influx of people buying late 1970s soul and R&B, where you had the ‘hot track’ on there and then a couple ‘pillow talk’ songs. Bands like GQ, hometown favorites from Ohio like Slave, Lakeside, and Ohio Players always sell really well. There's so many bands that have been lost through the years. With Earth, Wind and Fire or The Isley Brothers, everybody knows them. But the bands that people aren't familiar with, if you play it in a store and people hear it, they’re like, ‘Who is this? I have to have it.’

KB: Since you opened, how have you seen the clientele change, in general?

Wolfe: When we started out in 2014-15, we were seeing a lot of the older generation reminiscing, whether or not they bought something when they came in. It was like, ‘Wow this reminds me of Peaches [record store].’ Now, my crowd is all over the board, and it all depends on the time of day. Early in the day, you have the retirees come in. They're looking for either vintage equipment or certain records they want to play. When it gets to about three or four o'clock, I'll see some of the school age kids coming in as young as 13 and 14. And then later on in the day, about five, everybody gets out of work. That's probably the busiest we are during the day.

KB: What are you anticipating this year in terms of crowds since it's been a few years of pent-up demand?

Wolfe: I'll be completely honest. Usually by this time, all the other stores in the area have put out their ads about what they're giving away, what the releases are, etc. And it's been very quiet this year. I don't know. It's really hard to gauge how this year is going to go. I'm hoping it's going to be like it was in 2019, but it could surprise me and be bigger. We're going to be doing giveaways—two sets of concerts, gift certificates, t-shirts, bags, and all the goodies from Record Store Day—will be going out. We're going to have gourmet cookies from Sweet Bertie’s right here in Bedford, too.

The biggest part of Record Store Day, as an owner, is just seeing all the faces. That's something that's been lost. You have a lot of stores that look at it as a cash cow day and that's not what it's supposed to be. It was created to get people in. If you broke even, or made a couple bucks, that's great. You're not going to get rich doing Record Store Day. Let's all enjoy and revel in this thing called records.

The list of stores participating in Record Store Day is here, and the list of special RSD releases is here.

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