Record Store Day is a collaboration among independent record stores which resulted in an annual celebration of the culture that surrounds independent record stores. Each year Record Store Day draws music lovers to the nooks and caverns that house vinyl and CDs, and occasionally hard to find cassettes or 8-tracks. There are contests and events at some locations. Bands release special editions that draw fans and collectors, and in some cities stores even offer guest appearances from the musicians themselves. Of course, the event isn’t without its controversy.
The Road Trip
Local music fans know that the Capital Region of NY has had a shortage of independently owned record stores since the growth of corporate music giants and digital media formats. And apparently, the few stores remaining don’t participate in Record Store Day.
However, if you have a car and some gas money, there are options, and it doesn’t require a trip to the five boroughs, where a whopping 36 stores participated in Record Store Day this year. That’s a fun trip, but for those of us who need to stay closer to home, it’s good to know that many upstate NY cities and towns also have independent record stores that participate in Record Store Day. There were five participating stores just in Rochester this year.
The Hudson Valley
We decided to head south to the Hudson Valley. Not only does this region east of the Catskill Mountains offer several independent record stores in charming small towns, the views of rolling hills and valleys are a welcome break from the congestion of Capital Region. Though the landscape is most impressive when autumn changes leaves to a range of reds and yellows, or perhaps in the heat of summer when green surrounds you, but the natural beauty is present even in April before the buds burst open on the branches.
No less than 9 towns along the Hudson River between Albany and NYC have independent record stores that participate in Record Store Day. We chose New Paltz, an eclectic college town with two participating stores, as our road trip destination. New Paltz is the home of Jack’s Rhythms and Rhino Records. Both stores carry vinyl and CDs across a variety of genres, with an emphasis on indie artists. They also buy and trade, so a visitor will find a large selection of used music, along with books, posters, and other items.
After picking up Record Store Day items and digging through vinyl to find that lost treasure, New Paltz offers visitors a variety of restaurants and cafes where you can stop for a bite to eat. You’ll find food from around the world, including Turkish, Greek, and Mexican, as well as vegan and vegetarian options. I was excited to find that there’s even a gluten-free bakery, the Sweet Bunny, with gluten-free (and some dairy-free) cookies and cupcakes, as well as gelato and sorbet. Once rested and re-fueled, take some time to browse the many interesting shops in town. You never know what treasure you’ll discover. We stumbled upon a book outlining the characteristics of cats based on astrology at the quaint little Barner Books on Church Street.
We decided to take the Thruway (I-87), the most direct route, to New Paltz. It was a beautiful day; sun, blue skies, and a balmy 70 degrees. With the windows open and music to sing along to, the time passed quickly. After an afternoon in New Paltz, we decided to drive west toward the edge Catskills. There is no shortage of wilderness outside of New Paltz, and hikers and kayakers will find plenty of trails and waterways to explore. We stuck to the roads driving west through the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park, then took Route 209 north through rural towns back to the Thruway. We were tempted to drive west through the Catskill Mountains, but alas, that’s a road trip for another day.
Record Store Day is a fun excuse for a road trip at a time of year when those of us living in the snow-belt are itching for relief from being bundled up and stuck inside after four months of winter. Next year, take a trip to a new town to check out the record shops and to explore the area. Of course, you don’t have to wait until next year to visit your local independent record stores.
How do you weigh in on RSD? Can you suggest any great independent record stores, or any great little towns worthy of a road trip? If so, please share!