We set out on Record Store Day to explore some of the independent vendors across Michigan who help us find those joyous vinyl treasures.
Record Store Day in Michigan
Most of you know, I love music. It seeps from my pores and gets into everything I touch. Music propels me and makes each day even better. The intangible warmth, the secret breath between the notes, feels closer to the heart when you play your favorite tunes from a vinyl album.
The vinyl format was nearly written off as dead in the 90’s when cd’s became the rage. Thanks to the independent record stores who hung on to weather the storms of the digital age and a fresh crop of music fans who have become disenchanted with the corporate streaming services, vinyl has resumed its status as the premier method for enjoying recorded music. Hell, the cassette tape is coming back too. Who knew?
This year, we wanted to not only go hunt for some musical gems, we also wanted to get a taste of the holiday spirit that is Record Store Day. My goals were as usual, a bit lofty. I had visions of heading out west to Kalamazoo, then heading over to Lansing, then back home to Ann Arbor, then trying to hit at least a few more in Detroit. Brenda even put together this great map!
Our map ended up including as many independent record stores as we could find in Michigan. Obviously, the game plan was a bit aggressive. I’m sure someone can come up with a super logistical scheme to hit them all, but we decided to head out to Kalamazoo and make our way back to the Detroit area. As the saying goes “Go West, young man!” or old man in my case.
Green Light Music
Located on the west side of Kalamazoo at 4717 KL Ave is Green Light Music. This place has been on my radar since my buddy Chad Houts from the incredible Kalamazoo rock band Bonehawk told me about them. The store is local music friendly and has a wide assortment of new and used music in all the fun formats. We couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off our Record Store day adventure.
I will forever associate Greenlight as the store where Brenda was overwhelmed with questions about our journey and she was just along for the ride. You see, Brenda and I had walked in with our cameras and started to get a few pics of the store and its happy shoppers. Chris Haner (manager) caught up with Brenda (as I had already wandered away) and was asking about what publication we were with and how we found out about the store. Brenda, who is getting back into photography and focused on trying to take a few pictures was like “what? Where is Chuck?”. I heard my name and came over to chat with Chris. We were then met by Derek Ketchum from the awesome Local Spins magazine. We talked music and I mentioned that I came specifically because of Chad from Bonehawk. It was clear from our short conversation they have a real love of local music at Green Light.
Flat, Black, and Circular
Stashed upstairs in the Campus Town Mall at 541 E. Grand River in East Lansing you will find Flat, Black, & Circular. This place has that classic college town record store vibe like some of the old-school establishments in Ann Arbor. FBC has every genre of music covered from punk and metal to jazz and country. As with Green Light, they gave the local musicians their due and even had some cool local tapes. The staff were more than happy to answer anyone’s questions or point them in the right direction based what kind of music they were after.
At this point in our journey, I was starving and the line to get into Underground Sounds (located at 255 E Liberty in Ann Arbor) was out the door and at least 20 people deep. The Ann Arbor community loves Record Store Day.
Given the food emergency, I didn’t get a chance to stop in. However, from a previous experience, I know that Underground Sounds is very much into local music and has a great collection of metal albums along with punk, noise, and the regular rock and roll stew. If they don’t have it in stock, they can order it for you. You can also order online via their site and pick it up at the store or have it delivered.
HopCat – Everyday is Record Store Day in 2018
We decided to hop over to HopCat in Ann Arbor for lunch. All of the HopCat locations were celebrating Record Store Day with specials from Dogfish Head who had a collaboration beer with the band The Flaming Lips called Dragons & YumYums. Dogfish Head also had a special album out for record store day. You have got to love it when two of your favorite things, in this case, beer and music, come together. I’d love to see more Michigan breweries doing special collaborations with local bands!
HopCat is making every day in 2018 Record Store Day by offering up free Crack Fries. You just have to show them your same-day receipt from a record store. Now that is what I call one hell of a trifecta with beer, music, and food! Win Win Win!
Just down the street at 417 E. Liberty in Ann Arbor is Encore Records. Encore has been in Ann Arbor for close to 60 years (originally called Liberty Street Music). They have an extensive collection of albums across all genres, with a big heart for the blues, jazz, and classical. While there wasn’t a line outside, the inside of the store was packed with people. Encore doesn’t cater to new releases as much as to used albums. They should be one of your first stops when searching for that hard to find album that you must have to complete your collection.
Record Store Day Pop-up Record Fair at the Ann Arbor District Library
The Ann Arbor District Library hosted a pop-up record show in the main lobby of the library with around a dozen vendors. A couple you may know well included Rock N Rummage the Detroit based traveling flea market and Finders Keepers from Plymouth.
The library was also showing off their musical tools which is this awesome collection of musical equipment that you can check out from the library to play around with. This includes guitars, keyboards, pedals, and more. At the pop-up event, they had a nifty machine for making your own rock n roll buttons.
Our last stop for Record Store day was Dearborn Music located at 22501 Michigan Ave. This store is huge. They have floor to ceiling displays of albums, tons of cds, cassettes, turntables, and a bunch of fun novelty items like this sweet ass lunch box.
Dearborn Music has been fulfilling the dreams of music fans since 1956. The store was very busy when we arrived in the late afternoon. I’d perused the selections at each store and could have easily walked away with more records than I could carry. However, I held out until our last stop and found a used copy of the first KISS album and the first Chicago Transit Authority album. Both these albums mark important moments in music history for me and will get their due at our next vinyl party.
We Barely Scratched the Surface
As you can see, we didn’t even crack into all the fantastic stores in the Detroit area such as Hello Records, Paramita Sound, Weirdsville, Street Corner, Flipside, Found Sound, Village Vinyl, and on and on. We also missed PJ’s and Wazoo in our hometown, as well as Checkers out in Hillsdale, and well, just go look at the map again!
Our Record Store Day adventure was a lot of fun. With all the great independent record stores around the state, we will be able to ensure that we have more record store day fun for years to come. I have already told Brenda that next year, we focus on the Detroit area as I’m sure there are tons of vinyl gems to discover.
You can find more pictures from our Record Store Day adventure in our gallery.
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