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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Vinyl shops around DC to celebrate Record Store Day with exclusives and concerts

Tanner Nalley | Staff Photographer
A patron flips through vinyl records at Som Records on 14th Street.

There’s no feeling quite like dropping the needle of a turntable on the smooth vinyl of a record and embarking on a sonic journey with your favorite album.

Record Store Day, which falls on April 20 this year, is an annual celebration of independent record stores observed by hoards of vinyl collectors in search of RSD-exclusive editions by artists from Charlie Parker to Sabrina Carpenter. Participating stores select from a list of about 400 RSD-specific editions to sell for the holiday, some pairing highly sought-after records with giveaways and live performances.

Pioneered in 2007 by Baltimore-based record store owners, RSD aims to reignite the frenzy for vinyl at brick-and-mortar stores, especially after a decrease in vinyl sales in the ‘90s and early 2000s. 

Record stores across the District are celebrating the holiday with exclusive performances and special-edition vinyls.

Som(body) who loves me 

With bright orange walls and records pasted to the ceilings, Som Records in the U Street neighborhood boasts a large collection of records of every genre imaginable. From reggae to jazz to pop, shelves overflow with eclectic albums and new releases line the walls, including a $1 bin. Customers can jam out to a featured collection on the store’s turntable with attached headphones.

Owner, founder and DJ Neal Becton said Som has participated in RSD since the store’s founding 15 years ago and the holiday is the busiest day of the year for the record store. 

“It brings a lot of people into the store, and there’s a lot of special releases,” Becton said. “It’s good, it promotes records. Anything that brings people into a record store is good.”

Becton said music lovers can build community through browsing record stores, as they can shop together to discover new artists, records and genres. 

1843 14th St. NW. Open Monday through Saturday noon to 7 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

A little Byrdie told me to shop on Record Store Day …

For Jonathan Druy, a buyer and manager at Byrdland Records in Union Market, RSD allows him to flex his taste-making muscles as he curates which special editions to stock in the store. Druy, who was a Hatchet arts editor in the ’90s, said he personally selected a little over half of the available RSD releases to feature at Byrdland this year.

“There’s 400 titles, we can’t get all of them, but I kind of know what our customers want,” Druy said.

Druy added that he chose around 275 RSD specials to sell in-store, a staunch increase from when Byrdland started participating in RSD in 2017.

As a self-proclaimed “music head,” Druy said browsing for vinyl is an unparalleled way to discover music that harks back to the days before algorithm-based music recommendations.

“The experience of browsing is definitely irreplaceable,” Druy said.

While Druy said Byrdland is the “place to go” for new hip-hop and R&B records, as the size of their collection trumps other stores in The District, the densely stocked store also sells genres ranging from jazz to classical to pop. The store also has over 400 records labeled “Played at Songbyrd,” like Laufey’s “Bewitched” and Little Simz’s “No Thank You,” denoting that the artist previously performed at Songbyrd — the venue and restaurant that Byrdland stemmed from in 2020.

Byrdland will feature a DJ set by members of the former New Jersey-based rock band Screaming Females on Record Store Day. The set will follow a reading at Politics and Prose of former Screaming Females band member Marissa Paternoster and owner of Don Giovanni Records, a record label, Joe Steinhardt’s graphic novel, “Merriment.”

Ben Powell, a NoMa resident, said browsing at Byrdland, his nearest record store, was his first order of business after his roommate purchased a turntable. Powell said he will be returning to the store to celebrate RSD. 

“Records really let you stop and appreciate the music more than streaming,” Powell said. “You can see a lot of the artist’s personality that you wouldn’t get from other mediums.”

1264 5th St. SE. Open Tuesday through Thursday noon to 8 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Smashing competitive norms

Smash Records, a punk and indie haven in Adams Morgan, is stocked full of RSD-only vinyls to prepare for the expected swarm of customers next weekend. Matt Moffatt, the manager of Smash and an employee since 2002, said music lovers enjoy collecting the “physical artifact” of vinyls.

“Everyone likes music pretty much, but you can take it to another level when you can start feeling and touching it,” Moffatt said. “As soon as you start collecting one of these, you’re just on the hunt and you keep on learning about more stuff.”

Moffatt said the first Record Store Day the store participated in was in 2009. Since then, he said the demand for RSD-only features has continually increased with the store ordering more and more titles each year.

“This is probably as broad as we’re gonna get because we just order all sorts of things,” said Moffatt. “And people are receptive to it.”

Moffatt said the record-loving community extends between stores, with Smash building camaraderie with nearby stores like Joint Custody

“If we are not already friends, we are friendly with each other,” Moffatt said. “It’s cooperation, not competition.”

2314 18th St. NW. Open Monday through Thursday noon to 8 p.m., Friday through Saturday noon to 9 p.m. and Sunday noon to 7 p.m.

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