Dick Joseph isn’t quite sure. Maybe it was in the days just before he was born, or the days immediately after. But the family was making room for the new arrival.
“My mom took all my dad’s records, and took them all to Goodwill,” he says. “All The Beatles, all that stuff.”
That was 25 years ago. And Joseph wasn’t the only new arrival that precipitated the housecleaning. Compact discs had overtaken the music marketplace. You know the story from there. In recent years, CDs have faded as music became more accessible via the internet. Music was no longer a thing you could hold in your hand, it was just… out there, like the weather.
Now, Joseph finds himself as the guy with the megaphone and vinyl records sticking out of his backpack, calling the music world back to where it was just a few decades ago. He works marketing for Warner Music Group distribution, and will be in Rochester Saturday as the host for the Record Store Crawl.
The idea is simple, modeled after the concept of beer enthusiasts on a bar crawl. Only here, a school bus filled with vinyl-record lovers – they call themselves “crate diggers” – are on a day-long pilgrimage to a handful of independent record stores, while a band plays between stops.
The Crawl starts at 11:30 a.m. at Record Archive, with a live performance by Rochester’s River Lynch and the Spiritmakers, open bar, lunch and 20 percent off purchases. By 4:30 p.m., with Lynch playing on board, the vinyleers will have visited Needledrop Records, The House of Guitars, Bop Shop Records and the arcade and restaurant combo The Playhouse/Swillburger. The Crawlers will have also sampled Deep Eddy Vodka and collected a bag load of free swag that includes test pressings, a mystery record and game tokens for The Playhouse.
Record Store Crawl is not expressly connected to Record Store Day, the hugely successful April celebration of vinyl featuring special editions and re-releases, music that propels indie record stores to their biggest sales day of the year. But, “Record Store Crawl is all about the same thing, bringing the vinyl culture together and celebrating music,” Joseph says. “People showing each other what they found, making trades. And I’m giving away prizes. It’s pretty lively on the bus.”
The first Record Store Crawl was two years ago in New York City, a sold-out bus with the indie rockers Bear Hands on board hitting stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The idea has exploded since then. This year’s series opened on Record Store Day with Crawls in New York City and Berlin. Another dozen are on the schedule throughout the rest of this year, with organizers hoping to add dates in London and Sydney as well. Most of the Crawls are where you’d expect to find hip audiophiles: Austin, Seattle, Los Angeles, Nashville. Rochester is by far the smallest of the participants.
“We’d love to do it in as many cities as possible,” Joseph says, explaining that the holdup is in staffing the event. “I get Facebook and emails from people saying, ‘We’d like to do it in our city.’
“I’ve had people tell me they’re making vacations out of it.”
Joseph grew up in the small, mid-Ohio city of Zanesville, and went through that teenage rite of passage of playing drums in a rock band. Zanesville has an FYE, the mall-driven entertainment franchise, otherwise Joseph had to drive 60 miles to Columbus to visit a genuine record store.
“Me and my friends my age, millennials, are buying vinyl, trading collections,” Joseph says. As CD sales spiral downward, vinyl records, both new and used, are seeing an unexpected growth. “It’s cool to see how it’s expanded,’ he says. “Vinyl is something tangible, something you can touch.”
Joseph calls Rochester, with its strong presence of independent record stores, one of his favorite cities in the hunt for vinyl treasure. “I go digging when I first get to a city, or after the crawl,” he says. “I can’t really do it when I’m chaperoning a group of 50 people around and are responsible for their safety.”
Nevertheless, his collection is expanding, recovering from the family vinyl housecleaning precipitated by his birth 25 years ago. It’s slow work, like scraping centuries of dust from an archaeological dig. “I’m still kind of young,” Joseph says. “I can’t compete with a lot of guys in the office.”