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‘Vinyl Nation’ (review)

Vinyl Nation is a 2020 documentary from directors Kevin Smokler and Christoper Boone. If you are of a certain age like myself and can still remember the first record you ever bought- Best of the J. Geils Band for what it’s worth, you might think this is a story of the death of the record itself.

But it’s more about the comeback of vinyl as a format, and how the record stores themselves helped push the revival.

For music fans, the weekly trip to the record store is much akin to the weekly trip to the comic book store.

Searching the new releases, looking for that back issue to fill out a collection, the sense of community about being among people who share the same love and passion for something that you do, and in both cases, objects that might make others say “really, they still make those”

But if you are a hard core collector, you know just how this feel.  It’s a weekly pilgrimage to the church of  their chosen religion.

Smokler and Boone capture this perfectly with a quote from one of the many record fans that they interview throughout the film, “There is something sacred about the whole thing,”  one vinyl buff says of his trips to the record store, “it’s sacred, you know what I mean.”

If you are like me, you shook your head and say yep, I absolutely do.

The movie takes you through the process of how a record is made, from the master presses to the sleeves. And can we talk about the joy of opening up a gatefold cover, reading through the liner notes, and just holding a record in your hand?

If this brings back any call backs to the gatefold cover craze the comics industry went through in the 90s, you aren’t alone.

As we watch how the CD and then the MP3 wiped the vinyl record almost from the earth, we see how a few remaining record store owners banded together to try and save their not just their livelihoods, but the very medium they love, by creating Record Store Day.

Record Store Day is an annual event inaugurated in 2007 and held on one Saturday every April and every Black Friday in November to “celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store”. The movie starts off with fans and store owners alike talking about their excitement for the day.

 A number of records are pressed specifically for Record Store Day, with a list of releases for each country, and are only distributed to shops participating in the event. The records to be released are published months in advance, my golden ticket this year is Pornography by The Cure. Fans wait in line for hours, camping out in many cases, to make sure they get that special addition to their collection. As one person said “I’ve never been stunned to find an MP3”

Which is the joy of collecting is all about, to be able to hold that whatever it is that makes you smile. As music became more portable, the love of vinyl grew and spread, new fans came on board, and a once near dead industry came back to life.

If you’re a collector of anything, you’ll enjoy this movie, and totally relate to folks like you who give up entire rooms of where they live to give their hobbies a home.

*  *  *  *  *
Produced and Directed by Kevin Smokler and Christopher Boone
Featuring Judy Mills, Ashley Ford, Kelly Stacy, John Vanderslice,
KutMasta Kurt, Alyson Baker, Kelley Stoltz

Record Store Day is Tomorrow, April 23rd



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