Detroit Spins Harder: Local Shops Celebrate Record Store Day
Story by Heidi Utz
Whether it’s a vintage Tamla 45, a J Dilla box set, or a Stooges French pressing on red vinyl, Detroiters are passionate about records.
Some say it’s the warmth of the sound. Others like the big artwork and liner notes. The releases you can’t find in any other format. And supporting the artist by buying instead of streaming.
From the moment you pull the vinyl from its sleeve and drop the needle onto its first groove, an album demands your attention in a way that clicking the Play button doesn’t. It can be a relaxing, meditative experience that’s relatively rare in the era of distraction.
And so, the popularity of Record Store Day, which celebrates the unique culture of nearly 1,400 independent record stores stateside and thousands of others internationally. Conceived in 2007 by shop owners and their employees, the annual celebration supports indie retailers with several hundred exclusive releases and various store events, sales, and performances. This year, it happens on April 23rd, and many Detroit metro shops have something special planned.
This Cass Corridor magnet for Detroit visitors will offer discounted music, merchandise, and gear with a receipt from another local record store that day. Third Man has a large selection of albums, many of which have been created by its onsite, state-of-the-art vinyl manufacturing plant. While owner Jack White tends to sell a lot of his own creations (including White Stripes, Raconteurs, Dead Weather, and solo releases), you’ll also find his curated selection of OG Tamla, Sun, and Chess releases. The day before, the store will also offer 30- to 60-minute tours of their recording facilities and offices. (Tickets are available online in limited quantities.) Though no live performances are scheduled for April 22, Third Man often hosts concerts by eclectic artists worth checking out. In addition to peddling apparel, books and magazines, turntables, and gear, they also run a pretty cool book publishing imprint, Third Man Books. For record aficionados, it’s a candy store wrapped up in a red-and-white peppermint bow.
In Royal Oak, the Detroit Record Club has participated in the event since 2019. According to owner Joe Lalich, “Record Store Day is always an exciting day for us. People get in line in the morning to grab the limited-edition vinyl they've been anticipating. We open early and enjoy seeing new faces and people we've become friendly with over the years.” The store features a curated collection of new and used vinyl in diverse genres and also offers music-related reading material and retro hi-fi equipment. “We're really lucky to have a broad customer base,” Lalich notes. “It makes for a great community feel at the store, which we're always trying to foster... The rich heritage of music in Detroit really drives people from all over the region to come out and see what our store has to offer.”
For east side crate-diggers, Ripe Records will be throwing an “all-out bash" to celebrate their fifth anniversary, says owner Andrew Curcuru. The store, which sells all genres of new and used vinyl plus audio equipment, will have a free pig roast and beer, record sales, and plenty of giveaways. Kicking off at 10 AM, the day’s musical performances will include East Side Still Alive, Oopapada, the Innovation Jazz Ensemble, the Hourlies, and the Mellow Tones. In addition, there’ll be a special surprise appearance by Thomas Court, whose Happy Dragon Band will be releasing a record that day.
22501 Michigan Ave., Dearborn and 33025 Grand River Ave., Farmington
Named one of the 10 greatest music stores in America by Spin magazine, family-owned behemoth Dearborn Music has been a Detroit staple since 1956, offering 50,000 potential killer finds on vinyl and CD. According to co-owner Kevin LeAnnais, “We’re stocking just about all the Record Store Day titles, with decent quantities for each.” Because of the large selection, expect a line of a few hundred people before their 8 AM opening on RSD. After the day, they’ll also sell whatever’s left on their website. LeAnnais predicts the biggest mover will be the Taylor Swift release, a live, grey-vinyl double album of folklore: the long pond studio sessions, and he’s ordered plenty of copies. Other hits will likely be exclusive releases by Van Halen, The 1975, Black Keys, Miles Davis, Norah Jones, and Mac Miller.
In the Warren historic district, Village Vinyl is celebrating its sixth anniversary. A small, friendly store with knowledgeable employees, they stock a nice selection of reasonably priced albums of all genres, along with box sets, t-shirts, posters, and collectibles. In addition to the Record Store Day exclusive releases, they’ll have sales, free posters, and giveaways throughout the day. To sweeten the pot, your receipt gets you a discounted beverage at Kuhnhenn Brewing Co. across the street.
These are just a sampling of Detroit’s many indie shops, which offer not only collectible albums from the Motor City's vast creative archives but also a chance to discuss and learn about music with other music geeks. Spotify recommendations may be OK as they go, but recommendations from indie store staffers who listen to records all day long feel much more relevant and personal.
One of RSD’s biggest highlights is its limited-quantity exclusive releases, many highly sought-after by collectors, which are sold only by the indie stores on the day of release. Each shop makes their own buying decisions and may choose to sell some titles and not others. Roughly 60% are from indie labels and distributors, spanning every genre and price. This year’s releases are especially rich in artistry and diversity. For example, RSD ambassadors Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires will release two new tunes on The Sound Emporium EP, as well as a reimagined version of Isbell’s “Tour of Duty” and a cover of Richard Thompson’s “Beeswing.” The offerings span many decades, including bands from the ’60s (the Doors, Rolling Stones, Todd Rundgren, Paul McCartney, the Temptations), ’70s (Elton John, Stevie Nicks, Yes, T. Rex), ’80s (Duran Duran, the Cure, the Pogues, Madness, Madonna, Van Halen), ’90s (Tori Amos, Bjork, Soul Asylum, the Magnetic Fields, Wilco), ’00s (Black Keys, Norah Jones, Nas, RZA), as well as more recent crowd-pleasers like Beach House, Mac Miller, Maya Hawke, and The 1975.