I must confess that I miss record stores but I also must confess that I have finally succumbed to Itunes and all that is the digital music industry. It’s convenient and easy and for someone who lives in an area where there’s a 0% chance of finding any classic hardcore punk albums in any given store that sells CDs such as Target or Wal-Mart I have come to greatly appreciate Itunes. But still, I miss record stores and the experiences of going to a record store and finally finding that album that I’ve been looking for.
My first experiences with record stores come from my father who used to take my brother and I to the city to visit some of his old haunts. Years ago there were tons of record stores in NYC and now there are barely any. As a child I remember going into these record stores with my father and brother and watching all of the eccentric people who either worked there or were looking through different albums. Usually, I was bored because well, at that time, I had no interest in music. I distinctly remember the smells of the stores too and I honestly don’t know how to describe it either. Most of them were in the vicinity of the East Village in NYC. So in the midst of going to these record stores I also got to see and experience some of NYC’s finest in the form of transvestites, homosexuals, punks and homeless people. It also reminds me of how unaware of things children are, I didn’t have such labels for these people when I was 10 years old.
Eventually when I became a teenager I got into hardcore punk and found myself going to some of these same record stores that my father took me to when I was a child. It was always fun to hop on the 4 train and head down to the city in search of latest album of my desire whether Blood for Blood, the Cro-Mags, Madball or Agnostic Front. It was a tangible and communal experience, I usually went with friends and the records stores usually had fliers for upcoming hardcore shows posted on their bulletin board or wherever. On the way back home on the subway I’d look over the booklets of the albums that I had just bought excited to start listening to them when I first got home.
Unfortunately, such experiences cannot be replaced by digital music stores on the internet and although they are convenient this is what many people are missing out on. Technology affords us many comforts but it also divides us and makes us more individualistic. As a result we miss out on community and tangible experiences with other human beings because we find more efficient ways of doing things that get us what we want in quicker and faster ways. Most of the record stores that I went to with my father are now long gone because of the digital age. Many will say that this is not necessarily a bad thing and in some ways they may be right (Heck, I’m using technology right now to connect with you all!). But still there is something special about tangible and, dare I say, incarnational experiences with other human beings.