Record Store Day brings rush of fans to Pittsburgh independent stores

Jeff Shucosky rose in his Shadyside apartment well before dawn Saturday morning, threw on some clothes, including his black Diarrhea Planet band T-shirt, and made his way to Bloomfield to be the first in line at his favorite store by 5 a.m., four hours before it opened.

Was the iPhone 6 being released? Were concert tickets for Bruce Springsteen going on sale?

No. Mr. Shucosky was buying records -- on vinyl, a 20th century technology that still has a healthy fan base in the 21st century.

"I'm here to support stores like this that really care about music," Mr. Shucosky, 24, a retail manager, said as he stood in the vestibule of Sound Cat Records on Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield. "With it all digitized now you don't see that as much."

His dedication made him first in line at the store on the 7th annual Record Store Day, an international celebration of independent record stores, and the envy of more than 100 people behind him by the time the store finally opened at 9 a.m.

The lure for the early risers are the growing number of limited edition, Record Store Day-only singles, albums and box set vinyl records put out by artists and labels, some of which are so limited -- less than 1,000 copies, or less, nationwide -- that stores get only one copy, or none at all.

Like everyone else in line who flooded into the store -- "Peacefully" one customer said, "it's not like Black Friday at Wal-Mart in here" -- Mr. Shucosky, with $150, had a carefully planned list in mind of exclusive albums of his favorite artists.

First there was the "Woman" LP by the emo punk bank Dads; then the "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" soundtrack; and, for a friend who covered for Mr. Shucosky at work, one of the most unusual offers this year, a glow-in-the-dark, 30th anniversary copy of Ray Parker's "Ghostbusters" movie theme.

Somehow Mr. Shucosky managed to grab all three even as his fellow record fanatics filled virtually every moveable space in the small store with two aisles around a central record bin.

The crush thinned by 10 a.m. But the store -- which still had 30 people hovering over the records at noon -- would do heavier-than-normal volume all day.

"I just wish it could be like this every day," said Megan Hendricks, who met her future husband, Karl, buying music in the store 22 years ago when he was a store clerk. He now owns the store.

Like most stores that participate in Record Store Day, Mr. Hendricks imposes a one-title-per-buyer rule that ensures that no one person will, say, buy his only two copies of the Dave Matthews Band four-LP box set that was issued for Saturday.

Sound Cat was one of 17 Pittsburgh-area independent stores participating this year, and nearly all of them signed the Record Store Day pledge to "act in the spirit" of the day, selling the exclusive records on the day, to not "gouge" customers or sell the records online.

That included 720 Music on Butler Street in Lawrenceville, a hip-hop focused record store, cafe and clothing shop that also had a steady stream of customers Saturday.

Two of them were Joe and Julia Grogan, who were moving cross-country from Tacoma, Wash., to New York City, and timed their trip to be in Pittsburgh on Record Store Day because their research found that the city had a high number of great independent record stores. They made the stop because "some tracks are only available on vinyl," said Mr. Grogan, 31. "And for some, it's an inexplicable obsession."

Sean D. Hamill: or 412-263-2579.

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