Dave Lifrieri's first record was a seven-inch of Duran Duran's "New Moon On Monday." He bought it at a bygone Caldor department store in Connecticut. "No one remembers the day they downloaded [a song]," he says. "But they do remember, like I just proved, the day they got their first record."
We're sitting in the back of Lifrieri's Analog Underground record store on Broadway in Providence, surrounded by piles of posters and towers of audio gear. A boxed set marked Never To Be Forgotten: The Flip Side of Stax sits on a shelf behind him. A copy of the Doors' Morrison Hotel LP peers out from a nearby milk crate.
"The computer makes available every piece of recorded music that's ever been made and that's a great tool," Lifrieri continues. "But a lot of things really were meant to be heard on vinyl." Led Zeppelin, the Beatles — these bands recorded albums on analog equipment to be played on analog equipment.
It's a typical afternoon record store conversation. But it's timely, too. On Saturday, April 20 many of Lifrieri's fellow indie music merchants in Providence — and Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles and other towns — will celebrate the sixth annual Record Store Day, a way for artists, fans, and record shop owners to bask in their mutual love through sales and in-store events.
This year in Providence the love-fest extends to almost Woodstockian, "3 Days of Peace & Music" proportions. On the Sunday following Record Store Day, the Cable Car Cinema will host screenings of the 2012 British documentary Last Shop Standing at 7 and 9:30 pm. Before and between screenings, attendees can watch performances from local musicians (the Sugar Honey Iced Tea and DJ Sistersquid, among others) and browse booths of wares from local record stores including Lifrieri's. Throughout the evening, Rocket Fine Street Food will be serving haute cheeseburgers and Deep Space Chocolate Pudding from their truck parked on South Main Street.
Last Shop Standing grew out of a 2009 book of the same name by Graham Jones, one of the founders of the British company Proper Music Distribution. The film, like the book, takes viewers into the surviving record shops that dot the UK landscape — places like Honest Jon's and Intoxica in London and the Diskery in Birmingham.
But while the film's trailer offers an ominous statistic — "In the '80s there were more than 2200 UK independent record shops . . . By 2009 there were only 269 shops left" — the situation in Rhode Island, mercifully, seems less dire.
Lifrieri points to five stores thriving in Rhode Island's capital city, alone: his store; Armageddon Records, a few blocks down Broadway; Wickenden Street's Olympic Records and Round Again Records; and What Cheer? on Angell Street. "That says a lot about Providence," he says. "A lot of people with good taste live here."
"At least locally there's [been] a proliferation of record shops compared to what there was five years ago," says Chris Zingg, the owner of In Your Ear on Main Street in Warren and another participant in the Cable Car's post-Record Store Day celebration. "We're on the upswing again." Guitars, T-shirts, amp chords, and record covers line the walls of Zingg's store, while boxes of cassettes and four-track reel-to-reels teeter upward from the floors. A Yellow Submarine lava lamp sits on the counter near the clipboard where Zingg records his sales with pen and paper.