As a father, I worry about a great many things when it comes to my boy.
From very real concerns about school bullying and addiction to insane ones regarding asteroid strikes, I worry. Maybe that’s just me; maybe it’s part and parcel of being a parent. Regardless, I have to rein in my overactive imagination when it comes to nightmarish visions regarding his future.
One of those completely inconsequential worries, at least in the grand scheme of things, is that he may never know the unadulterated joy of the record store experience.
In today’s age of digital downloads, file sharing and iTunes, it’s completely plausible that a number of young people have never set foot in one of this area’s last remaining brick-and-mortar bastions of music, The Disc Exchange. When they can sit in front of a computer and download an album in 5 minutes, why should they make a trek to the foot of the Henley Street bridge, where DE sits at 2615 Chapman Highway? In a world that turns on immediate gratification, why wait for such a trip to listen to the new release by their favorite bands?
I’ll tell you why — because if you love music, there’s nothing like stepping into a store like DE. You’re immediately hit with a sense of reverence, and I like to think it’s something akin to what a Muslim feels upon approaching the gates to Mecca. I don’t say that to belittle a religious experience by the devout, because for those of us whose lives are centered around music, such a trip is a religious experience.
I can remember discovering Raven Records as a teen, back when it was tucked into a corner of “The Strip.” I’d start looking forward to Saturday trips down there on Sundays, because we’d hit Collect-a-World for comics and Raven for music. Back then, I was intimidated by the vast collection of cassettes and vinyl of all genres, so exotic-sounding to my young ears that I’d yearn to buy something new but, ultimately giving in to fear, fall back on a Doobie Brothers cassette or an old album by The Doors instead.
I could have asked the employees, but they were just as intimidating — smug and superior in their knowledge of all things rock, and I envied them for it. After all, they had a right to be smug, because they worked in a damn record store, which to a 16-year-old kid was just about the coolest job one could ever have. I still feel a twinge of that envy any time I visit DE. I’ve worked in retail, and I’ve worked in a music store, and there’s something intoxicating about picking out an obscure favorite, blasting it over the store’s stereo and grinning when customers come up to the counter, blown away by what they’re hearing, and ask, “What is this? It’s so good!”
In a store like Disc Exchange, whatever you hear, they have in stock … and then some. DVDs, posters, shirts, cool/collectible/offbeat trinkets and gadgets that should be sitting on my desk … they have it. Listening stations where you can cue up the latest releases and test-drive them … got those too. In-store performances, music magazines, instrument guides … check, check and check.
And more importantly, they have what your soul needs, even if you don’t know what it is. The soundtrack to your life, your heart, your relationship … your good times and bad times … your celebrations and periods of mourning and melancholy when you want to just wallow and play the same sad song over and over and over … they have all of those things. You can flip through the merchandise … read the liner notes … hold a disc (or a piece of vinyl) in your hands and admire the art and the colors and everything else that goes with it.
Have you ever noticed what a new CD smells like? It’s indescribable. It’s the smell of chemicals and ink and plastic, but it’s so much more — it’s the smell of possibility. You won’t get that from a digital download, no matter how pristeen it sounds. You have to hold it in your hand to fully appreciate its power, and stores like Disc Exchange allow you to do that.
I hope … I pray … they remain around, because I want to take my boy there when he gets older. I want to watch him wander the aisles, fascinated by everything he sees. I want to see him discover TV on the Radio (his favorite band at the moment) and all of that group’s early work for himself. I want him to buy posters that’ll piss his mother off or a T-shirt that earns a withering glance from a teacher.
I want him to know the majesty of music in a way iTunes will never be able to convey.
To that end, going to Record Store Day — which begins as soon as the doors to Disc Exchange open at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 16 — is a good way to ensure that happens. It’s a nationwide celebration of independent record stores, and a number of bands are coming to the Disc Exchange on Saturday to be a part of it. It’s absolutely free, and a number of exclusive, Record Store Day-only releases by Fleet Foxes, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and a whole lot more will be sold (everything from 7-inch to 12-inch vinyl to limited edition CDs and more).
So show up. Be a part of. Support. The Disc Exchange needs it, but more importantly, the kids like my own need it, even if they don’t know it yet, either.
Here’s are the details for Record Store Day Knoxville at the Disc Exchange:
- 2 p.m.: Sam Quinn
- 3 p.m.: Kelsey’s Woods
- 4 p.m.: Hayes Carll
- 5 p.m.: Straight Line Stitch signing
- 6 p.m.: Mr. Mack
- 7 p.m.: Coolrunnings
Company of Thieves will also perform; time TBA
Food: Remedy Coffee available at 9 a.m., Campfire Hot Dogs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Frussies at 2 p.m.; Yazoo Beer will be sold as well.
The store is planning a sidewalk sale including CDs, DVDs, vinyl and boutique products, and if logistics work out, a film will be screened as well.