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Sheehy: Celebrate music, small businesses on Record Store Day

FARGO - Saturday marks the sixth annual Record Store Day, an annual event that encourages customers to visit, buy and support their local independent records stores.

Locally, participating stores include Orange Records, 641 1st Ave. N., Fargo, and Mothers’s, 431 Main Ave., Moorhead. Other participating stores can be found at

I encourage you to stop in to one of these stores Saturday, wherever you might be. Explore, browse, and see what’s there that inspires you.

Several musicians who want to support the viability of these owner-run small businesses release special vinyl on this day each year. Many stores present live performances.

A festive atmosphere infuses the stores as veteran customers and new ones flock in. It’s like a reunion of music lovers who think, “Hey, I love coming here and browsing the bins, checking out new releases, talking to other people and sales staff about what’s new, what’s good.”

I love these records stores and want to see them survive in our era of downloads and iTune purchases. They are an example of a vernacular business that is unique at this time of corporate chain stores that strive to be alike across the nation and globe with the same store design, graphics, lighting and products.

It’s refreshing to walk into a space that is customized to its setting in a small building – usually a store-front space with big plate-glass windows – and to the sensibilities of the owner and customer base.

These kind of small businesses are the heart and soul of neighborhood business districts that have a distinctive feel.

Most small record stores have common elements that are adapted in many creative ways: display of stock in bins, organized in various ways in terms of musical categories, alphabet, audio format, new releases or used products.

It’s like entering a library and figuring out if Dewey decimal or Library of Congress is used to order the stacks. Then there’s the posters and other visual materials that support the invisible medium of sound but are so important to our ideas about the artists and the music itself.

The clerks, who are often the owners depending on the size of the business, are full of detailed musical knowledge. They’re fun to talk with and ask questions; they want to be helpful.

I remember going regularly to one of the catalysts of the Minneapolis new wave-punk scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s – Oar Folkjokeopus in the Lyndale neighborhood of south Minneapolis.

Peter Jesperson was the manager, and I would also see him spinning records at the Longhorn Bar downtown. I struck up conversations with him and got tips on the new bands and releases coming in from England and New York. He later went on to found Twin/Tone Records, manage The Replacements, and then to work in the music industry in Los Angeles.

Record stores play crucial roles in local music scenes as gathering places where new ideas and music are exchanged. So make the most of these knowledgeable local experts and of our own homegrown businesses on Record Store Day.

My only wish is that they would jettison the incense.

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