“Let me get this right. You plan to put on a day of free live music with a bar so that people can start drinking at 11 am? I am very concerned about this” said the policeman on the other end of the phone.
I had applied for an Occasional Licence so that we could serve alcohol on Record Store Day. By selling the booze we cover the venue hire, stewarding, insurance, paying the bands a little and other bits and bobs including the sound engineer and PA system hire. Having had a licence before for an in-store event, I had not actually expected any difficulties getting another one.
“If word gets around that there is free music with alcohol being served *inhales deeply* well you could be mobbed”. “This worries me” he said, “there could be trouble”. I hope we’ll be mobbed, I thought and I must say, I liked his confidence. “A lot of people could attend. You’re not advertising this are you?”
There is only a couple of weeks to go and the posters have already been designed and were waiting to be printed and sent to the distributor, The Skinny magazine have already highlighted our event as a must see. I have had VoxBox Hannah email all the Scottish music folk I know. The Record Store Day team in London have also highlighted our event on social media and I have an interview lined up on BBC Radio Alba and The Janice Forsyth Show were about to give us a mention on BBC Radio Scotland.
I’ve advertised a wee bit I said. “Hmm”.
“What kind of people do you expect” Said the nice policeman.
Well it’s a family event really. From new-borns and their parents to old punks and their parents. We are generally a beardy lot with young families I tried to explain. People that come to see someone like Andrew Wasylyk in the mid-afternoon are usually in employment, education or training. They aren’t erm, you know… it’s not T in the Park.
“I’m going to speak with my Sergeant” said he as he hadn’t heard Andrew’s fantastic new record. perhaps he was waiting for the repress as it had sold out on vinyl.
There follows a nervous half hour.
“Hello Hello Hello, It’s the police again”. Act innocent Darren!
“I’ve had a word with the guys in the office and they are aware of your past events…”
“I’m going to let this one through”
You beauty! Wait a minute… aware of past events.
OK. For whatever do you mean officer?
Our past events have actually been so much fun that this year Andy Loves Records (of wee label Gerry Loves Records) and I had a little difficulty getting started. In the past we have had 14 acts on in two venues and also outside on St Stephen Street itself. That takes a lot of organising. Andy said we should consider just not doing anything. Maybe have a year off. Or maybe try to officially close the street and put up a wee stage. Just to try something different on this, our 8th Record Store Day. “You sort out the records, I’ll sort out the bands” said he in 2012. And every single year since.
If anyone loves the annual Record Store Day party more than me, it is Andy, so this was a serious crisis of confidence. We were sitting in a pub in late February still pondering what to do when a mysterious friend suggested St Vincent’s Chapel. He told us that they have been hiring the venue out for BYOB gigs over the past 3 years. So I got in touch and they were free. RSD is usually the 3rd Saturday in April but if that day is on Easter weekend then the RSD date moves forward. This meant that the chapel was available, only just though -we would need to be out by 8pm so they could set up for Palm Sunday.
We will be in. There will be a queue. It’ll get busy then a bit mental hopefully then we’ll be out again. You won’t know we were there. There will be nothing controversial I explained to St Vincent’s very slightly uneasy events man who nevertheless had a twinkle in his eye. “Oh I don’t mind a bit of controversy!” he said. We were on!
Then off! There had been some crossed wires with the other church members- I must have been mistaken about the dates as it was too going to be too close to Easter.
Three nervous hours later we were on again!
Then almost off with less than a week to go…
The Council were calling the Rector of St Vincent’s and are threatening to shut all of the future church events down if they allow us in for Record Store Day. It will be chaos they said, they don’t have the permissions! Threats to go to the press. It was clearly a hoaxer throwing some dirt around but there was still a nervousness. “You do have a licence don’t you?” I was asked again. Their events man had come in to see me in the shop in person. Record boxes were covering the floor as a late delivery had just come in. 240 cans of Innis and Gunn lager had also arrived and a pillar that even Samson would struggle to get through was sitting on the doorstep. As a matter of fact, the Police called asking about the event just the other day… Act innocent. It’ll be fine.
As an added thorn in my side, someone claiming to be “from the press” was complaining to the RSD head office trying to get us thrown out of Record Store Day stating that “pop up shops” are against the RSD rules. I got a ticking off for not okaying it with the RSD office but we all know VoxBox is not a pop up. We are not going away. It just made sense to move the records into the venue. That way, this year I get to see more of the artists I love.
Have you ever heard the plot device of put a character up a tree, throw stones at him then get him down safely? Well I was up a tree with chimps throwing dirt around. How would this end?
I had keys to the chapel from 4pm to set up the day before. 20 large boxes of records and the 10 cases of lager to bring in from the shop and some more drinks stored at home. Some of the late RSD delivery was still not priced or put in alphabetic order. A box of records weighs about 25kg. Who says 180g vinyl is better?
Half way in to shifting a literal half a tonne of music, I was contemplating whether ‘Flexidisc Day’ would be easier on my spine but by 1am the place was looking good. It was time to cycle home. A wee bed was set up in my record room as my parents were in the spare room and my wife would have a long day ahead looking after the boys. I settled down and set my alarm for six am for I would be meeting Andy at seven.
Record Store Day this year was a great success. It took a lot of planning and it runs smoothly every year. Band on, great performance, band off. Band on great performance, band off. Behind the scenes there can be a little chaos and a healthy nervousness is there. First you think what if no-one comes? Then as the Facebook event reaches 600 people, what if too many people come?
We are lucky that those that do come are the nicest of people. As I said to the police, we are a beardy lot (not the ladies) with young families. For eight years Andy and I have been organising this thing and every year it feels better than the last. (Almost every year). The records are secondary I think, other shops have longer queues than us too but most important to me are the people that actually make the music. Those who are so often the last to get paid are the ones that we need for records to exist in the first place.
Among the music industry in Scotland there are many small scenes, each with a community believing in and supporting one another. To have the opportunity to join a few friendly congregations up a little for one day a year is a privilege. The happiness is palpable and you see friends that greet one another not with handshakes but with hugs. It is even the one day a year where music fans in Glasgow travel to Edinburgh for an event. Sometimes a tourist comes in an asks if we take part in Record Store Day. I always say that we put on the best if not biggest RSD event in the UK. Browsing the records in the compact shop, I can tell that they seldom believe me. Thomas had his doubts I hear.
There were a few issues but nothing too bad. I overordered some records for example that are now taking a while to shift. Who would have thought that nobody would want to buy the Mad Max 2 Soundtrack? I completely missed one small distributor when ordering and the allocation of some bigger titles were smaller than hoped. Miracle Glass Company blew a fuse but handled the power cut incredibly well. “I saw someone get up to leave and I said to myself, ‘That’s not going to happen'” William Douglas told me afterwards and he launched into an improvised acapella sermon until the power was resurrected.
Special thanks to Mrs VoxBox who set up and ran a wee stall with some other FR fans that raised some money for the Scott Hutchison Foundation, now known as Make Tiny Changes. Also to Andy Loves Records as always. VoxBox Mike and VoxBox Andy for putting in a tremendous shift and putting up with my stresses in the run up. All the other staff roped in to help. The artists themselves of course and the labels and the magazines and the bloggers and the Scottish BBC radio. My Freshair co-presenter Dom for DJing on 2 portable vintage Fidelity turntables all day. Basically thanks to everyone who helped out in any way. To the old friends and the new ones made. Thanks to everyone that helped tidy up afterwards and so helping me keep my word to be spick and span and out by 8. This isn’t the Oscars Darren…
After running a bar for the first time, I have learnt that people don’t drink Carlsberg anymore and also that people need to pee in proportion to the amount of drinks sold. (Other loos will be found for next time if there is one). But for one day of the year, if I may be so bold, I do feel that we probably have the best RSD event in the world and that is a credit to all involved in the music scene locally and nationally helping it to happen. Towards the end, I met a retired clergywoman in our makeshift bar area. “Jesus would have loved this” she said. He loved a party!”*
And that is basically what I will put on the Licence application for next year.
Here are a few photos of RSD 2019.
Thank you all for coming!
Band photos by James at EHsix photography. He is available for band PR shots etc.
Thank you to the team at St Vincent’s Chapel for trusting us and taking a chance. More info/ venue hire here.
Links to all the bands can be found here until next year.
The best microlabel in the world Gerry Loves Records.