Jonathan Hodges sorts through a boxed set of Elvis on vinyl behind the counter. He’s stationed up at his store off Burke Street, Underdog Records, preparing a special order to be picked up by a customer. In a few days, the shop will be filled with people celebrating Record Store Day, a twice-yearly event that celebrates the culture of music and the purveyors of the last physical forms of it: your friendly neighborhood record store. It’s an opportunity to support music locally in an era when music is downloaded at the touch of a button and online orders arrive at your door in two days.

A smattering of other customers peruse the many racks of vinyl on display, each person acting according to their own idea of what’s collectable, what’s kitsch, what looks cool.

After last year’s event was significantly altered due to the pandemic, Hodges says he’s ready for this year’s return.

“Compared to last year, I think it’s a great relief,” he says.  “We didn’t know how it was going to go.”

Jonathan Hodges of Underdog Records is looking forward to this year’s event. “Compared to last year, I think it’s a great relief,” he says. (photo by James Douglas)

Because of last year’s COVID-19 restrictions, Underdog had to institute a raffle system on Record Store Day that allowed some, but not all, customers to get in based on appointments.

“It was polarizing,” says Hodges, “People who got in were thrilled; people who didn’t were upset.”

Bob Goodman, a local collector, was one of the lucky ones.

“This is a recent thing for me,” says Goodman, who got back into collecting two years ago. “I used to collect vinyl in the ’70s, and then slowed down, and now I’m back buying it again.”

He, like most people who collect vinyl, is excited about this year’s first Record Store Day on June 12. Goodman plans on attending the event at Underdog.

“This drop, they’re doing a ‘Cure — Blood Flowers,’ which is hard to get on original vinyl,” he says. “But one main thing I’m looking for in particular this year is ‘Renaldo and the Loaf.”

This experimental English duo took their cues from inspirations like Brian Eno and King Crimson. It’s a prime example of the oddities one might find on Record Store Day.

A music lover at heart looks forward to these events much like a comic collector looks forward to Free Comic Day. It’s a matter of finding something that might be unique, unexpected, nostalgic or even regionally specific.

Half the fun is the hunt of finding a unique record that you haven’t seen or heard of before. (photo by James Douglas)

The act of listening to a record can be ritualistic for many as well.

It starts with putting a record on the turntable, propping oneself up and studying every single detail of the album cover while listening to the new find. The photographs, drawings, the inside jokes, the lyrics, descriptions in the liner notes and the vibe that the band intends to convey are all there to explore as the needle slowly meanders to the center of Side A.

Besides Record Store Day offering hard to find music, it’s an opportunity for local musicians like Jeffrey Dean Foster to release work in a way that benefits the local sellers and the community.

Foster is a Winston-Salem staple, with an impressive career that spans decades. His new album, I’m Starting To Bleed, is being released in conjunction with Record Store Day.

Jeffrey Dean Foster is a Winston-Salem staple who will be releasing his new album on Record Store Day. (photo by John Gessner)

“Being a pandemic year, you couldn’t really get together and record very much, so I did everything at home except for one song, ‘When Was the Last Time,’” Foster says. “I recorded the acoustic guitar and vocals at the Ramkat, at one of their Home Sweet Home shows that they do.”

The idea for the album sprang from one of his old friends, Michael Kurtz, who played in Foster’s first band in the early ’80s. Kurtz is also one of the original founders of Record Store Day.

“That’s where it started,” Foster says. “After we got our thing rolling, [Kurtz] mentioned it to the Veldt, and Chris Stamey, and the Backsliders, and they all agreed to give us EPs for the same thing. All of the vinyl sale proceeds are going to go to the Shalom Project.”

The Shalom Project is a local non-profit that Foster has worked with for years. They provide necessities, medical care, outreach and employment opportunities for those living in poverty.

To celebrate the release, Foster is playing at the Pour House in Raleigh on Saturday with Sweet Dream and the Veldt, and on Aug. 7, he’ll be at the Ramkat to play his new album to a crowd just getting used to live shows again.

On Saturday, after a year of living in uncertainty, record stores in all parts of the world will be celebrating musician and vinyl once again. And, from store owners to the artists, to the whims of methodical and casual collectors alike, there’s no telling what the racks will reveal.   

Local stores participating in Record Store Day 2021:

WINSTON-SALEM

GREENSBORO

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