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Coachella '09: Record Store Day in Indio

April 18, 2009 |  2:42 pm

Delightful oddities abound at Coachella: a musical mime pedaling a battered upright piano around the festival grounds on a makeshift bicycle cart, 11-year-old kids listening intently to the world-wise observations of 74-year-old Zen Canadian poet Leonard Cohen, and a batch of music retailers selling vinyl LPs, 45s and EPs in the middle of the desert.

The retailers are taking part in national Record Store Day, a commemoration established last year by independent-music-store operators to encourage consumers to buy more music in a form they can actually put their hands on.

"The vinyl resurgence in the last few years has been part of that," said Brian Faber, owner of the eight-store Phoenix-based Zia Records chain and one of the coordinators of the tent at Coachella where dozens of this year’s performers are taking turns doing CD, LP, book and T-shirt signings throughout the day.

"A lot of people feel like they’ve done the downloading thing," Faber said. "This is a different kind of retail business, because the people back here," he said, pointing to the employees ringing up sales, "are the same as the people out there.  They just love music.”

Nationally, hundreds of musicians have created special releases to support Record Store Day -- veterans including Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits, who are issuing 7-inch vinyl singles, as well as relative newcomers such as the Decemberists and My Morning Jacket. Others are making in-store appearances, among them Anthrax’s Scott Ian, slated to drop in today at Amoeba Music in Hollywood.  The event is a collaboration among members of the Music Monitor Network, the Coalition of Independent Music Stores and the Alliance of Independent Media Stores.

"I’ve been buying vinyl since we started going on tour," said Ray Suen, a backing musician for the Killers, on his way out of the Record Store Day tent with a Doctor Dog LP and a split single with a song each from Andrew Bird and Loney Dear.

It wasn’t only about vinyl, although perhaps the hottest item this weekend is a series of vinyl Radiohead EPs Capitol has just put out.

Lisa Lambiase of Buffalo, N.Y., split the difference, picking up CDs from M.I.A. and Blitzen Trapper for herself and a vinyl LP of Beirut’s “March of the Zapotec” album for her boyfriend, who wasn’t able to attend.

“I really liked their show last night and I wanted to bring him something back,” she said. “He’s got more than 5,000 LPs.” Amassed over what period? “All his life.”

-- Randy Lewis