By now you've probably heard an earful about the approaching Jesus freak vs. pothead showdown on Sunday. But did you know that Saturday is also a big day in its own right? Yes, that's right, Saturday, April 19 marks the passage of Record Store Day, an annual international celebration of brick-and-mortar music purveyors. In San Francisco, that means a lot of celebrating, as there are a lot of record shops scattered throughout the city. In fact, nearly every neighborhood has a spot worth digging through. It doesn't matter if you're a hardcore collector or just a casual fan, we've assembled a quick refresher on some of the places worth checking out this weekend.
101 Music (1414 Grant Ave. and 513 Green St.) - A North Beach institution that's split between two storefronts. Go to 513 Green St. first and descend into its vault-like basement, which features crates and crates of records pulled from literally every genre of music conceived by man. After getting your fingers dusty, switch to 1414 Grant Ave. for a considerable selection of rare, first-edition rock and soul records.
Rookie Ricardo's (448 Haight St.) - '60s soul fans go nuts over this spot. Owner Dick Vivian opened "Rookie's" in 1987, and he's built a reputation for himself as the city's foremost purveyor of rare '60s soul and R&B. In particular, the shop specializes in the obscure 7" single format -- CD-sized pieces of vinyl that only hold one song per side. Even if you're not into soul, it's worth checking out for the retro-kitsch decor and fun, communal ambiance.
RS94109 (835 Larkin St.) - Though it only opened last year, RS94109 has quickly become central to the city's electronic dance music scene. It's a large space in the Tenderloin that recalls the clued-in cool of similarly minded shops like Dope Jams in New York, Mount Analog in Los Angeles, and Spacehall in Berlin. Though it carries some new releases, its main attraction is its voluminous library of techno and house obscurities.
Groove Merchant (687 Haight St.) - Have you ever had one of those epiphanies where you hear a song and recognize it as a classic hip-hop sample? Like, say, the piano line from The Charmelle's "As Long As I've Got You" and Wu Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M."? If so (and even if not), Groove Merchant is best described as a physical manifestation of that feeling; it's a shrine to all things rare, funky, and dope, with hip-hop classics balanced by jazz-funk, disco, and soul obscurities.
Vinyl Dreams (593 Haight St.) - Though it's a relatively new store, Vinyl Dreams is located in a storefront with history. Under various names, the space has been a major part of the San Francisco electronic dance community since the scene's '90s heyday. Nowadays the store keeps that spirit alive, albeit updated for the present; Mike B, the shop's affable owner, keeps the place stocked with the kind of bleeding-edge house and techno cuts that keep venues like Public Works and Monarch packed until the wee hours. He also stocks Club-Mate, an extremely caffeinated Yerba Mate beverage that's very popular in the German techno scene.
Thrillhouse Records (3422 Mission St.) - Some record stores sell punk, others embody the lifestyle. Thrillhouse Records in Bernal Heights is the latter. It's a non-profit, volunteer-run operation that carries a full representation of everything punk, as well as offerings from metal, grunge, garage, and indie. Worth remembering: this one's cash only, as it says on the shop's website, "we don't need to be giving those credit card company fools our money!"
Explorist International (3174 24th St.) - It might be on the small side, but Explorist International has one of the most eclectic selections in the city. It's an unpretentious space with a selection of immaculately clean records that sit on the more avant-garde side of the spectrum: Krautrock, prog-rock, art punk, free jazz, and noise. If records aren't your thing, check out the cassette collection -- they even have cassette listening stations!