TURN IT DOWN: A survey of Lansing’s musical landscape

By Rich Tupica

For the records

Whether you love digging through bargain bins for scratched-up Neil Young LPs or prefer tracking down rare gems, this Saturday, April 18, be sure to visit all four Lansing area independent record stores in celebration of Record Store Day.

Conceived in 2007, Record Store Day is supported by more than 700 privately owned vinyl and CD shops across the country, including locals Flat Black & Circular, The Record Lounge and Replay Entertainment Exchange and Uncle Sam’s Record Emporium.

Each of these vinyl stores has a distinct personality not found in corporate chains. The employees and owners offer introspective opinions and suggestions about music, new and old. When I walk into Flat Black & Circular in East Lansing, employee Jon Howard often greets me with, “Have you got this yet? You need to!”

Howard knows what music I love, and he keeps an eye out for me. When he suggests an LP, it’s not him “pushing” product, he genuinely thinks I’ll dig it, and 95 percent of the time he’s right on.

The other three local shops, aside from being stocked with piles of records and CDs, also support Lansing music. Replay Entertainment, Uncle Sam’s and The Record Lounge all host free in-store performances by local bands.

Everyone knows MP3s and iPods have changed how music is heard by the masses. Yes, it’s convenient to download a song without leaving home, but without that small room filled with dusty records and plastered with rock show fliers, being introduced to local and under-the-radar bands will become a much more daunting task.

There is nothing tangible or personal about downloading a file on my hard drive; iTunes doesn’t know my taste in music. However, every record store owner in Lansing does, and that’s why I’ll stop in, dig for that Bantam Rooster 7-inch I’ve been searching for, and say thanks this Saturday.

Where to go:

Flat Black & Circular. A local fixture that recently reached its 30th anniversary, Flat Black & Circular has new and used vinyl, as well as CDs and DVDs, from every genre. The glass case above the listening center is often stocked with rare Beatles picture sleeves and hardto-find punk and indie 7-inch records. From rockabilly, blues and folk, to hiphop and R&B, FBC likely has it on the rack in more than one format. 541 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing. (517) 351-0838. www.myspace.com/flatblackandcircular

The Record Lounge. Nestled in the heart of East Lansing is the city’s only all vinyl record shop. Located above P.T. O’Malley’s, this store has tons of $1 LPs, as well as thousands of new and used records. Also, every other Monday, the shop is host to free “unplugged” evenings of live music, performed by local talent. 210 Abbot Road, Suite 18, East Lansing (517) 333-7055. www.myspace.com/therecordlounge

Replay Entertainment Exchange. If you’re a record nerd with a passion for Xbox, then Replay Entertainment is your fix. The all-used store buys, sells and trades music, movies and video games. Aside from in-store performances from local rockers, this place also hosts gaming and B-movie nights. 319 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing (Next to Barnes & Noble). www.myspace.com/replaylansing.

Uncle Sam’s Record Emporium Located on the edge of Old Town, Uncle Sam’s has tons of indie CDs, DVDs and vinyl. The owners specialize in everything from hardcore punk and alternative rock, to ‘60s soul and old country. The store is also host to tons of free, allages shows. 100 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing. (517) 999-3440. www.myspace.com/unclesamsrecordemporium.