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Record Store Day: Why I love Rough Trade East

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Rough Trade East is more than just a record shop. At 5000sq feet, it certainly houses a huge amount of CDs, vinyl and cassettes, but it also puts on the best in-stores anywhere, hosts book signings, craft evenings and exhibitions. It’s a complete music destination on a larger scale than its original sister shop in Notting Hill. Although not exactly small (the shops are independent but closely tied to both each other and the Rough Trade record label, itself part of The Beggars group which wields a fair bit of clout in the music industry) the shop maintains a small shop sensibility and a local feel. The staff are friendly, knowledgeable and most importantly, approachable; there don’t seem to be any music snobs here. Indeed, the range of genres covered incorporates most tastes, there’s a noticeable emphasis on imports, special editions (hand screen printed and numbered editions are a special treat indeed) and output from bands without distribution deals. Many albums are offered with special Rough Trade bonus material (offering a bonus disc of Christmas songs with their album of the year winner Josh T Pearson was genius) making them an important staple on the collectors market too. It’s a joy to spend a few hours in here browsing and listening at one of the many posts or turntables. It’s a place for discovery, letting an interesting album cover catch your eye and requesting a listen, a place to fall in love with a new discovery and leave clutching something beautiful, especially on Record Store Day, when they have an enviable amount of special releases and live performances all day.

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The cafe at the front of the store offers a place to hang out and have informal meetings, the backdrop of which is the shops gallery, showcasing everything from local print makers to Nicky Wire‘s ‘Manics Family Album’ Polaroids.There’s a good old ‘musicians wanted’ board at the back and a small stage for in-store appearances, next to a wall of Rough Trade shirts and accessories. This store is also home to a great selection of books covering music, art, street culture, photography and literature not readily available in any high street book store.
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The sheer range of evening events hosted here is stunning. The in-stores are legendary, with appearances from bigger names as well as new artists, along with book launches, film screenings and spoken word readings. Recent workshops include ‘Technology Will Save Us’ evenings offering attendees the chance to build their own speakers and other geekery,  while the ‘Impossible Project’ run photography evenings based around their resurrected Polaroid films. Rough Trade also houses a great little photo booth which is must-do every time you visit, take your photo home or pin it up with the hundreds of others on the wall of fame.

If and when you find yourself in East London, it’s an absolute must to visit, although their on-line store is also excellent; why not sign up for the Album Club and have a tasty new release delivered straight to your door once a month? The store also appears in pop-up format at various festivals over the summer, reaching out to non-Londoners too. Just this month Rough Trade announced a new shop to open in trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with a store bigger than Rough Trade East and featuring a larger performance space.

It’s all of these things that make Rough Trade a great record shop, thriving at a time when the high street is stalling and selling physical records in a time of downloads. Long may it continue.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.