It’s the day when middle-aged men get up at the crack of dawn and put on their Joy Division t-shirts.

Unable the resist paying inflated prices for music by bands they had almost forgotten existed, they trundle down to their local record store and celebrate the right to buy vinyl.

But once the records have been stored away on the shelf, surely the longest-lasting memories of record store revolve around not vinyl, but the opportunity to witness live music in an atmosphere that is as close as possible to one’s living room?

For if record store day demonstrates one thing, it is people’s love of watching artists play live, preferably up close and personal.

Reading aloud

I’m not sure whether Reading celebrated record store day as, by the time I arrived on Saturday lunchtime, the focus of attention was the fifth Are You Listening? festival.

I confess that I only knew about the festival because it featured among The Big  Moon’s live dates, but it is another multi-venue wristband event, in aid of Mencap, and one that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Besides the good cause, there were enough performers, and punters, to make being there feel worthwhile. At the same time, it was easy to switch venues without queuing and the volunteers went out of their way to make everyone feel welcome, as well as feel like contributing a bit more for people with learning disabilities.

The day was capped off by the amazing Anna Meredith and her band playing their unique brand of classical trance in a church (see picture above). But as ever with such festivals, many of the highlights were to be found in smaller venues.

These included instrumental rock duo Cody Noon, hip hop collective Figures of Speech and the stunning electronic sounds of Tusks (aka artist/producer Emily Underhill) who captivated a small audience in an arts centre, and deserves far more exposure than she is getting at present. A debut album looms later in the year.

Amazonian adventures

Before the music got underway, local band The Amazons were interviewed on stage by Radio 1’s Huw Stephens. One of the most underrated broadcasters, Stephens is not the type of DJ who asks inane questions such as ‘Are you looking forward to people buying your album?’.

Instead he feeds interviewees just enough questions and ideas to generate conversation and then shuts up. The band members responded admirably, sharing what it was like starting out in the music business, and some of the pitfalls to avoid.

One Amazon confided that the first time he went to Reading Festival, aged 15, he went with his mum. On another occasion to got in without paying. Now nobody begrudges a teenager avoiding hefty ticket prices at a corporate festival, but this was definitely not a day for that type of thing.

For if we can afford to buy vinyl, we can afford to support live music by paying for it, especially when it’s in aid of charity. In that respect, Are You Listening? succeeded on all counts. Here’s to next year.