TOFU AND WHISKEY'S HOLIDAY GUIDE Before I expound on anything, I've got to spit this out: buy local. If you're going to buy something; in particular, if you're going to buy actual vinyl records or CDs or books or musical equipment, get them from an independent store in the Bay Area.
Support Aquarius, Amoeba Music, Black Pancake Records, GROOVES, 1-2-3-4 GO!, Recycled Records, Rooky Ricardo's, Rasputin's, Streetlight, and the smaller mom-and-significant-other type stores; otherwise, the brick and mortars will slowly die and we'll be stuck rifling only through the virtual library, which will inevitably lead to a host of other problems (loneliness, fatigue, hive mindedness).
Making it even easier to shop live, Record Store Day has a Black Friday special releases list (Fri/23), which means there will be lots of specialty music and rare editions on the shelves. And yes, some detractors complain of the single-mindedness of asking shoppers to obsess over rare vinyl jewels just one day a year — actual Record Store Day takes place in April — and that most of the items end up online with jacked up prices anyways. I disagree with this mindset, especially around the holidays. That push can make the difference for a struggling independent shop. Keep in mind, this is not advocating for actual Black Friday shopping at Wal-Mart and the like. End rant.
Last year, all I wanted for Chanukah was the Phil Spector box set, each disc enveloped in tiny cardboard sleeves made to replicate the original records in miniature — like dollhouse versions. I got the CDs, and have listened to the Crystals' "Frankenstein Twist," on average, once a day for these past 12 months. This year, I'm just not sure what to covet, so I asked around.
From my non-academic study, I found that musicians tend to be of the practical angle when it comes to gifts. They want extra cables, or picks, headphones, or record needles. One mentioned the Fender Champ amp, which is good for thin-walled apartment use, or the $39 Fireye Mini portable headphone amp. Better yet, a gift certificate to a (local) music shop — try spots like Real Guitars (15 Lafayette, SF; www.realguitars.com), SF Guitar Works (323 Potereo, SF; www.sfguitarworks.com) or Starving Musician (2474 Shattuck, Berk; www.starvingmusician.com).
Those one step apart from the musicians, the quintessential music nerds such as myself, on the other hand, tend to desire the ostentatious and/or extraordinary. They want that rare, hard-to-find seven-inch on white vinyl, the oversized coffee table book, or that carefully curated box set.
Or something else entirely: a gift subscription to Turntable Kitchen's pairing boxes ($25/month, www.turntablekitchen.com) is a particularly cool gift that's based right here in the Bay. The boxes ship once a month and include dry ingredients, recipes, and limited edition seven-inches, often by local musicians.