He was the first in line, the only one in line actually, lurking in front of Daddy Kool Records in downtown St. Petersburg at 3 a.m. Saturday.
"There was still a guy inside closing up," said Steve Rivera, a dude who takes Record Store Day very seriously.
By 6:59 a.m., just before the indie music shop opened its doors, a line of unrested, possibly unwashed music freaks snaked around the block behind him.
Rivera, 35, was joined by his two brothers, each with their own carefully planned shopping list full of one-day-only exclusive merchandise.
The scene was similar at record shops across Tampa Bay Saturday as people lined up for a chance to celebrate Record Store Day, an annual worldwide event that features a list of limited items sold only on the third Saturday in April. Last year, about $7 million worth of exclusives were available.
Rivera was gunning for a few limited goodies from the White Stripes, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and a band called Fitz and the Tantrums. But before all that, there was this: a coveted box set of Cream vinyl. He could see it through the window, like Ralphie gazing at his Red Ryder BB gun.
"That's what I'm getting," the Largo man said as if daring any unfortunate soul to get in his way.
Rivera works for a financial firm. He's good with money, a responsible dude. But in a matter of frenzied minutes he dropped $370 at Daddy Kool.
"This is probably my only stop," he said, "unless there's something I don't get."
He got the Cream set; alas, he didn't get Fitz and the Tantrums. But hey, the day was still early.
At 9 a.m., customers who missed out on the hottest sellers at Daddy Kool migrated to Bananas Music a few miles away. Every day is a celebration of vinyl at the "World's Largest Record Shop," and if Daddy Kool didn't have it, it stood to reason Bananas just might.
In addition to free doughnuts, bagels and coffee for shoppers who lined up early, Bananas passed out small wish lists for everyone to fill out and present at the checkout. Here, there was no grabbing and dashing.
But just because the scene was calm and orderly doesn't mean everyone left happy. Louis Kontor's shopping list started with Phish's Lawn Boy double LP, and when he was too late to grab it at Daddy Kool, he figured Bananas would have it. But just before he reached the counter, he was told they'd run out.
"Oh-for-two, man; I didn't get it," said an empty-handed Kantor, 35, who was visiting from Columbus, Ohio.
Such was the lament of jam-band fans across Tampa Bay. The Sound Exchange in Pinellas Park got three copies of Lawn Boy, and all sold within the first 30 minutes. One of the day's most sought-after items was a four-disc live set by the Dave Matthews Band, limited to 500 copies. Mojo Books and Music in Tampa got exactly one, and co-owner Melanie Cade said fans spent all day Friday calling about it.
Jam fan Eli Schwab grabbed limited releases by the Grateful Dead and Fela Kuti, but he, too, got there too late for Lawn Boy. "Phish is that kind of band that is underground, but huge," he said. "They're highly collectible, and everything in their world is limited-edition."
In Tampa, vinyl lovers lined up at Mojo Books & Music on Fowler Avenue, waiting for the doors to open at 8 a.m.
When they got in, dozens hovered over the bins holding Record Store Day releases, trying to find their choices before hands above or behind them could snag them.
Owner Dan Drummond sat outside the store watching. He said over the years, more Record Store Day merchandise is requested by customers and less quantity is available as more stores participate — often leaving people empty-handed.
"It's gotten more expensive for us," he said.
Among the most-requested items was Dave Matthews Band's Live Trax Vol. 1, which Mojo had one copy of. One particularly persistent fan called numerous times and even appeared Friday at midnight during a store show to ask about it.
He got it.
Times staff writer Shelley Rossetter contributed to this report. Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected]