Some of the best music spreads through word of mouth, through friends passing a record, cd, or Facebook link to one another, forming part of the network that is the independent music scene. Finding an incredible band no one’s heard of comes with a feeling of giddy excitement, of instant love, and a +1 to your cred. Finding a secret pile of bands neatly organized in bins, in a format reserved for those who love their music analog, is a completely higher level of awesome. Meet Nate Rhodes, owner and operator of Chester Records, Winchester’s only retailer of new vinyl.
Nate started at a young age, “…before high school, I was sneaking out … going to the 9:30 club in DC and watching punk shows. I think that might’ve been the real moment of going for it, and delving into music. Buying records consumed my life; I was listening all the time, going to as many shows as I could, buying as many records as I could get ahold of. Especially stuff I hadn’t heard of, that I could bring back here, that none of my friends had heard.”
Nate was born and bred in Winchester, and having never left our fair city he has a strong connection to it and to the music scene here. Growing up he played in a handful of punk and rockabilly bands, but over the years his horizons have broadened. “I’m a punk rocker at heart, but these days I’ve been listening to a lot of old timey music; bluegrass and folk. Kind of checking out the musical history of Appalachia and the Shenandoah Valley and Virginia and other southern music.”
By day, Nate does freelance photography and plays mandolin when he can find the time, and he has at times directed photography for album covers and liner notes as well as directed music videos for a classical and early music recording label. Since high school, he’s toyed with the idea of opening a vinyl shop in Winchester, and in November 2010 his vision became a reality. Chester Records is located inside the Winchester Book Gallery at the corner of Loudon and Piccadilly St. in the heart of Downtown Winchester.
Chester Records stocks a rotating inventory of diverse records; lots of genres, old releases, new releases, and re-releases. “Surprisingly, business has been really good. I don’t think I could’ve asked for it to be as good as it’s been. I had no idea if it was going to sell anything, or if I’d even sell a record a month … now I’ve cycled through well over a hundred records since November.”
The beauty of independent record stores is the sense of community they foster. In April, Chester Records participated in the national Record Store Day event, a day in which lots of artists put out special one-time only releases exclusively to independent vinyl retailers. Nate and I worked together to book artists to perform in store, which you can see here (http://auxsend.tv/episodes/episode-006-gallows-bound-live-at-rsd/) and here (http://auxsend.tv/episodes/episode-010-jeremy-cowgill-live-at-rsd/). “That went really, really well. I was in awe of how many people showed up for the event, how many people literally wanted to tear down the doors and get in there and get these special records, prior to me opening the shop. It had a really good turnout, over the course of the evening, there had to be over a hundred people in and out of the shop. At one point in time I think there were 60+ people in the shop at once watching the bands play.”
Chester Records is still young, but it has a promising future. “There’s so many different types of people that come in to buy records, and I’m gonna say that’s a good response from the community. It’s not just punk rockers or kids, it’s peoples’ parents, it’s lawyers, it’s architects… I would eventually like the shop to be it’s own place, either downtown or on the outskirts, a place to have more than just the live music on Record Store Day. I’d like to have a show once a week… honestly I’d love to have more, maybe all week long. I’d like for a place for people to play, local musicians or people from out of town. A full record shop with in store appearances and events throughout the year”
As I’ll talk about from time to time in these articles, I wholeheartedly believe Winchester is very close to having a strong, thriving music scene. There are ample numbers of talented, driven bands… the big, missing component is a stable, reliable venue for independent music shows. But until we achieve this goal, music lovers have a meeting ground, at the least.
“It’s a place for people to go and talk about music, and learn about new stuff, and meet other people and go start a band together, or start a record label, or photograph musicians. There needs to be a place where all that can happen; where seeds can be planted and things will grow from there.” And that is what Chester Records offers us today, a sturdy foundation to grow.
Connect with Chester Records on facebook.com/ChesterRecords and read weekly record reviews from Joseph Neff at chesterrecordsblog.blogspot.com. Chester Records offers new vinyl for sale and is able to do special orders willing to hunt down that obscure band you can’t live without.
Nate’s Desert Island Vinyl
Fugazi – Repeater
Black Flag – The First Four Years
Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime
Chester Records Top 10 of 2011 So Far
1. Mike Watt and the Missingmen – Hyphenated-Man
2. Chris Thile and Michael Daves – Sleep With One Eye Open
3. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
4. Earth – Angels of Darkness Demons of Light
5. OFF! – First Four Ep’s
6. Ghost – Opus Eponymus
7. The Head and The Heart – The Head and The Heart
8. The Black Twigg Pickers w/ Charlie Parr and Glen Jones
9. Battles – Gloss Drop
10. Wye Oak – Civilian
Story by: Doug Stanford
Photo of Nate by: Eugene O. Rhodes
Remaining photos by: Doug Stanford