Spots for Music Lovers in Rochester, NY

When I came to Rochester to go to college, I didn’t consider myself a music person at all. Since I’ve been in college, though, that’s changed a lot. I’ve fallen in love with all kinds of genres, bands, and performers, and started playing music myself. I’ve expanded from having a single Depeche Mode sticker on my planner to having tons of records that I’ll need to lug with me when I move.

I sometimes wonder if I got into music because I was in Rochester– being a music fan here is easy. While it’s true that bands rarely come here, most bands come to a city within a 2-5 hour radius, which is close enough for me. Rochester’s asset is something else else. There are a some really cool places to buy and listen to music here, and they all have such a unique spirit that there really is a little nook for every type music lover.

Bop Shop on Monroe Ave: Bop Shop is a classic. With a wide selection of classic rock, country, and funk records, along with used stereo equipment, This is the record store where you’re going to run into an elderly gentleman in a brown leather coat who remembers when Aqualung first came out (or can’t quite remember it)- it’s not necessarily hip. A lot of the records are a bit on the pricier side, but at Bop Shop you are paying for quality and selection. This is my friend Alex’s favorite record store in Rochester.

The Record Archive: The Record Archive is the classic record store in Rochester. It’s massive, bright yellow, hosts cool events, and they have nearly every record in store that you could possibly imagine. Where Bop Shop has a section of repeats and a lot of their collection set away in the back, Record Archive has it all out there for you. You can get laser discs, DVDs, they even have a liquor license so you can peruse the stacks with a beer in hand. It’s so massive that it becomes inviting– nobody could possibly know every record in their collection, so it’s something of an equalizer. On the day that the new King Gizzard album came out, I woke up was at Record Archive at 10am to make sure I had a copy. And where many of the record stores in Rochester are a must visit for music lovers, the Record Archive is a must-visit for anybody checking out the area. This was my sister Jenna’s favorite stop when she visited me.

@needledroprecords on instagram —

Needle Drop in the South Wedge: Needle Drop is my favorite record store in Rochester, and possibly my favorite place to buy records full stop. It caters to a specific audience and has a specific selection of records, local cassettes, used books and VHS tapes. Last year on Record Store Day I spent $65 on punk records by bands that I had never heard of, and that’s how I found out about Tear It Up, which is now one of my top 5 punk groups. Needle Drop definitely fits to a specific demographic- it’s a place to find punk, metal, and alternative rock records, new and used. This is my friend Allegra’s favorite Record Store in Rochester.

House of Guitars: HOG is a bit of a different ballgame– it’s mostly instruments for sale. So if you’re looking to start playing music instead of listening to it, House of Guitars is for you. If you catch it on the right day, HOG also has incredible events, with meet and greets from performers from all throughout rock’s history. HOG is a Rochester Landmark, much like the Record Archive. They’ve been in business for decades, and locally, they’re known for their wacky commercials.

The Bug Jar: The Bug Jar is the local dive venue in Rochester. Before I even moved here, people were telling me all about this venue where local and small touring groups play gigs almost every night of the week. After turning 21, I was most excited to start checking this spot out (not that there aren’t 18+ nights every once in a while). They’re tiny, they’ve got cheap beer, there’s a kitchen on the ceiling that you have to see for yourself. If you’re looking for live punk or emo music, look no further than the Bug Jar.

I was living in Rochester when my interest in music became an obsession. Each of these places has a super special place on my heart– and should have a place on any music-lover’s agenda spending the weekend in the Rochester area.

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