ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Music community develops in 'Hidden World'

While Rochester's Hidden World Vinyl Records obviously sells records, it also finds ways to engage and energize a local community concerned with creativity and humanity.

Hidden World Vinyl
A donation bin is seen for winter items at Hidden World Vinyl on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
We are part of The Trust Project.

Hidden World Vinyl Records takes its name from a 2006 album by a hardcore punk band from Toronto. While the hardcore band’s titled includes a not so polite word that begins with F, the local record shop seems to be hardcore about something that embodies the spirit of politeness — community.

Appropriately, Hidden World is a bit off the beaten path. Located at 519 Second Ave. NW, Rochester, the local record store is in a neighborhood that mixes residential and commercial properties and butts up against the railroad. It has been open for the last three years with a few pandemic-related closures.

Hidden World Vinyl
Hidden World Vinyl on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

While Hidden World obviously sells records, it also finds ways to engage and energize a local community concerned with creativity and humanity.

“Our approach to a record shop is a bit different from what had been done before in my research,” says owner and operator Vy Thorng. “We operate it as a cooperative and a non-debt financed organization.”

Thorng, though he uses more colorful language, says this system avoids some of the negatives that can come along with top-down commercialization and the goals of billionaires.

ADVERTISEMENT

Community perspective

“Music means community and relationship, so a shop that supports music and music creation should focus on that and make that part of the culture,” says Thorng.

The shop has found some unique ways to do that. For example, this winter the shop is hosting a winter-wear drive. If community members bring in new hats, socks, coats or other cold-weather necessities, Hidden World offers them a $10 gift certificate.

“The winter hat drive idea comes from our interactions with the local unhoused folks in our neighborhood,” says Thorng. “They come in to get away from the cold on their way to a shelter that opens a bit later in the day.”

Hidden World Vinyl
A donation bin is seen for winter items at Hidden World Vinyl on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Thorng says he has interesting chats with the unhoused people he encounters in his shop. All the new cold weather clothes donations Hidden World receives go to the Dorothy Day Hospitality House.

“The last two donations we got, the person didn’t want a gift certificate. They just wanted to donate,” says Thorng.

In addition to their winter clothing drive, Hidden World also offers its space to host groups like the Rochester, MN Songwriters group that lets local songwriters workshop their new compositions. Later this month, on Jan. 22, the store hosts free guitar lessons presented by a local musician. The lessons require an RSVP to reserve an instrument and are already fully booked.

“Our good friend Toby is a musician and wanted to give back, so this is his program,” says Thorng. “He’s purchased a handful of guitars to give to folks who need one. After the first event, we’ll look into what works for the next one and go from there. But all events we have are always free to attend and participate.”

Music, in person

Hidden World Vinyl also presents live music shows, though Thorng clarifies that they are not a music venue. “We do absolutely no booking, and do not have a budget to do so,” says Thorng. “Our way of putting on a performance is through word of mouth and community support, organically making its way to the shop. Donations are strictly for crews from out of the area for fuel and food. We hold a loose policy of original material and prefer newer acts who don’t perform often.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Matt Kounniyom, a 26-year-old Rochester resident performs what he describes as “solo bass” music that is “experimental and ambient.” He has performed at Hidden World several times and has seen six shows there since August.

“I’ve met new friends and have heard some interesting music,” he says. “Hidden World is great because it’s all ages and they don’t care to take risks on smaller bands from out of town. It’s a welcoming space."

He calls the record shop “open-minded” and “unapologetic.”

Kounniyom will be performing solo at Hidden World on Saturday, Jan. 14 as part of a bill that also includes the bands Not Yet All Things, ACIDYOUTH, and Feral Light. Kounniyom describes the lineup as including more “noisy and harsh” music. That’s a genre that he says he wants to “help grow” in Rochester.

Hidden World Vinyl
Hidden World Vinyl on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Nels Potvin, half of Not Yet All Things (NYAT), a dance and electronic duo from Minneapolis, performs on synth and drum machines while sampling, mixing and sequencing. His partner, Nora, who he calls the “dance half of NYAT” interprets the music into visual storytelling.

Potvin says his group wanted to perform outside the Twin Cities and Hidden World seemed perfect.

“I love independent record shops. They are a great place to go to relax while crate diving, connecting with other music lovers, and supporting local business,” says Potvin.

In the next month, Hidden World is slated to host shows from A Wretched Success on Jan. 28 and music from James Reed and Luke Hendrickson on Jan. 31. The venue has more shows scheduled for February and also a poetry event.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Folks can support us just by attending our events, passing info to friends, joining our Instagram for updates, and donating or selling us their used or underused records,” says Thorng. He also says the shop will be supported if its patrons “join bands, rap crews, art collectives, and literary groups.”

Thorng urges people to “be eternally curious about music and attend our friends’ events around town even if you’re not familiar with the genre.” Most importantly, he encourages everyone to “have fun.”

If you go

Hidden World Vinyl Records is located at 519 Second Ave. NW, Rochester.

Open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 1-7 p.m.

612-328-5643

To learn more about Hidden World Vinyl Records, follow the Instagram page @hiddenworldvinylrecords .

Hidden World Vinyl
Hidden World Vinyl on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Hidden World Vinyl
Hidden World Vinyl on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Hidden World Vinyl
Hidden World Vinyl on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Hidden World Vinyl
Hidden World Vinyl on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Related Topics: ROCHESTERMUSICBUSINESS
What To Read Next
The City of Rochester is applying for the Minnesota Investment Fund grant “to assist with the start-up of Nucleus RadioPharma," which is a Mayo Clinic firm.
In a special election in May, voters will pass or fail a $400,000 municipal bond to finance the city's purchase of the former bank building, which would become the new city hall.
The driver had non-life threatening injuries.
The public meeting will go over MnDOT's plan to replace or repair six bridges along I-90 by 2026.