Rush Hour: The Philosophy Behind Amsterdam’s Landmark Record Shop

As recently announced, Rush Hour (RH) is moving to a new and more spacious shopfront. To celebrate this next big step, they are throwing a RH-Weekender party at OT301, April 8/10th. While the expansion comes as no surprise, the story behind RH’s rise and the development of its surrounding culture is quite a headpiece within the field of music distribution. In this article, we want to bring you in a little closer with this key component in the Amsterdam scene, through talks with RH’s co-founder Antal and Sadar Bahar, one of its guests of honour during the weekender.

After 17 years at its former location, the crew at Rush Hour are moving 50 meters down the street (from Spuistraat 98 to number 116) – something they couldn’t have dreamed for. Antal: “We want to keep many things from the old store for the new one. We basically want to add more space for the people who come to our store. For us, we need more working space and space for the records so that we can place them better in the store”.

A key plan is to expand their record selection; one that includes more new and second hand records. This includes additional room for new activities. While the larger space opens up new opportunities to include more special in-store events, their core focus as a distributor is not changing. “These [events] are always done as an extra and something special, so I wouldn’t want to speak about an [event] series as our main focus from being a record store,” says Antal.

As such, to celebrate this transformation, a 3-day opening weekender with Dego’s 2000 black Family (live), Volcov, Beau Wanzer (live), Mick Wills, Lee Collins, Sadar Bahar and many others will kick-off the start of a new age for one of what is an institution in dance and electronic music.

In many ways, the expansion is well deserved. The centripetal force of passion has pushed the label into a field where they clearly stand on their own. According to its co-founder and highly sought-after DJ, RH’s values are all about “musical taste combined with maintaining strong relationships with likeminded artists and people”. These strong network relationships have earned them both a stable local and international presence, amongst producers, DJs, agents, and record collectors in general.

“It’s all about joy, a love for music, and sharing it with like-minded people in this world” – Antal

It’s dually important to note that the store’s diverse selection of records across many genres, the depth and awareness on each record sold, the label’s interesting selection of artists and labels, and the range/variation of each RH artist’s output have contributed to their status. However, perhaps most importantly – it is the culture that RH has developed around these features that makes them stand out from others. Whether they like it or not, the store has grown into a city landmark for anybody interested in discovering new music. And to best understand what this culture is reminiscent of, it’s good to know the philosophy behind the organisation and how it has gotten to where it is today in the first place.

Since day one, RH’s approach of listening and sharing music was greatly inspired by the Chicago house [scene] build; i.e. the culture that was cultivated by house, disco, and soul artists who emerged out of the 70s and flourished in the mid-late 80s. “I think [the Chicago house build] is the root of how we listen and play music, no matter where it has been created and when it is discovered,” Antal says. This music culture, set in motion by notable artists such as Frankie Knuckles, Ron Trent, Sadar Bahar, and others, was all about ‘feeling’ the music. Quite simply, this goes along the idea that everything that is physical, including collecting vinyl, is necessary to really immerse yourself into that world.

Antal and the RH crew met many of these Chicago guys through releasing their work, bookings for their events like Somewhere in Amsterdam, the infamous RH Trouw Weekenders or in-store shows, digging trips or rendezvous in their country of residence. Over time, what formed was a near family-like bond of discovering music such as obscure soul & disco and bringing it into the club to share with everyone. “It’s all about joy, a love for music, and sharing it with like-minded people in this world. That is the best feeling,”

This bond was largely facilitated by the passion of collecting vinyl from around the world. For the most part, the vinyl market has made its resurgence, and while still categorised as a niche product – it certainly has made its way as a more standard form of release again amongst labels and artists. If we rewind our clocks back say, 15 years – that certainly was not the case.

Technology is disrupting the enjoyment of music. Collecting [vinyl] for me, is what feeds into the respect for the music” – Sadar Bahar

Most music is based around technology now. Nobody is getting into the visual part and going in and getting their hands on it.” Sadar Bahar says. Rather than heading to record stores to discover new vinyl, millions of individuals around the world search the Internet looking for new music. “Technology is disrupting the enjoyment of music. Collecting [vinyl] for me, is what feeds into the respect for the music. If you’re missing out on what’s going on around it, how can you get into it?”

Internet technologies have unveiled the sheer vastness and overly saturated nature of the music industry, but it has removed the enjoyable lag-times when uncovering new music. Antal concludes by saying, “It’s about the appreciation of music, and if you have this and follow this – you cannot neglect the vinyl format for instance… so it’s a logical progression. There is just way too much undocumented music out there – so we’re obliged to dig through the past and find out.”

And that is the Rush Hour store in a nutshell: to create a place where collectors, aficionados, fanboys and curious passers by alike can have the best possible music discovery experience. Now with a bigger and more practical store about to open, that core goal can be achieved even better. Even though we might start to miss that cozy store. – like queuing with five others in front of the listening station to check out that carefully gathered stack of strange records. Good times.

Rush Hour’s weekender will take place from the 8th to the 10th at OT301 of April and will showcase a bill including Dego’s 2000Black Family (live), Sadar Bahar, Lee Collins, Volcov, Margie, Mick Wills and more.