Revolution Records: Supporting the DC Music Scene

Nayan Bhula in the front room of his store, Revolution Records in Van Ness
Nayan Bhula in the front room of his store, Revolution Records
– photo by Tyler Sonnichsen

Van Ness-UDC is a bizarre Metro stop. Thousands of people pass in and out of it every day; the apartments in the neighborhood are among the most popular housing for young professionals in the district, and the city���s only public university hosts thousands of commuter students daily. Other than that, Van Ness offers no tourist attractions or utilities that one couldn���t get elsewhere. So, as Nayan Bhula and Fred Burton faced all of these questions upon opening Revolution Records, the good incentives won out.

���The biggest [positives] for us were the availability of this second-floor space, and the price,��� said Bhula. While still far from a steal, the property value would be much easier to maintain than that in more of a cultural hotspot like Dupont Circle or U Street. Regardless, Bhula and the Revolution staff of six have taken advantage of what they do have. The store���s 10% discount for anyone carrying a college ID, for example, has meshed well with the UDC commuters.

Despite the inevitable trials and tribulations that any independent music store faces, especially in a town like DC, Revolution has grown considerably in customer base and presence within the local music scene.

Bhula and Burton play together in local indie-rock trio Gist. On the legs of their latest album ���Diesel City,��� released under their own production company Red Stapler Records, the duo, along with bassist Finley Martin, have taken on the challenge of balancing their touring and promotion with running and maintaining the store.

As a good indication of Bhula���s entrepreneurial abilities, the two fields have mixed well. Revolution���s interior room has played host to a number of local acts performing free shows for friends and customers.

���It���s outstanding to see people coming out and supporting local music like this,��� said local musician Mike Holden during his solo acoustic set in the store last month, ���It���s something that benefits a lot more than just those of us here right now.���

Other acts that Revolution has hosted for in-stores include local punks Cab Assassin and The Nuclears, indie rockers The Apparitions, as well as nationally touring artists like Pedro the Lion, Mary Lou Lord, and diverse acts like DJ Chuck and Saxophonist Tom Gardner.

The diversity of the acts is an appropriate microcosm of a store that has barely any division of genres within its CD selection.

���I���ve always hated that elitist mindset [that some stores have],��� said Bhula, ���As in, they���re committed to being ���just indie��� or ���exclusively punk.��� Here, almost all types of music are together, straight from A to Z.���

Revolution is also the only store in DC known to have old-fashioned listening rooms, equipped with a turntable for vinyl and CD stereos, swivel chairs, and magazines.

���I love the idea that people can just chill out, sample an album with their friends, maybe flip through some magazines,��� said Bhula, ���It���s the exact type of environment I���ve always aimed for.���

Even though Van Ness is not a frequent stop, Revolution Records has defeated many of the odds that it initially encountered thanks to an environment that keeps a number of customers coming back—a very eclectic mix of popular, underground, and even out-of-print CDs. No matter how present the DC scene is on the national radar, Revolution will be there, a vital part of it, providing all the support it can.