One of the other cool things that I was able to take part in as a freelance writer for Metal Edge Magazine, was to occasionally offer up an article that fell outside the normal realm of music release review. During my tenure they had a section entitled “Heavy Metal Mecca’s” and this focused on the ever popular Record & Concert shop that was dedicated to the Heavy Metal and Hard Rock scene in terms of what it made available to the consumer. When the editor asked me to pitch such an establishment to their desk I could think of no place better suited to the job than the Rock Fantasy Concert Shop up in Middletown, NY. Since the magazine that this originally ran in has been off the stands for quite some time and now has ceased publication; I am re-presenting my work with the readers of the PiercingMetal.com Blog so new folks might enjoy it. It is my hope that these words continue to help out this amazing shop going forward.
“If you take a quick train ride from Manhattan to Middletown, NY, you’ll be able to visit a true institution in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal retail – the one and only Rock Fantasy. The shop is a cornucopia of heavy music and its memorabilia and has been open for business since 1985. Since the doors first opened for the hungry Metal maven, it has seen more than a fair share of genres come and go and through it all Metal has prevailed. The shop was founded and is operated by Steve Keeler who aimed Rock Fantasy at being your one-stop shop for all your Metal needs.
As you browse the shelves you will find the very latest in Metal releases from across all of the major providers and be able to choose from Black Metal to Death Metal, Thrash to Folk as well as the more traditional styles now considered “Old School”. Lucky for the customer, Keeler is one of those shop owners who remains “in the mix” about the genre and as a result if he finds you purchasing something by Therion, there is a good chance of his making some recommendations about Nightwish or Epica as well.
It makes shopping here a different experience from that of Best Buy where one will often find Black Eyes Peas in the Rock section as well as a staff that doesn’t know who many of the bands are when asked about them. We asked Keeler what led him to open the shop so long ago and he replied, “In the eighties there were not too many places to purchase this kind of music and find certain bands. I would often find myself driving over an hour to the oddest places just to get the bands that I liked. I also noticed that concert t-shirts were not too easy to come by, so when I opened the shop I made sure to have some great ones available. You end up serving both of these needs in the Metal fan that way”. The background knowledge of the music allows Keeler to know when there is a call for either a Dimmu Borgir or a Behemoth shirt as much as a Trivium or Dragonforce and at Rock Fantasy, you can find them all.”
“The store is not just music and shirts, but also DVD’s, the ever-requisite band buttons, patches, posters, pins and one of the largest samplings of used Metal and Rock CD’s that I’ve seen in years. He felt this also served a need and allowed listeners to find some long out of print music that another person had grown tired of. In the glass display cases, there are buttons numbering beyond count and while you might be seeking one particular band, you are bound to find some others you like.
Keeler is to be commended for hitting many area shows and this gives him a better understanding of the scene and it’s demographic. He often sponsors events at The Chance, a club in nearby Poughkeepsie, NY and when it is possible has meet and greets with the bands right at the shop. Over the years he has had bands such as Alice In Chains, Overkill, Kreator and Morbid Angel come in to meet the fans, sign their CD’s and pose for pictures. Keeler also has had professional wrestlers come in for the same thing and this often is a blast. I asked how he felt about the genre and its future and he stressed “Metal has had some new life breathed into it with networks like Fuse and MTV2 showing more of it on TV, and we also owe some levels of impact based on the quality and quantity of the bands coming over here to tour”. We found that groups such as Opeth, Cannibal Corpse, Dimmu Borgir and a battery of others form his favorites to listen to and see in concert.”
“You don’t have to worry about being able to get to Middletown because Rock Fantasy also has a website and should you be looking for anything from far away, the staff is more than willing to help you out and find it. However if you do end up there and its busy you can pass the waiting time in a fun manner by playing pinball on one of the available vintage machines that he has in the shop. I loved this aspect of the place especially since I had not played the KISS pinball machine in years. You can also try your luck on the Ted Nugent one right next to it. A visit to Rock Fantasy is one that will not soon forget.”
Thus ended my original article for the magazine but since we had a number of other cool photos that come courtesy of my good friend Pete Pardo from Sea Of Tranquility, I decided to load the rest of them in for good measure. Check them out. The photo above still makes me chuckle because Steve was holding up both of the magazines, but the one that this item was originally for was not in the foreground. It’s OK, it’s the same publisher, or at least was at the time we wrote this. Rock Fantasy has a number of cool pinball machines and here are some shots of them.
Have you ever played the KISS pinball machine? If you head up to Rock Fantasy you can give it a whirl. He also has the machine for “Uncle” Ted Nugent, and I never even knew this machine existed until I was at the shop.
and as we mentioned there is certainly no shortage of concert tees. There is a fair amount of KISS items for sale and I just feel that impulse compelling me to purchase some of them.
Here’s a shot of Rock Fantasy owner Steve Keeler and me at the shop.
Since I love the damned machine so much I had to share another photo of the vintage KISS pinball machine. I love this thing and recall spending a healthy chunk of my allowance into the one my neighborhood candy shop had resident when I was growing up. I don’t remember my high score as a youth and I am certainly not going to tell you how terrible I did at this late stage in my life. That score is classified until I feel I attain an acceptable number.
Editor’s Note: Since the time of this original article, Rock Fantasy has moved to a new, larger location in the same area. There is now an expanded offering of music, Heavy Metal themed toys, smokehop supplies and a pinball room. The address and relevant links have been updated below.
12 East Main Street
Middletown, NY 10940
Hours Of Operation: Mon-Sat 12-7pm