By Travis Harrington |
For well over ten years, Gravity Records has built and maintained a reputation as an essential part of Wilmington’s cultural milieu. Chances are, if you consider yourself to be music-savvy to any degree, you have probably already spent some time combing through the extensive collection of vinyl, CD’s, and tapes in their store – they also happen to carry quite a few movies. However, what you might not know is that on sporadic nights, a few hours after their alleged closing time, Gravity’s doors reopen to welcome any and all who wish to enjoy an evening of live music Gravity Records style.
Personally, as a natural response to harboring somewhat of a musical obsession, I have frequented these live shows at Gravity for a couple of years now (my former band has even played in a few of them), and at the last one I attended a few weeks ago I asked owner, Matt Keen, a few questions about the conception and intentions of these shows. As expected, he couldn’t remember exactly when he and the staff started booking them, but he remarked that it was “early on” in Gravity’s existence. As for the ‘why’ of it, he expressed that booking these shows stemmed from a desire to help give artists a place to play who weren’t necessarily established enough to do so otherwise – many of them touring from out of town, or friends of friends. At this point, staff member Morgan Roberts, who does a lot of the booking for the shop, piped in, “From my standpoint on it, I like making the place like a community space,” and added, smiling, “We’re going to start doing yoga in here, like once a week before we open. It’s cool to have this place open … anyone can come in.”
Speaking with Keen and Roberts, you get the sense that there is a relaxed, ‘anything goes’ sort of ambition within the walls of Gravity –these shows are a perfect manifestation of this fact. As Roberts stated, anyone is welcome. Every show is free to all, and with each subsequent performance, the artists and musical stylings always remain refreshingly varied. When I inquired about some of the most memorable performances, Keen mentioned Julian Lynch, who performed a 45-minute set of circular breathing through a clarinet. There’s also been the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hi-Fives, a literal family-band comprised entirely of Mom, Dad, Daughter, and Son, and Puerto Rican punk band, Reanimadores. Over the years, there’s been a lot of national acts to come through, but Keen says that their focus lately has been geared more toward regional ones.
The event I attended fit that mold well. Two North Carolina acts were showcased: JC Graves, an angular electronic-pop project from Boone, and Pinky Verde, a newly formed all-girl, textural rock trio from Wilmington. Both performances were exceptionally intimate; the artists occupied the same space on the floor as the audience, and the lights were dimmed to intensify the moodiness of the music. The severity was perfectly juxtaposed by the lightheartedness of the fake flowers that ornamented the “stage” and the solitary source of light emanating from a palm tree-shaped neon sign. I got quite a kick out of the fact that, during a trip to the bathroom, when I attempted to turn on the bathroom light, it was apparently out of service. Though the dim candle that attempted to light my way in its place probably was the product of some hasty resolution, it ended up being a perfect continuation of the dark atmosphere that had been established throughout the course of the show.
Overall, live music Gravity Records is a very nuanced experience driven by a desire for interaction between all sorts of people who all genuinely appreciate music of a wide variety. It’s very warming to see a venue and its staff provide a place for emerging artists to gain mobility and to be heard by an audience who cares just as much about the artistry as the artists themselves. Going to a show at Gravity makes you feel as if you’re part of a community, and if an experience like that sounds appealing to you, keep an eye out for the next event in store.
More information can be found at: facebook.com/gravityrecords