Turntables around Wilmington happily spin the tunes of yesteryear, as well as a plethora of current tunes, thanks to Gravity Records. Their rows of $1 records provide locals with an outlet to revel in the resurgence of vinyl interest. Having broken ground 10 years ago, the fixture prepares to celebrate its anniversary with a concert at Bourgie Nights this Saturday, August 23rd.
Native Wilmingtonian Matt Keen honed his love of music at 3 years old when he picked up the violin. His passion garnered him a scholarship at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, but his deep-running Port City roots kept him stomping on local ground. Keen fed his love locally by managing Manifest Discs and Tapes through the Nineties and early aughts; however, when the business shut down, he channeled his entrepreneurial skills.
In 2004 he breathed life into a new spot to fulfill the independent record-store experience: Gravity Records, which at the time was stationed on South Kerr Avenue. The shop stays stocked with DVDs, CDS, turntables, and obviously records. “We offer more than just the top 40 that you will find at big box retail stores,” Keen details.
Keen describes the first few years as being tough, a sentiment which hasn’t changed much. “It is still tough in such a small market,” Keen reports, “but we try very hard to get to know every one of our customers, and what they like. That has helped us immensely.”
Since opening, their vinyl sales have soured tremendously; they’ve overtaken CD sales even. The store reached a 50-percent increase from the previous year in the second half of 2012. Keen’s enlisted the help of his wife, Lindsey Zimecki, in bringing a familial aspect to the store. They’ve caught the attention of Guy Pearce (“Iron Man 3”) who has frequented the shop upon visiting Wilmington. “[That’s] always felt very good to reflect on,” Keen comments.
The store hosts a National Record Store Day celebrated the third Saturday of April. They began bringing the event to Wilmington NRSD launched in 2007. The day features limited-edition releases and attracts hundreds of eager buyers to the store annually.
Keen relocated to Castle Street in January 2013 to allow for more floor room and foot traffic. Aside from a new beginning for the business, Gravity Record’s presence on Castle aided the area in boosting the Antique and Arts District. “[Castle Street] has a long way to go and isn’t without its stumbles, but it feels great to help revitalize the neighborhood,” Keen proclaims.
The same vigor Keen expresses for community-building, he also exudes toward new musicians. He routinely hosts release parties and invites local bands to play in-store shows. Last March they hosted a sweet 16 for local music collective Mix Grotto—a group which compiles recordings to promote local bands with mixtapes. The event featured live music from Astro Cowboy and Free Clinic, among others.
Astro Cowboy’s long been cultivating a relationship with Gravity Records. Along with local band Free Clinic, Museum Mouth and Chapel Hill-based band Gross Ghost, a celebration will get underway to celebrate Gravity’s 10 years serving our music needs. All the bands will perform at Bourgie Nights this Saturday. Better yet, the show is completely free.
“Gravity is kind of like sanctuary,” Travis Harrington, Astro Cowboy vocalist and guitar player, says. “It’s like the only place in Wilmington I can go. I know for sure I’ll hear, talk about and find good music. We’re lucky to have such cool and kind people that care not only about selling music but also showcasing cool local bands and bringing people together to appreciate this musical community.”Details Gravity Records’ 10th Anniversary Party Featuring Astro Cowboy, Free Clinic, Museum Mouth, Gross Ghost Bourgie Nights, 127 Princess St.
Saturday, August 23rd, 8 p.m.