10 February 2009

Zero Gravity?

Today I want to take a time out from my usual blog posting to talk about something going on locally that I feel deserves attention. Here in Charlottesville, we pride ourselves on having a vibrant and dynamic community of musical artists. 

However, it's very sad that one of the finest purveyors of local music, Bill Baldwin owner of the Gravity Lounge, may be forced to close his doors. One of our local media outlets recently published a story online regarding the possible demise of Gravity; and, quite frankly I was shocked to read some of the insensitive comments posted by our fellow citizens. Among other things, Gravity was maligned for having 'brought it's money problems on itself' and made fun of for having 'a strange vibe'. The owner was also chastised for, as a last resort, reaching out to his friends and supporters privately via email for help. Some felt that this was 'improper'.

Many of the comments were so foolish that I refuse to waste printed word either repeating or responding to them. Trust me, they were just that dumb.

I will say though, that I sincerely hope that we as a city will wake up before it's too late. Gravity Lounge has and hopefully will continue to fill a very important niche here in Charlottesville, that being an intimate indoor stage that is equally accessible to both national, regional, and local artists. 

Gravity is a true music venue. Let me repeat that. Gravity is a true music venue. It's not a loud and crowded bar that occasionally hosts music, nor is it a busy restaurant that simply acquiesces and allows music on certain nights. No, Gravity is a place whose sole purpose is the presenting of quality musical entertainment for the enjoyment of fans and artists. 

More than that, the atmosphere is fantastic. Not once during my many visits to Gravity Lounge have I felt uncomfortable because of loud and unruly riff-raff, or had to worry that at any moment Jim Beam was going to suddenly have at it with Wild Turkey. I'm also not afraid to wear nice things when going there, because I know that due to their no smoking policy, my clothing will not be ruined from the combined smoke of multiple brands of cigarettes. If that's what some call "weird", then I'm afraid to see what those people would consider normal.

Additionally, there is ample seating provided and excellent sound, both for audience members and those on stage. I have never left with my ears ringing, or struggled to hear the band being presented. Laudably, the venue always provides a competent engineer who is available to assist bands on stage. This provides a relatively even experience both for upstart bands, and those who can afford to bring their own staff.

However, I will make one partial concession to the nay sayers. It is true that the food menu is not extensive; but, it is sufficient, reasonably priced, and nicely compliments the selection of beer, wine, and teas.

The potential closure of Gravity Lounge is no one persons fault. It is everyone's fault. We as a city must remember that supporting local music is not just following the handful of bands that are darlings of the local media. Charlottesville music venues host artists every night. Not just when our brother-in-law's band or best friend from high school's band is playing. But, every night. Giving sole support to only a  certain few individual bands is great- for those bands. However, it does very little to keep the venues that host those bands in business and afloat. 

Some would say that the onus lies on Gravity. That it is their fault for 'not advertising properly'. Personally, I disagree with that. I have seen many well advertised performances by quality artists take place at Gravity and other venues in Charlottesville, but with barely twenty or thirty people in attendance.

We must realize that while we are city by name, we are still very much a small town. We have several dozen working bands, and maybe a dozen venues within city limits. For bands and venues to survive in our small town setting they need our regular support.

That's not to let the bands and venues off the hook though. Musicians and the venues that host them should rightly be expected to provide a quality experience for audiences. One that is truly worth paying for. And, despite it's imperfections, I feel that the Gravity Lounge and the bands who perform there are working hard to provide that. Don't let the music stop. 

If you wish to donate to the Gravity Lounge you can do so anonymously here: Donations

The Gravity Lounge is located on Charlottesville's historic Downtown Mall.
103 South 1st Street
Charlottesville Va. 22902
(434) 977-5590

Photography by: Blatantgizmo
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