Gravity on the rocks

Are the final days here for Gravity Lounge? A Daily Progress article suggests the end could be near, although owner Bill Baldwin hopes to relaunch as a nonprofit. News of Gravity's woes first trickled out in a letter from musicians Jay Pun and Morwenna Lasko on the social networking site Facebook, asking musicians and patrons of Gravity for donations to keep the place afloat. Gravity has filled the niche for big-name folk, rock, and classical acts in an intimate space since the Prism Coffeehouse closed in 2006 and then relocated headquarters to Patrick County in southwest Virginia in spring 2007.

14 comments

How sad! The Gravity was great not only as a venue but also as a place to network, collaborate and experiment. Bill really gave everybody and everything a chance. I played there many times and rarely did I feel as respected as a musician and artist as there. Good luck in the future to all the folks that made the Gravity Lounge possible!

Hasn't closed yet. Gravity has been a huge asset for the community and we can help them now -- they've done so much for us. I just contributed what I could online at their web-site. Hope you will too

Yeah, once that Obama money comes through i'll get right on that Betty

Considering Gravity's unique artistic niche and Bill's commitment to hosting community-oriented events that aren't always about making him a lot of money, this will be a real tragedy if it goes through. Thing is, that would still be true even if all the other music venues in Charlottesville hadn't started dying off recently.

You can donate here to help.

Wondering WTF Gravity could possibly be doing with $200 thousand dollars in debt?

If you don't run a disciplined business you go out of business. This is just the way the world turns. Let someone get in there and run the place right with both food and liquor and a rounded out schedule and life will be good for everyone.

As it is, Gravity is a great room that looks like a disaster area. New blood would be a good thing. Plus a non-profit is not an answer to a failed business.

Not to mention, what kind of accounting is going on for the donated funds?

When I first walked into Gravity three years ago it took me a long time to get comfortable in the shadows, to see past what my "newer, shinier, trendier" market driven mind expected to see. But I came to realize that Gravity was not about the place, but about the sound. Its tough to ask people to look past a lot of things but at the same time, the payoff for seeing something other than dust were artists that someone my age might never have had the opportunity to hear. But more importantly, you can touch the music in gravity. Having had the once in a lifetime experience of meeting musicians like Odetta, Holly Near, Janis Ian, Eric Himan, Dar Williams, Johnny Winter, Livingston Taylor . . . I could go on forever! There are a different set of values being put forth inside those walls, values that are foundation of that experience. In a world of bigger, better, and flashier, Bill Baldwin and the crew of Gravity have consciously chosen a different path, one that puts the music first, one that attempts to connect new voices with old. I am by no means saying the place is perfect, but I would choose its imperfectness coupled with the opportunity of a music experience over any venue in Charlottesville today.

Bill Baldwin and the Gravity Lounge have been working hard to present great artists, many of whom are legends, in a smoke free, intimate environment, at reasonable ticket prices, for years. The costs involved in each and every show, not only financial, but in time and labor, are high. Bill's commitment to providing a venue for nationally and internationally acclaimed artists as well as local artists and community building events is commendable. As director of the Blue Ridge Irish Music School (BRIMS) I have worked with Bill to present the BRIMS annual fundraiser hosted at Gravity for the past 4 years, and we are looking forward to doing the same this year. Bill has been a tremendous supporter of BRIMS, not because Gravity Lounge makes a ton of money at the show, but simply because he believes in BRIMS' mission. Gravity has also hosted many, many excellent Irish and Scottish bands and musicians who ordinarily would have had to bypass Charlottesville during their tours (not to mention other world music, American old time and bluegrass, etc). It is an amazing experience to listen to these artists in an intimate setting and then also have the opportunity to meet them face to face, experiences that can't be had in the larger venues in Charlottesville.

I just want to say that Bill has run a venue that's very dedicated and aware of the needs of the artists. That is rare in the music world. I hope he can find the support he needs to keep things going.

Thanks, Bill, for all you do.

The best things you can do besides donate is to go and listen to a show.

I was amused when I first walked into Gravity Lounge several years ago and saw how unfocused things were. Coffee shop/hangout joint, bookstore, music venue, and no clarity of purpose, focus, or desing. I hadn't been there in a while until recently and was amazed to see that it hadn't changed. I assumed that the start was a throw it at the wall and see what sticks approach and that things would get shuffled and edited to make the whole thing work better. Apparently not....

Gravity has an ok space that could be maybe a pretty good space and could have by now if it had been allowed to evolve. It seems like whatever creative wad there was got blown all at once and never returned. As it is, I can't imagine a bail out is going to do any good in the long run. It is a for profit business, and unfortunately, one that hasn't been run very well. Loving testimonial are nice, but even several hundred more aren't going to convince me that the changes that need to be made are going to be made.

Look at the Tea House, hardly a disciplined place, but it is one that has things much more together and has a much livelier and more inviting atmosphere. There is nothing inviting about Gravity if there isn't a band I want to see there, and too much awkwardness and distraction (mostly because of the books) when I do like the band.

We must remember the true good that Gravity has brought to Charlottesville. In the midst of all this blogging I think people get caught up in talk and forget what it is like to experience, though isn't that almost a definition of blogging?

Gravity is definitely an interesting space, whether you like it or not Bill Baldwin and his vision has only had best intentions for our community of what is supposed to be an amazing music town. I personally have had my share of disagreements with Bill, but after every single one of those disagreements I know that his ideas were to help my career and to look out for the greater good of the music here in Charlottesville. Over the last few years since we first started playing there he has helped us gain more fans, sell out one of the biggest nights there, and helped us share the stage with some of the most well respected national and international artists.

I don't know Bill as well as some and don't play there as much as others, but I know that he is truly kind and sometimes that is taken for granted. I can't tell you how many nights he's given bands a chance when no other clubs would book them, and when nobody would show up, but he believed in a lot of them and still gives and gives. He's allowed Gravity to be a concert hall, a place for weddings and receptions, rehearsal space, a place for recitals and kid's shows, showcases for belly dancing, and even tai chi classes. For this he should be deeply thanked, as I'm not sure many people could have hosted some of these kind of events for people of all ages. I know many other club owners and booking agents that would look the other way to a lot of these shows.

Some might not understand how a venue like Gravity is different from playing at a restaurant or bar, though it definitely is. Gravity like Trax, Starr Hill, Satellite Ballroom, and the Prism all had similar visions to have actual concerts, not just music in their establishments. All the venues I mentioned here wanted the most people in each show so usually it is not desired for artists to have any other shows in the area at least two weeks out on either end of a concert date. This happens ALL over the country. I know of many bands getting frustrated with Gravity because they couldn't get a gig there. Often times many of my friends in bands want to play all over town and as much as possible which is great, but to have a show at one of these music venues, charge a cover and then have a free show at a different place such as a restuarant or bar, which show will most likely be more attended? Touring acts do not face this problem as much because they are in one city every night or so leaving little overlapping of shows in the same town and no over saturation. I think this point is overlooked a lot as Charlottesville (with the exception of a few acts) do not have too many artists that play outside of the area.

Some ask, why help a business that has gone into the debt that Gravity has? Well, because if we have appreciated the venue in ANY way, big or small it deserves our help. Just because it is a for-profit now (with the hopes to become a non-profit) doesn't make it any less special. There are actually well known non-profits that are corrupt and not many question them because they have their non-profit status. Gravity has given and continues to give in too many ways to name, so for that they are more of a community center than anything else. I don't think anyone wanted this debt to ever come about, so why should people make even more negative energy about it? If someone's home burnt to the ground because they left a tea kettle on, would we say "you should've been more careful?" If someone's doggy got hit by a car and they ended up having outrageous vet bills, do we say "you should've kept your dog in the house?" No, at least not me, I say "how can I help?"

Everyone has ideas of improving when they are on the outside, but if we're not fully on the inside and in the shoes of everyone who is involved with Gravity, how do we really know? Yes, many have run successful restaurants, many haven't (especially if it was one of the many in Charlottesville, how many restaurants have gone in The Garden of Sheba space or Continental Divide?). But it is up to us to lend help and support, not to overtake.

Whatever Gravity was, is and will become I know what it's worth is and it was much more than any price tag. Times are tough, but Gravity is more than a music venue, it is a place for PEOPLE.

Let us not be selfish in this, let us be selfless.

as Ezra Hamilton said to me tonight: "Whatever you give away you get to keep."- from his older brother from someone else and so on... Hopefully we can all understand that and give if you want to keep something.

Unfortunately, I think the heartfelt intent of Bill Baldwin’s original email has been misconstrued. He specifically states, ââ?¬Å?I am asking that this email not be forwarded to any lists, media, or press. I don't want a ââ?¬Ë?save gravity’ blip on the radar and I certainly don't want gravity's financial woes to be the talk of the town--I hope we can save gravity lounge in the same quiet and reasonably dignified way the place
evolved.” Some of the recipients felt GL would be better served by expanding Bill’s request for assistance, despite his explicit request not to. I would suggest that the continued talk on the various blogs has been facilitated by those that this email was not originally intended. Those of us who did receive it, and hope to save GL, should follow our conscience and I would suggest we not further contribute to the blogs, but rather contribute in a meaningful way (either directly or through the website) to the financial need of a well deserved venue.