Music Turntable manners

New record store 180 Grams is worth its weight in vinyl

Even if you’re looking for 180 Grams, it’s easy to drive right past it. Discreetly tucked away in a small corner space at San Pedro and Magnolia next to Monte Vista Tile & Floor, it feels like a secret haven for earnest music connoisseurs. You temporarily wonder if there’s a password maybe “Mingus” or “Pollard” required to gain admittance.

Jesse Garcia, the record shop’s affable 28-year-old owner, defines 180 Grams as “Sounds for the Conscious Mind,” and it certainly provides sounds for the inveterate listener. His own one-man staff, Garcia stands behind the counter, cueing up electronic music on a nearby turntable, always willing to banter with customers about the arcane history of a Fela Kuti/Roy Ayers record or a rare piece of Latin jazz. Even the name of the store a reference to the weight of a high-quality pressing of vinyl indicates that you’re outside the realm of the casual music buyer.

Jesse Garcia, entrepreneur, musical encyclopedia, and owner of 180 Grams, a new record store. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Garcia recently moved to San Antonio after 10 years in Austin, partly to get a change of scenery, and partly because he considered this city a perfect spot to launch an indie record store.

“San Antonio has a great sense of community,” Garcia says. “I used to drive down from Austin every weekend to catch shows at places like the Wiggle Room. I liked that do-it-yourself mentality that San Antonio has.”

Garcia also knew, however, that national indie artists frequently skip San Antonio when they make their Texas tour swings, and he wanted 180 Grams to provide a venue for local and national bands to do in-store shows.

“He’s doing something that no one else is doing,” says Scott Jennings of local punk band Skullening. “It’s not that his store is better than anyone else’s, but his selection is offering people something different than they’re getting anywhere else.

“Everyone’s always talking about how San Antonio could be like Austin, but no one ever really does anything about it. I think the in-stores are beneficial for anyone: they help the store, the bands, and people who might not be able to get out and catch late shows at clubs.”

At this stage, 180 Grams feels more like the living room of a music scholar than a money-making operation. Even by mom-and-pop standards, it’s a small store and Garcia concedes that its limited stock is only at about 60 percent of where he hopes it’ll be in a few months. There are a few token CDs, and Garcia plans to add more, but this is clearly a mecca for vinyl junkies. The store’s collection of vintage jazz vinyl alone would be enough to justify its existence: pristine classics by the likes of Sun Ra, Don Cherry, Pharoah Sanders, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis.

“I’m trying to bring new music to people, music that they wouldn’t normally hear anywhere,” Garcia says. “It’s pretty much all indie music. A lot of jazz, a lot of indie rock, a lot of dance-hall straight from Jamaica, a lot of Latin soul stuff. It’s a lot of music that you couldn’t normally find at a national record store.”

Indian Jewelry

Fri, Oct 21

180 Grams
2120 San Pedro

A native of the small Valley town of Mercedes, Garcia spent his early years listening to nothing but the Tejano and Top-40 songs he heard on the radio. “Along the way, between junior high and high school, I started picking up music from friends, stuff you wouldn’t hear on the radio, like Operation Ivy and the Descendants,” he says.

Enthralled with the non-commercial music he was hearing, Garcia moved to Austin immediately after graduating from high school, because he wanted to experience the Capital City’s vaunted club scene. He graduated from St. Edwards University with an accounting degree and worked as a corporate accountant for seven years. On the side, he spun indie-rock and European electronica records at underground venues and dreamed of owning his own store.

“I’d never done anything like this, but I’ve thought about it for the past three or four years,” he says. “I wanted a cool mom-and-pop record store for the musically obsessed, with a fairly knowledgeable staff. I know there’s a lot of big record stores that went bankrupt and I think the reason for that was it was a mass marketing thing where people weren’t friendly because it was corporate-owned.”

While obvious comparisons could be made between 180 Grams and the bigger, more established Hogwild, Garcia credits Hogwild for its role in the music community and says he doesn’t consider the stores to be in direct competition.

He views the store’s first year as something of a trial run that, if successful, will allow him to move into a larger space more amenable to in-store shows. In the meantime, he’s launching a series of bi-weekly in-stores with an October 21 performance featuring Skullening and California underground band Indian Jewelry. He’s also trying to support the visual-arts scene by showcasing the work of local artists on his store’s walls for two months at a time.

“It’s a business, but I’m really here to serve the community,” Garcia says. “I’m combining two of my skills: my love for music and accounting. So I’m doing both. This is my dream job.”

By Gilbert Garcia


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