Words and Photos by Eric Franklin Shook
From The Bottom To The Top
Poverty in the American South has many names, one of them being Laurinburg. It’s a small town in North Carolina, just north of it’s southern border. Coincidentally that is where Leon Shaw’s (co-owner of Audio Advice) — and my own — story begins. Leon and I grew up a few blocks away from each other, only separated by what might be the distance of a football throw (and a few decades). Barely 15,000 people located 100 miles south of Raleigh, 100 miles east of Charlotte, and what feels like 1,000 miles in any direction from hope. What does it take to rise from such a place? In simplest terms, “You’ve sunk, now swim.”
Having our start’s sunk in the middle of nowhere, tonight we took a floating position. This time aloft that same jagged state line but in the loving embrace of The Queen City — North Carolina’s strongest economy and cultural opposite to our humble beginnings: Charlotte.
Audio Advice’s “Music Matters” Charlotte feels more like a celebration, and rightly so. Leon Shaw along with his partner Scott Newnam decided to strike while the iron was cold in 2009 and double the size of the company, expanding the sphere of influence from Raleigh to Charlotte, and everything in between. This is not a new idea of “what to do” during a recession, but it’s seeming disregard for intuition makes it genius-like thinking. Even for the risky type. Sink or swim.
Still tired from last night’s “Music Matters” Raleigh event covered in part 1, I cross the threshold of the Charlotte store and was immediately accosted by the sweet and tangy aroma of Carolina style pork BBQ. This is something I will never grow tired of, nor lose faith in its ability to elevate moods. There’s been a long-held theory in these parts that 40lbs of North Carolina BBQ and a copy of Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” could bring lasting peace to the Middle East. It’s a theory.
If you were guessing this evening would have a party atmosphere, you’d be right. Different from the Raleigh event; less about listening room etiquette and more about having a good time. One could say the vibe of every room was giddy about the good sounds, full tummies, and locally sourced craft brews. Speaking of brews, Ass Clown Brewery of neighboring hamlet Cornelius supplied a bulk of the night’s libations and established themselves well with attendees. I enjoyed writing that sentence more than you did reading it.
Dave Robinette and Carlos Rivera
Aerial / Audio Research / Transparent
Michael Kelly, Dave Gordon, Evan Coffey
Bowers & Wilkins / Classé
Jamie Kraft, Dave Nauber
Patrick Carr, Daniel Polinski
What I’ve learned
If you work in a major city and ever have the “luck” to interview someone from Laurinburg, North Carolina — hire them. Don’t think twice about it. If they’ve made it this far, they’re worth a damn. Anyone able to escape an economic imparity with all the grip of a black hole earns stripes in the process. Leon Shaw is the exemplar of the drive and fortitude needed to scale these types of mountains. I can only imagine what the future holds for Audio Advice as they continue to move forward (more on that in part 3).
P.S. As I prepare to send this off to Scott for review, I hear of the passing of Fidel Castro and can’t help but think about Cuba and the many who have fled it’s shores seeking a chance to live out the American dream. Thinking now of America, I begin to wonder how many people from within our own small towns feel the grip of poverty, seeing an ocean between themselves and that same dream of opportunity.