Love Garden Sounds celebrates 24 years in business with a star-studded lineup this Sunday at the Granada

This Sunday, May 4, Love Garden Sounds – one of the area’s best-loved record stores, open since 1990 – celebrates a (somewhat belated) 24th birthday with an exciting lineup of out-of-town bands and local favorites: Woods, Quilts, Blood on the Wall, Your Friend, Oils, Psychic Heat, Gnarly Davidson and CS Luxem. It’s a pretty big celebration, taking place at the Granada in Lawrence and utilizing two stages. It’s a lineup that Love Garden owner Kelly Corcoran calls “totally bananas.”

Because Love Garden Sounds is nearly a quarter-century into its existence, we caught up with Corcoran over the phone to discuss his plans for the celebration and to get some insight into the history of the shop. 

The Pitch
: Tell me about some of the bands you have booked. You scored Woods and Blood on the Wall – pretty big names for a low-key birthday party.

Corcoran: It’s going to be crazy. Woods is a New York and Vermont-based band. We hosted them at an in-store in 2008 and we hit it off right away. They had a KC connection at that point – one of their band members was from here, and he helped coordinate all that, and we fell for Woods. We had a pretty good relationship as far as buying records from them, and we sold their records really well. There’s no one who works here who doesn’t like that band, which is rare. Woods is a universal store favorite. So I had been communicating with them to get them to come to town.

And then Blood on the Wall was kind of a Lawrence band, but mostly when they were an active band they lived in New York. Brad and Courtney Shanks, the bass and guitar player, are both from Lawrence and Kansas City. That band hadn’t played for a long time, but I knew it could be a really fun thing to tack on to the show. And I told them it would be really fun and really low pressure, and it took a lot of sweet talking. And eventually they said, “You know what, this would be fun! Let’s do it.” So they’ll be here, playing songs they haven’t played in years.

A lot of it [the other bands] is the Love Garden family – people who work here and shop here, their bands. Also, this year I really tried to incorporate the SeedCo and the Whatever/Forever groups. Their aesthetics fit in really well with the stuff we were bringing, and there is a lot of positive energy there. It all just came together in this sensible, organic way.

In addition to Love Garden being 24 years old, you also have half a decade in a new space under your belt – since the move from upstairs to downstairs at 822 Massachusetts Street in 2009.

We closed the old location in December 2009. The new location is a touch more grown up than the old spot, but you gotta look hard to notice. We’re more visible being on the first floor instead of the second, but so much of moving was trying to keep the good parts of the identity of the old store. I wanted to make the new store have a similar feel, but to add things to the aesthetic of the store.

Part of that goes back to 1994, when I started shopping there [at Love Garden, prior to owning it]. I got to watch stuff change over the years, stuff would go on the wall, and I really liked knowing that that space changed over time. I always felt intimate with the store because of that, but it was still the same place. And when we moved [in 2009], I wanted a new generation of people to watch this space have additional layers occur to it. I like that about this store – it’s an ever-evolving thing in the way it looks and the way it does business.

What is one of the biggest ways that the store has evolved over the years?

When I bought in in 2004, that was the peak of used CDs – the boom throughout the 1990s. It’s transitioned to doing more vinyl, and luckily we were already set to do that. We adjusted the store to the marketplace, and we had a great opportunity to do it in 2009.

So… this is also sort of a ten-year anniversary of you owning the place?

Well… I’m trying not to make it about that. I always thought that Love Garden was an important Lawrence institution. I’m a caretaker of this important place to people, as much as it’s a business that I make a living out of. Love Garden has managed to be something that’s consistent over the years in Lawrence. As far as institutions that have value to me, Love Garden is one of the big ones.

It blows my mind every day that this is my gig and this is what I do. It’s flabbergasting that it works and that it means so much to so many people. That’s the part that really stuns me. The amount of Love Garden merch that we sell and that I see people wearing anywhere I go in the country – it seems like people really love this store.

I can’t believe this is working, that it still works. You think of how the marketplace changes and shifts, and a lot of the longstanding institutions in the region aren’t around, and Love Garden still is. And maybe that’s a testament to Lawrence or to the downtown area being really vital, it’s probably a testament to my current landlords being really good to me, but the people who lived here over the years has helped create something great, and that’s awesome to celebrate. 

For more info on the Love Garden Sounds 24th Anniversary Party on Sunday, May 4, go here

Categories: Music