Physical media formats have come and gone over the decades as the technology becomes increasingly digital. Compact discs are slowly making their way out from the music-listening zeitgeist, cassette tapes find themselves catering to only the most niche audience, while formats like 8-tracks, microcassettes, and DualDiscs have long been relegated to extinction.
Yet amidst all the sales turmoil, vinyl records have thrived, and continue to grow in popularity. (As of 2019, revenue from sales of vinyl have reached a 30-year high.) This can almost certainly be credited to the dedication of fans of the medium, who swear by records for various reasons; be they the collectibility, the increased audio fidelity, the nostalgia factor, or the tactile experience that comes with actually having the record, jacket, and sleeve, and being able to share it with your peers.
The monthly event Spins & Needles understands vinyl’s appeal all too well. Taking place on a monthly basis at Lowell’s own Warp & Weft, (Formerly at UnchARTed Gallery)
“Dan Adam started up the night from previous DJ activities at the 119 Gallery…” Explains current host Scott Crawford, a vinyl-based DJ who spins under the moniker KilledByScott. “Dan has moved on and we miss him dearly but hope to have him back behind the decks to DJ someday!”
Spins & Needles is more than a mere DJ night. (Though several vinyl-based DJs have graced their turntables.) It’s a celebration of the medium, and of record collections of all shapes and sizes. On any given night you can experience a set of dusty Motown classics, followed by 80s new wave, into indie folk, and ending with chopped up breakbeats just as quickly.
“Something about the vinyl experience just feels more meaningful than streaming some digital playlist.” Says Mario Boiardi of Lowell-based prog-rockers Dennis, and a past participant. “Spins and Needles is like bringing your living room with you. And, you get to try your hand at switching between the 1s and 2s which is awesome if you don’t have multiple turntables at home.”
Though a wide assortment of professional DJs have participated in Spins & Needles lineups, you don’t need to be an experienced turntablist or have any prior skills on the decks to participate. The only requirements are having a collection of LPs or 7″ singles, and a willingness to share them. Over the years S&N has been in operation they’ve hosted everyone from professional collectors, musicians, store owners, and the occasional random wax fanatic, much of whom are plucked directly from Lowell’s local community.
“It’s different.” Adds Dave Perry, the proprietor of Mill No. 5 record store Vinyl Destination, and a frequent S&N guest. “You’re literally performing live. In my case it’s as someone with not so much as a morsel of musical talent. But the performance is sharing. Maybe some folks do it with meticulous set lists. I’m one who brings in records and tries to stitch something together in real time. That someone offers you a stage upon which I can share a cut by People Under the Stairs or Brown Sabbath is the sort of thing that makes you pinch yourself.”
“We have hosted events since August 2019 at Warp and Weft with great reception and we look forward to hosting many more events in the future!” Adds Crawford. “We encourage members of the community to come forward and get in touch if interested in DJing. The goal is for everyone to have fun, meet new people with similar interests and learn about new music. We hope to see some new faces in the events to come!”
Spins & Needles happens on a monthly basis every 3rd Tuesday at Warp & Weft. News and updates on upcoming events can be found on theirFacebook page.