Paved Paradise

Paved Paradise, the “part pop-up shop, part block party, and part roadside fruit stand,” made its way to Durham on Tuesday as part of a 15-city tour. Although the sun was beating down on this hot September afternoon, wooden bins were filled to the brim with colorful vinyls, and niche t-shirts lined two tents.

Ken Shipley, co-founder of the Numero Group, was seen buzzing around the stacks of vinyls and taking a minute to chat with customers. All in all, five record labels were represented at Paved Paradise: Dead Oceans, Ghostly International, Jagjaguwar, Numero Group and Secretly Canadian.

“We started thinking about how we can bring a record store to a bunch of different places and do it outside and do it COVID-safe and have a good vibe,” Shipley said.

The result is a series of pop-up shops largely in the southeastern United States. Paved Paradise began in Bloomington, Indiana on Sept. 9 and will end in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Sept. 26. Although Raleigh is sadly missing from the lineup this year, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect spot as you browse through records than outside of Motorco Music Hall in Durham.

“We really thought venues were kind of an interesting thing,” Shipley said. “Using breweries is a really interesting idea, because they have sort of a built-in audience already.”

Motorco Music Hall, an edgy space that primarily hosts niche events and indie concerts, is the perfect scene for Paved Paradise. With a street-food eatery and bar located right next door, customers can mingle after browsing and have a drink or two.

Although business was a little slow in the early afternoon, Shipley expected it to pick up pretty quickly as people began to get off work.

“When you start in the early afternoon on a Tuesday, it’s always going to be slow,” Shipley said. “But the reason why we try to start early — let it set up, so it’s just ready to go when people get off work around 4:00. The peak hours are right after work until dinnertime.”

In terms of the type of crowd, the wide range of music and merch at the event seemed to cater to a large demographic. From Phoebe Bridgers to Bon Iver to Japanese Breakfast, there was something for every listener.

“I’ve always looked at this as an opportunity to turn people on to things,” Shipley said. “Across all five labels, we have something like 1,500 to 1,700 records, something like that. We have more records here than most record stores, and that’s just by five labels. You can never get your local record stores to carry the deep, deep cuts.”

In the future, Paved Paradise may look to expand to larger markets. There’s certainly an audience for it; with the cult following some of the artists on these labels have received, it’s hard to imagine the annual event’s popularity dying down anytime soon.

“At a certain point, it’s hard to scale something like this,” Shipley said. “Because you need a certain amount of people to do it, it needs a certain amount of revenue to do it. So I think it probably stays like this, but it’s just more markets. Just go into different places, set up and see what happens.”

Culture Editor

I am a first-year student studying biology with a minor in technical and scientific communication. I joined Technician as a correspondent in August 2020, and I am currently the Culture Editor.