Concert Venue Spotlight: The Machine Shop in Flint, Michigan
By Robert Porter
Going to see a great concert is one of the best things a music lover could treat themselves to. Live music has the ability to entertain in a profound way. The troubles of the day seem to disappear when a band you really love begins to play those opening chords. As you start to sing along loudly and proudly you will find yourself completely lost in a fun moment. Concert-going is an activity that many have enjoyed over the years. If you’re lucky enough to have a good local concert venue, then perhaps seeing live bands is part of your normal social routine. For the people of Flint, Michigan and the surrounding area, the Machine Shop is the place to go to see all of their favorite national acts when they’re on tour.
For those not familiar with the Flint, Michigan area, it’s a very blue collar, working class town. Like many of the cities in Michigan, Flint was an automotive town. After the auto industries much publicized downfall, Flint suffered economically. It became one of the areas hardest hit by the recent recession and fell on very hard times. The town is famous for a few things and many of them are not something to be particularly proud of. A very high rate of violent crimes and a problem with arson are just some of the things that have plagued the city over the last couple of years. The city has a resilient spirit though and always sallies forth despite the problems it faces. Even with the hardships, Flint is home to many positive things that natives hold very dearly. Some of the best things about Flint include Flint style conies, Big John’s Steak and Onion and above all else a nationally renowned concert venue in the Machine Shop.
For ten years the Machine Shop has been rocking and pulling in some of the best bands to play there. When the club first opened up no one knew that it would become the sort of phenomenon that it is now. Rock clubs aren’t something new to the Mid-Michigan area. In fact, the building that plays host to the Machine Shop used to be a rock club/night club called the Razzmatazz. It never garnered the support or love that the Machine Shop has been privy to. When Kevin Zink, the club’s owner, took over and set out to make a great rock club in Flint the game changed for the Michigan concert scene. It used to be that if you wanted to see a big, national act play you had to go to Detroit or even further out. Kevin Zink was able to create a club that national acts not only wanted to play at, but loved playing at. The Machine Shop has become a legendary rock club over the last ten years. Bands absolutely love playing there and the crowds are always pointed out as some of the best in the country for their enthusiasm and energy. There’s just some sort of vibe in the Machine Shop that makes it special, because it certainly isn’t the location that is making the Rock Gods stand up and take notice.
One of the greatest things about the Machine Shop is its size. It is not a huge venue by any means. By most people’s descriptions they would tell you that it is a pretty small club. When a band sells out the Machine Shop, somewhere around five hundred Flint area natives pack themselves inside. With the Machine Shop not being a gigantic venue it winds up having a very intimate feeling. When you go to see a really big concert, you lose a lot of that intimacy and closeness that you feel when seeing a band in a smaller place.
At the Machine Shop, it really does feel like you are in the action of the concert no matter where you are standing on the floor. Anyone who attends big festival concerts from time to time will tell you that there is no comparison between seeing their favorite act in a stadium and seeing them at a small concert lounge. When you’re one of a sea of thousands you feel like part of the crowd. At the Machine Shop, when you are one of the few hundred you truly feel like part of the moment. There is a significant difference between the two.
Randy Riddle, the singer and bassist from Core Effect, had high praise for the Machine Shop when we spoke with him on the subject. “The Machine Shop is professionalism at its finest. This, by far, is the best venue to see and play a show. This is the best place you can see your favorite band with 500+ rabid fans. Kevin and Craig set the bar by delivering a great product at a reasonable price. Go there!”
Another aspect of why the Machine Shop is such a cool venue is that the place has a sense of style. It’s a damned cool looking place from top to bottom. From the outside it’s a fairly interesting building. At the moment the Machine Shop itself is painted blue and the sides of the building are adorned with various interesting pieces of rock flair. From metalwork skulls, to painted murals the outside certainly has good rock swagger. Stevie D. from Buckcherry had this to say about the Machine Shop: “Ahhh the INFAMOUS and world famous Machine Shop… fuckin’ legend…located right smack-dab in the pit of the ‘murder mitten’, Flint, Michigan. I’ve seen its swag clear on the other side of the world. A lovely staff (where) even the beer tub girls would and could break your jaw for stepping out of line. They’ve got it all there… great music, dancers on swings, outlaws, hand-jobs in the audience…think of an American muscle car… but a club. We’ve played many a sold-out show there for Kevin…fucking love that place. Seems to be doing quite well when a lot of things in that part of the country have gone to shit.”
Stevie D. has a point, as the club really does seem to have it all. Inside of the club there are so many intriguing things to look at. Motorcycles are used as decorations, being positioned in specific places throughout the interior. A giant swing hangs down from the ceiling near the bar and you’ll often see one of the many cute bartenders swinging from it during a sold out show. There are pictures of the many bands that have played there throughout the halls, rock memorabilia such as guitars and much more.
Everything from atmosphere to just how good the crowds really are has made it a favorite stop on tour for various bands. Some of the biggest acts in active rock have made it a point to come through town every time they go out. You’ll regularly see bands such as Nonpoint, Royal Bliss, Mushroomhead and Taproot playing the venue. The bands feel an intimate connection to the venue, the owner of the club Kevin and the fans. We caught up with Lzzy Hale from Halestorm and asked her what came to mind when we talked about the Machine Shop in Flint. She said “The Machine Shop is one of our favorite places to play. We have been playing there since early on in our career and have always had an amazing time playing there. Michigan has been very good to us. We love Kevin and everyone there.” Jesse James Dupree of the band Jackyl has performed at the Machine Shop numerous times as well. Jesse had this to say about the “The Shop”, “”There’s no other bar in the country that has such a significance to a city and community as the Machine Shop does to Flint. The Machine Shop is the biggest small venue in the country as its reputation is giant!”
It’s a regular thing for Kevin Zink, the owner of the club to get a shout out from the bands. Rock acts love his club and the people who regularly catch shows there. A big part of why the Machine Shop has had such success is due to both Kevin and his brother Craig building good personal relationships with the bands that come to the club. I met up with Kevin and asked him how it felt to know that so many bands say that the Machine Shop feels like home. Humbly, Kevin responded saying “It gives me a real sense of pride knowing so many bands come to Flint hearing how tough Flint can be and then it becomes like a second home to so many of them. People come here and totally embrace the bands and make them feel so welcome. I love it!”
The fans love it as well. When acts really embrace the venue and town, it makes the people in the crowd feel special. Fans have connected with many bands who feel that sense of Flint now being their second home. There have been many cool moments over the past ten years at the Machine Shop. I asked Kevin if he could give me one of his favorite moments that happened at the Machine Shop in this last ten years for this article. His response was great as he said “WAAAAAYYYYY too many to name just one! I would have to say my favorite thing about owning The Machine Shop is getting to meet so many people from around the country and world. I have developed many lifelong friendships from doing this.”
His answer rings true, as even from a personal standpoint as someone who has had the privilege of hanging out at the club, I cannot pick just one moment. From the lead singer of Fair to Midland hanging upside down off of the lighting and singing “Dance of the Manatee” to a gigantic star like Kid Rock taking the stage at the venue, the place is full of amazing moments. Looking forward to the future, all of those who love the club can’t wait to see what moments are to come. Already 2013 is looking to be an incredible year for the Machine Shop. They just announced that In Flames are going to be coming to town on February 26th. They will be playing for their very first time at the Machine Shop. The clubs pedigree continues to interest and pull in new acts to the fold. I asked Kevin one final question, hoping to end our spotlight with a look somewhat deep into the future. Asking him to pull out a magical looking glass and look ten years into the future, I asked him what he could see happening at the club in ten years. He said, “I only see keeping on doing what we do. I would like to go bigger, but am happy right where we are at. I see many more years of rocking Flint!” Here’s to many more years of great concerts and great service. Remember to support your local rock concert venue, and if your travels see you coming through Flint, Michigan come check out the Machine Shop. It’s always a party.
Visit The Machine Shop on the net:
http://www.themachineshop.info -Official Website
https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Machine-Shop/110222987601 -Official Facebook
https://twitter.com/machineshopfnt -Official Twitter
http://www.mintypics.com -Live Concert Photos from The Machine Shop