A Punk Rock Rummage Sale

For me, I never started out wanting to do events. Not in any sort of way. Shoot, go back to my life before I moved to downtown Flint and I would never have thought once about putting an event together. No, for me it was work, the freedom of my own place, and writing. I had done the ‘zine thing for a bit but I wanted nothing more than to write for a living. I lead the life of a guy who had just found out that the world was bigger than his parent’s house. When I moved into Flint it was a whole world shift.

My group of friends expanded.

My ambitions expanded.

My dreams got bigger.

It wasn’t Flint but the people that I met there, that I got to be around constantly, and the atmosphere of collaboration and friendship. I had had friends in the past, of course, but these were such different people, from far different backgrounds and with much different passions. We were a melting pot of creativity and it inspired me to want to do more than just be a spectator but to be involved and invested, in the myself, in the people around me, and in the city. That was when I started writing even more. Painting. Taking photos. I was surrounded by artists and became more artistic because of it.

Because of all of that I started to do shows, first connected to the group I was friends with and then beyond them, inspired by the conventions I would do to support my book and chapbooks. A friend in Detroit was doing funky events that she called Bar Bazaars (I think that was her spelling, it’s been years so I forget for sure). They were set up in a performance space with a bar and featured artists selling their stuff as music or bands would play. The shows could be either big or small, with a band or not, but were always fun. I remember doing several of them and wishing that something similar was near Flint.

That prompted a friend and I to start talking and from that we thought…What If?

What if WE did something like that in Flint?

We went to our friend to ask her opinion and for her blessing and the three of us spitballed how we could do it.

Flint doesn’t have the same sorts of venues that Detroit does but I approached a local bar that was dead on most Saturdays and I proposed our idea – a rummage sale on a Saturday night with bands playing.

They went for it.

No charge to us.

If we had bands play then we had to pay them but we could split door. We started having bands and that was fantastic but it got hard having to coordinate a show of vendors and bands, the bands not always sticking to a sort of schedule. The bands were fun though, and added an electricity to the events, which we called Punk Rock Rummage Sales, that were never quite there without them. People still came though, but it was different. We did one show where we did a day and night. We pared down the vendors. We honed what we did. We started a relationship with the occasional DJ at the bar and he became the sound of the show.

We were a Punk Rock Rummage Sale.

A, not THE.

There’s a lot of them around, something I didn’t realize when we started.

I called it that for the sheer fun of the alliteration and also because it WAS a ‘punk rock’ rummage sale. People came with art, with craft, with movies, books, music, toys, with everything and anything and it was a true rummage sale but it was in a bar. The DJ would play punk music and it all jelled. We were the punk rock rummage sale.

At first we did a couple a year but as I started doing other things and started having to put the rummage sales together by myself I would only do them once a year. I loved doing them but they were always another thing I would have to focus on when I should be focusing on my writing or just something else. I wavered between wanting to stop doing them and pushing onward.

I loved them too much to quit and people really dug them.

It was something for folks to do.

When the bar changed owners the mindset there changed.

We did a couple shows after the change and they liked having us but suddenly they didn’t need help on a Saturday night. They were pulling people in now and preferred to have a DJ or bands and not us there.

Flint is a hard place to book an event. Not many venues that are open to the ideas of events, especially something that needs space and doesn’t just give back. I tried to contact another bar to take the show on the road but they never bothered to respond. That’s something common to Flint too, though I bet it’s common a lot of places but it doesn’t make it any less aggravating.

I turned to a last-ditch effort, a local lunch place that we had done some events in before. They were open to the idea and we moved the show. The attendance went down, even during at ‘Art Walk’, the city’s monthly art night. The feeling was still there, the music, while now curated and not DJed, was still there, and the friends were still there. And that was it, in the end. The friends. The PRRS, at its heart, was about the friends. That was why I always tended to favor people I knew as vendors. People I trusted. If we could all make a few extra bucks and bring some business to an existing Flint business then that was awesome in my book because we got to spend the evening hanging out and being goofs all night. When I found out that the venue we had tabbed was going to change hands I saw the writing on the proverbial wall.

It was time to pull down the tents and to shut down the circus.

I could keep hunting down venues.

I could keep stressing about where next.

When next.

Who next.

Or I could let it go and let someone else do something like it another day.

The last one has come and gone.

It was filled with friends and familiar faces. Filled with music and laughter. It was the same but different. It was an animal that changed its stripes from show to show but whose face you always knew, our little Punk Rock Rummage Sale. This last one was another one with a smaller crowd but it was a crowd of friends and supporters and in the end,  we went out as we began – surrounded by the people we cared about and who cared about us and what we were doing.

It was a hell of a run.

Nine years of doing these weird little shows and bringing a little strangeness to the city.

I think it’s safe to say that I am about as far from punk rock as it can get but I think we did OK, by and by.

All night people were asking me if I’d miss doing the rummage sales once they were gone and it’s really too early to say.

It’s weird because it is a huge part of my past few years that is now in the past.

What comes next I can’t say but they were fun and it was better to bow when it was our choice and before it was someone else’s.



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