As any artist, manager, or fan involved with the world of rock 'n roll will tell you, the most critical link between the creation of music and the connection of music is not through radio, youtube, television or print; but with the club where those sounds that are a result of the creative process are actually consumed by a public audience.
This is where the sacrament between artist and audience that is the essence of the performing arts is consummated: live and in the flesh, face-to-face, with no distance between the two to diminish the impact of what is being rendered musically, or dull the emotion or passion of what is being stated lyrically.
All great musical artistry that we know today was bred within the walls of the club that brought artist and audience together, whether that venue be Carnegie Hall, Baker's Keyboard Lounge, the Fillmore East/West, Max's Kansas City, the Grande Ballroom, or Daniel's Den. Why? Because music when performed live has an ability to affect one in a profound way. There are no filters to diminish or mask the honesty of what we witness.
While concert venues of this nature have become an increasingly rare commodity these days, with many of the larger regional clubs such as Shooters, Jaspers, and the Rock'n Round-up now a long distant memory, or never quite realizing their potential, one club that has gloriously succeeded where many others have failed, and deserves a reputation alongside many of the legendary venues mentioned earlier, is that of Flint's one-and-only Machine Shop.
This year over 7,000 registered voters in the Review's 27th Annual Music Awards recognized The Machine Shop as the Best Rock Club of 2013; and after 10 years of not only surviving in one of Michigan's blue collar towns hardest hit by the recession, but actually earning a reputation nationally as one of the finest concert venues in the country, this honor is long overdue.
The vision of brothers Kevin and Craig Zink, for a decade now The Machine Shop has delivered some of the biggest names in Rock 'n Roll to mid-Michigan audiences on a consistent and constant basis, mixing up-and-coming regional and national acts with artists such as Morrissey, David Alan Coe, Scott Wieland from Stone Temple Pilots, to cutting edge rock 'n roll acts likeNon Point and Mushroomhead.
According to Kevin, when The Machine Shop opened in March of 2002, the vision and role that the Brothers Zink hoped the venue would fill within the landscape of the regional music scene was to bridge the gap between national and local artists. “We really wanted to bring live national and local rock of all genres to Flint and are honestly blown away as to how much it has grown over the years, while still sticking to our basic outline.”
When asked what he feels the qualities are about The Machine Shop that distinguish it from other venues in the area, Kevin is modest: “There are lots of great venues around Michigan and they each have their own qualities, but I feel that one great thing for us is the patrons. Every band that comes through here comments on how enthusiastic the crowds here are; and that makes a difference whether you're an unknown band or an established artist.”
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.
Inside the club there are 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.
With all the litany of great bands and artists that have rolled through the stage at The Machine Shop over the years, are there any specific shows or artists that stand out in Kevin's mind as being high-water unforgettable performances? “I could not even begin to count over the 11 and a half years we've been doing this how many different artists have come through. We are so lucky to have had so many different acts grace our stage. But I think one of the greatest things about it all is how many artists keep coming back over and over. Honestly, a lot of times they'll do this even when they are too big for the venue.”
As to his reaction that the 'Shop' had secured top honors by Review readers by being selected Best Rock Club at the 2013 RMA's, Kevin says, “What an honor! Honestly, the hairs on my arms actually stood up. Thank you Michigan music fans!” Our goal is to keep on rockin!”
Finally, when asked what he feels are the biggest challenges involved with keeping an entity like The Shop vital and growing, Kevin says he operates by a simple motto: “Roll with the punches and always embrace change.”
The Machine Shop Concert Lounge is located at 3539 S. Dort Highway in Flint. You can phone them at 810-715-2650 or visit them online at www.themachineshop.info