Posts Tagged ‘ Oak Street Chronicles ’


The Oak Street Chronicles tell the stories of my time in Downtown Flint, learning to live and learning to love.

I moved to Oak Street to help out a friend who was going travelling. He wanted me to keep an eye on his house while he was away. I wanted a chance to live closer to the heart of the music scene that I was becoming more and more immersed in with each passing year. The Flint Local 432 was a hub for this vibrant and diverse music community. It’s the kind of thing that leads a suburban, white kid to relocate to the hood.
I had gotten involved in the music scene in a participatory way when I was 14. I remember my first time like it was yesterday…

My best friend Mike and I had just joined our first band (technically, Mike played in a Metallica cover band first but let’s not count that) after replying to a sort of help wanted article in a teen-written section of the Flint Journal called Word Up. Mike was a drummer and I wanted to sing. I liked singing. That’s all you really need, right? Passion and desire. Nevermind that whole talent thing.

We connected with Phil, a Grand Blanc kid who actually took guitar lessons and liked a lot of the same alternative and grunge bands that Mike and I were getting into. After reading his article we were sure that we were soul-mates so we started “jamming” in Mike’s Grandmother’s garage.

One time Phil showed up with an article from the newspaper about a new all ages music club that was opening. The article advertised a show with the Rubgy Mothers and Offense A.D., I think. It was two bands I had seen before; one at the Capitol Theater and the other at the Capitol Lobby. A friend’s older brother had taken us to some shows Downtown a year or so earlier. We all decided we needed to check out the show and see if we could try to book our first real gig!

We arrived a Kinelo’s Cafe and the room was pretty full. I felt like one of the youngest kids there but I didn’t care. When the bands started playing I had found a new home.

Mike came up to me later in the evening and told me had just met the guy who managed the Rugby Mothers gigs and asked him how we could get a show of our own. Mike rounded up the rest of us and introduced us to a guy named Joel.

I had actually met Joel earlier in the evening. I had twisted my ankle pretty bad bouncing around in the “pit” during Offense A.D.’s set and Joel found me a chair so I could sit down for a while.

When Mike took us to talk to Joel about booking a show, Joel pulled out a paper schedule and offered us a spot on a show right there on the spot. It was that easy. He hadn’t even heard us. That probably was a good thing.

The next time we had a rehearsal we played with more purpose than ever before. We put together a set of 8 songs including 7 originals and a Lemonheads cover. We practiced every week getting the set ready for our show. It was about a month away so we kept going down to shows every weekend until then.

One night when we showed up to see Rats of Unusual Size (a band all the way from New York!), and Matt Ratza (the original bass player from Burnt Toast!), we arrived at Kinelo’s and it was pretty empty. The stage wasn’t set up and the table hadn’t been moved out of the way. We were a little confused but we saw some lights coming from another building down the otherwise empty street.  We heard some music coming from the building, too. Sound check! We made our way down to 432 S. Saginaw Street. The space wasn’t as nice as the cafe but it was awesome to know that Joel had gotten his own building. The Flint Local 432 seemed like it was something that was going to be around for a while.

We saw bands like Melange, Day 28, Beatnik Mecca, and my personal favorite Burnt Toast, who I had convinced to let me sing one of my favorite songs with them on stage one time. What a rush! I was learning that I could be a part of something that I loved in a personal way.

When our first gig came, I was super nervous so when we got on stage I did my best Eddie Vedder impression, holding on to the mic stand with both hands, not letting go for our entire 30 minute set. I swayed back and forth a little, too. The coolest part of that show wasn’t the performance itself. It was seeing the guys from Burnt Toast and Melange had come to see us play. My new heroes were becoming my new friends.

In my school, I didn’t really feel comfortable. I wasn’t that cool. I had friends but still didn’t feel like I really fit in. Flint Local 432 fixed that for me. It gave me a place. It gave me direction. It gave me experiences that have shaped my life. And it gave me a really cool collection of cassette tapes from local bands.

The Flint Local 432 is reopening soon! Get more info here!



The Oak Street Chronicles tell the stories of my time in Downtown Flint, learning to live and learning to love.

“How much do we get if we win?”

$500 was a lot of money to a bunch of kids who were trying to figure out how we were going to pay to finish our next record. What’s a few hours of discomfort and being surrounded by nudity?

My drummer had just gotten off the phone with his dad who told us about a gig at a nudist resort. His cover band was playing and he could get us a spot on the show. It was a battle of the bands thing with a big cash prize. We didn’t have to play naked, we just had to show up and do our thing for a half-hour and we’d have a chance to win a bunch of money. Even though it felt icky, at least we’ve have a fun story to tell our kids.

On the way down to the resort we agreed that no one would get naked on stage. It felt too gimmicky. It wasn’t us. Well, it wasn’t most of us. There would be one naked band member but not until after our set. Chances were slim that we’d win the money but at least we would leave with our integrity, right?

The stage and the field were huge. It felt like we were going to be playing at Woodstock but only with a few hundred people in attendance. I set up our merchandise in the back of the van as people were beginning to gather in the field. I’m not sure why we thought we’d be able to sell t-shirts at a nudist resort but people kept coming over to the van to say hi and check out what we had for sale. It didn’t take long to learn the value of eye contact.

Nearby, a father and son were playing catch. Naked. Apart from their baseball caps and mitts, of course. What had we gotten ourselves into? The first band was about to take the stage and I wasn’t surprised when one of the young men dropped his drawers before strapping on his guitar. Amateurs. When they launched into their first song, I felt our chances of winning 500 bucks skyrocket.

The sun was beating down and reflecting off the glistening, white bodies peppered throughout the field. It wasn’t the pretty sight I had imagined. Most of the folks at the show were from the 40+ crowd and in general it seemed that as much as they prided themselves on the beauty of the human body they sure hadn’t taken care of themselves very well. I mean, if I was a nudist, you’d be able to find me at the gym at least 5 days a week.

It was our turn to take the stage and I was getting nervous. I knew we could play but how was I going to connect with this crowd? I was used to playing shows to a rooms filled with fully-clothed teeny-bopper-hipsters not butt-naked-40-something-hippies. I went with my gut. I called out titles and counted off new songs before the final notes of the previous song even had time to resolve. We were tight and continued a blistering pace through the set list.

The crowd seemed to be getting into us. I think they noticed the different level of craftsmanship and professionalism we had brought to the stage compared to the previous bands. It took a lot to rip-off the Ramones and AC/DC but we were hard workers. We finished up our set and I booked over to the van hoping to sell some merch and maybe find a good place to hide for a while.  People were kind. We didn’t move any t-shirts but we went through half a box of CDs. Some people said they would have bought something but they didn’t have any money on them since they didn’t have any pockets.

After we loaded our gear, our bass player de-robed to take part in the authentic experienced of being at a nudist resort. I would have covered my eyes but somehow I was getting used to the place. I think I was being desensitized and was able to look past the nudity. This was the case until a guy who had too much to drink got up and started dancing and shaking his business around in the general direction of the one attractive female at the event. It was all peace, love, and  rock-n-roll until somebody can’t keep their hormones in check. Security came and carted him off saying that this is a “family” resort. I was embarrassed for the girl, and pretty much the rest of humanity as well.

The night was coming to a close as our drummer’s dad and his band took the stage. These guys were pros. They knew how to play to the audience and make the night as amusing as possible for themselves. The audience was cutting loose as the band made their way through a set list of hits from the 60’s and 70’s. The closing number created a scene that will forever be burned into my memory; 300 naked people doing the hand-jive. There was so much jiggling it looked like an earthquake had struck southern Michigan while everyone was just getting out of the shower.

They ended up taking home the  prize. Well, most of it anyway. They handed us an envelope with a 100 bucks inside for making the drive. Classy guys for sure. We piled into the van and made our way north in silence.

I imagined the scene that would get to play out 40-50 years down the road as I sat in my rocking chair in front of the fire surrounded by my family. “Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I performed at a nudist resort?”






The Oak Street Chronicles tell the stories of my time in Downtown Flint, learning to live and learning to love.

If there was one thing I experienced in abundance during my time on Oak Street, other than dilapidated houses and drug dealers, I’d have to say I was surrounded my more dog hair than I ever hope to be again.

My roommate’s dog was awesome. He was part Golden Lab and part human. He was really friendly and had a great name, Shackleton. He was named after the famous explorer.  In his exploits on Oak Street he lived up to his name.

There was the time he made me chase him all over the neighborhood when I first moved in. He would stop and wait for me to get close and then as I zeroed in on him he would take off a little further down the block. He was either showing me around the neighborhood or showing me who was boss.

There was the time that he got in to a fight with a skunk in our front yard, got sprayed and stunk up the house for a week. I had never really smelled skunk before. When someone or something close to you gets sprayed it’s nothing like that faint scent that you get as you drive by road kill on the highway at 75 miles per hour.

Shack was sort of like our little narcotics officer, always barking like crazy when people decided to stop by our backyard to smoke crack behind our shed. And he was always really noisy when folks were out on the street doing whatever business people do in the middle of the night.  He kept us safe but I think he let it go to his head.

He was the king of our place on Oak Street. He made sure to let us know by leaving a little bit of himself everywhere. His hair covered all of our furniture. It was so bad that I would bring a wooden chair in from the kitchen whenever I would want to sit in the living room to watch TV so I would end up covered in Shackleton.

One time after I returned from a weekend on the road with my band, my roommate left a picture on my pillow. The picture was yet another reminder that I was just a guest in the house.

The subject of the picture?

A golden lab sleeping in my bed.

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