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Article by Nick Starr

The Machine Shop Concert Lounge located at 3539 South Dort Highway in Flint is one of Mid-Michigan’s premier live music venues, carrying on the tradition of the great American rock clubs like CBGB's and The Whiskey A Go - Go.

The club first opened in 2002, with a popular Flint-based cover band of the day, Spirit Bone, being the first band ever to take the stage. Since that time "The Shop" has played host to everyone from funky blues rockers Clutch to rockabilly/metal fusionists Volbeat. Over the past eight years the club has built a reputation as one of the top small rock bars in the country. Bands seem to either love the venue, or if they have not been there yet, it is one of the places that they most want to play. When young up and comers My Darkest Days played the venue for the first time this year, they told owner Kevin Zink that they had wanted to play there since they were kids. Recently modern rock mega-stars Three Days Grace took the stage, and after the show a crew member with the band said that it was the loudest crowd he had heard in his four years with the band.

Zink says, "I love it when arena bands that are too big to play here come and play here anyway." Ryan McCombs, lead singer of alternative metal band Drowning Pool, is such a fan of the venue that he actually tattooed Flint’s location on the map of Michigan on the inside of his hand—which is not so unusual for Michigan natives, but perhaps a little more out of the ordinary for an Indiana native playing in a band based out of Texas.

For all the acclaim and accolades Zink is quick to credit the bands' love of the club to the crowds. "The people that come here are blue collar Flint proud," says Zink. "They want to cheer and have a good time, to forget the worries of their city for a bit." The owner continues, “The staff and the crowds here are a big family, and the bands are a part of that—they can feel it." He goes on to say, "I really feel that the people of Flint and the surrounding areas are responsible for all of this."

Though things have been going well these past eight years, Zink still sees room for improvements. "I would love to add dressing rooms to make the club more band friendly." He also still has a couple of bands on his wish list to play at The Machine Shop. "I would love to have Stone Sour and Social Distortion play here," he says. But perhaps his grandest vision for the club involves expansion. "The biggest goal would be to add a second location somewhere, possibly on the west side of the state or in Toledo." As we wrap up our conversation, Zink leaves me with a parting thought: "If it is at all possible, I try to make it happen. I'm a big fan of music and this all still excites me."

© Nick Starr, 2010