The first time Jordan Hoffman stepped into Flint, Michigan’s The Machine Shop, he was 13 years old. The Toledo, Ohio, native and future Black Moods bassist knew it was special.
“I always wanted to play there,” said Hoffman, who will get his wish on Aug. 25. “It’s a world-famous club. I don’t want to call it a dive bar, but it’s one of the greatest rock clubs. It’s got a vibe about it.”
That vibe has been consistent during its 22 years, an anniversary it is celebrating this year. Owner Kevin Zink brings the heart to the Machine Shop, which he says is embraced by fans and artists for its family-style atmosphere.
“I’ve made so many lifelong friends with the bands, the crews, the people who are their fans, the customers and the concertgoers,” Zink said. “That’s the highlight for me: the people I’ve gotten to be friends with. There are artists and crews I haven’t seen in several years that if I ran into them tomorrow, it would be like no time has passed. I’ve developed friendships with those people. That’s my favorite thing.”
The bands who have played the 550-capacity room read like a who’s who of stars — Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Shinedown and Pop Evil. Venerable rock bands Clutch and Sponge were among the first to play The Machine Shop, although Zink’s memory is, admittedly, cloudy.
“We’re the last of the mom-and-pop, real-deal rock clubs,” he said. “There are beautiful, wonderful places independently owned, but a lot are cookie cutter. I grew up going to rock clubs like The Ritz (Roseville, Michigan), Harpo’s (Detroit) and The Shelter in the ’80s. The Shop isn’t so cookie cutter vanilla.
“We try to stick within our wheelhouse of rock and country, instead of trying to do all of it.”
Recently, former “Headbangers Ball” host Riki Rachtman brought his one-man show “One Foot in the Gutter” to The Machine Shop. He was impressed.
“There was a big pit going around,” he said. “They were so loud and so into it. When we all walked off stage, we thought, ‘This is amazing.’ The way they run that club and everybody who works there is great. Kevin’s reputation speaks for itself.”
Upcoming shows include two nights with hometown singer Whitey Morgan, two Puddle of Mudd gigs, and three sold-out shows with Michiganders Taproot.
“The Machine Shop opened in 2002, which was the same time Taproot was growing in popularity after coming off two Ozzfest appearances in 2000 and 2001, and the release of our sophomore album, ‘Welcome,’ in 2002,” said Taproot drummer Jarrod Montague, who added that the “soon-to-become iconic rock venue” is like a second home for the band, which will start or finish tours there.
Taproot is the fourth band to play three consecutive sold-out nights, and Montague is thrilled.
“To know that there are people who still want to come out and support this band that we formed over 25 years ago, it’s a bit surreal, but so fun and enjoyable,” he said. “When we all get together and experience music we love in a room together, it’s a bit like time travel. We are all reminded of times from our past — some good, some bad — and we relate to these songs. I’m looking forward to all of those emotions during these shows as we return to the world-famous Machine Shop.”
Keeping The Machine Shop together is Zink and his 20-person staff, which includes sound man Jon Tanner, and his lighting guy Jimi Brown.
“The staff loves it just as much as I do,” Zink said. “I have almost no turnover. When the bands come through the Shop, they know all of us. It’s the same people. I’m a lucky guy to have the staff I have.”
Zink is still a hands-on owner. He doubles as booker and repairman and hasn’t missed a show in 22 years.
“I’ve been sick, sleeping in the parking lot,” he said.
That’s what makes The Machine Shop special, Montague added.
“Kevin Zink and the staff are among the most hospitable in the industry, as they always make sure all bands and fans are safe and well-taken care of,” he said.