Building a community in a snake pit

Photo by Sadman Sakib Rahman

In every city there’s two kinds of art scenes. There’s the obvious one, with the bands that play in the public square — you can bring your own lawn-chair and your kids can play with the puzzles drawn in to the concrete. It’s nice and idyllic, the type of art scene that helps build a community and bring people together.

But then there’s the other, and this is what sustains a community, where people find the place they belong. It’s maybe a bit more unknown, but if you squint it’s there — in every city, beating like an under-utilized heart.

“There’s tons of music in this community, it can be difficult to find places to play if you don’t fall into a particular category. There’s lots of promoters who are doing great things but there are a lot of bands in the past, that we know, have struggled to find places to play,” said Stacie Robinson, who — alongside her partner Christopher Walton — hosted the Tri-Cities first punk-rock flea market at a local venue ominously dubbed ‘The Snake Pit’.

“Here we have bands that aren’t that mainstream, so we set up shows and try to be as inclusive as possible. We have tons of different bands that come out, people from all walks of life.”

A come-as-you-are scene, where anyone and everybody is welcome. But maybe BYOV — that’s bring your own vice. Punk-rock flea markets are popular in surrounding cities — London ON, just had their third one this summer with a wide turnout.

So if you’re experiencing FOMO, don’t stress too much. The local art community is sure to see a flourish; all we have to do is pay attention the pulse.

“There wasn’t really anything like this happening in town, but we’ve had show’s [at the Snake Pit] for a little while. We’ve been trying to build up the community here, so we thought we’d host a mini-flea market and see how it’d go,’ Robinson said.

Community is the key aspect of it all. Without it, and any artist is all too aware of this, you’re lost. Currently, the Tri-City art community is in the midst’s of what feels like a transformation.

A great deal of this I would, without a doubt, attribute to people like Robinson and Walton. People who have been working tirelessly to prove the importance of supporting local artists.

“We’re trying to get everyone to get to know each other; [to] help build connections between different kinds of artists and vendors. People who can work together on projects and such.”

So, what exactly does a ‘punk-rock flea market’ consist of? This is what I — a woman who doesn’t have a single punk-rock bone in her body, although I’m trying — was wondering when I showed up fresh-faced and full of wonder.

“We’ve got tons of different vendors, we have people selling music, LP’s, tapes. People selling DIY bath products and pins. Some kitchy stuff like garage sale finds mixed with handmade sewn goods, like t-shirts.”

There were poets who featured their original works, musicians sampling their upcoming mixtapes and live music for everyone to enjoy.

“We’re all over the map. We’ve got noise artists, some hard-core, punk — there’s some, what I call weirdo music, it doesn’t fall into a particular category,” Robinson said, explaining the dichotomy of bands.

They were all local bands, like Death Party Playground, getting a chance to perform in their own community.

“I think we’d like to try and do another one, probably at a venue that’s more accessible. We wanted to do a test run and see what the interest was. There’s been a fair bit of it, from vendors to people wanting to see the music. With the size of the place we can only host so many people, but our goal is to do another event — one or two a year at least,” Robinson said.

So if you’re experiencing FOMO, don’t stress too much. The local art community is sure to see a flourish; all we have to do is pay attention the pulse.

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