Punk Rock Flea Market – Birmingham

By on 28 June, 2016 in Fun, Kate and Stephen, Shopping with 2 Comments

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in cultural studies to understand that we’re all experiencing increased specialization and customization. People don’t want 500 television channels, they want to pick a la carte to consume only their favorite kinds of information. We prefer news to be tailored to meet our pre-existing ideological preferences. The Internet is accelerating these tendencies.

Even in something as simple as retail shopping, the preference for cultivated “boutique” experiences has emerged as an (admittedly privileged) resistance to “big box” mega-stores where everything is under a single, low-priced roof. Even if those options aren’t always available (or easy), most people enjoy the specialized skills of a standalone butcher or cobbler or artisan-crafted chair. Mass production and monocultures certainly have their advantages, but even here in Montgomery, there is better-than-decent evidence of our preference for buying a bicycle at a bicycle store, or toys from a toy store.

Photo by Jaysen Michael

Photo by Jaysen Michael

Another way to divide this retail economy isn’t by types of products being sold, but along other themed concepts. The most prominent example of this in Montgomery is the annual Southern Makers event, which gathers artisans in a wide variety of fields, ranging from food to soap. If you like supporting small “makers” of various sundries (and cultural offerings), this sort of thing is for you. If you like Christmas stuff, you’ll want to attend the annual Junior League Holiday Market, where aficionados of lights and ornaments can mingle and transact business.

These kinds of events are as much social gatherings as they are commercial opportunities. With live music and food and drink, these specialized shopping experiences have emerged. Meanwhile, the old-school “shopping mall” has virtually gone extinct. Since online orders can meet our more obscure tastes, retail spaces have been forced to increasingly offer “value added” experiences.

That’s why I drove to Birmingham in early June to shop at something called a Punk Rock Flea Market. It was outstanding. The first incarnation of the flea market was held back in March. Both versions were held at a fantastic bar/restaurant/music venue called Saturn, which is in the exploding Avondale part of town. The flea market’s Facebook page advertised “vintage vinyl” and ‘zines and live music and beer and all sorts of counter-cultural trinkets. Perfect.

I hate shopping, so it’s saying something that I enjoyed the experience: loud music, tattooed roller derby girls seeking recruits, merchants selling hand-painted skateboards. I ended up buying a couple of old Star Wars comic books from the 1970s and three enormous bars of the high-quality soaps made by Tuscaloosa’s extraordinary Left Hand Soap Company. I drank a locally-produced beer, and listened to some high-octane rock and roll. I saw some really cool art and jewelry, flipped through some records, and watched some kids learn how to play some classic old Nintendo games.

Organizers of the flea market say that another one is the works, probably for the fall. Maybe they could one day do a Montgomery version, enlisting our local record stores and roller derby squads. Stay tuned to the Midtown Montgomery Twitter feed and we’ll let you know when the next one of these things is happening. The website for the Punk Rock Flea Market is www.punkrockflea.com.

Stephen Stetson is a Midtown resident with two cats, a dog, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure.

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  1. Scott says:

    Where are you guys when the punk rock happenings occur in Montgomery? There are shows at the Sanctuary happening all the time.

    • Stephen says:

      Hey Scott, we’ve been to handful of shows. We’ve been trying to get in touch with the folks at Vegan Deviled Egg for a while to do a profile of them, but have had trouble connecting. We do know about the shows at The Sanctuary, and you’re welcome to alert us to anything that you think would be particularly exciting or worth reviewing. In our experience, they have been a lot of fun for a great price, and we try to promote them.

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