Punk's Not Dead at a New Bushwick Flea Market Housed in Shipping Containers
"We live here, and we're in control of this fucking city," says Sam Ryser, a Brooklyn native and prolific punk musician and artist, about his brand new shop. "That's part of the beauty of this alleyway. People being able to do something like this is a shred of the control being put into the hands of people who live here, not people who decide who lives here."
Photo Reed Dunlea
Dripper World opened in March in a flea market, or to be more exact, an alleyway of shipping containers housing individual stores at 867 Broadway in Bushwick, Brooklyn. In addition to longer-term tenants taking advantage of the cheap rent, including a clothing store and bike shop, there is now a used book store, two record stores, and a junk shop. It may seem inaccessible at first to the casual shopper, as most of the new shops are unnamed, and are run by individuals in one way or another involved in New York's thriving punk scene. The newer tenants all know each other, making for an exciting sense of community.
At Dripper World, there are T-shirts, records, cassettes, pins, jewelry, posters, trinkets, and a wealth of bizarre and unique items, many of which were handmade by Ryser and his friends. There is a heavy focus on bootlegged products, or items that have made without the permission of the original artist, which is a popular tradition in punk circles; for instance, a homemade T-shirt with a band's name on it, or a record pressed by someone other than the artist or their label.
"People have joked that this is like a punk Hot Topic, or a lifestyle boutique," says Ryser. "But fuck it, if that's what it is, that's what it is. I want Dripper World to be centered around the bands that I'm in, the punk bands that play in our little fucking scene or whatever. Getting my friends and fellow bandmates to put shit in here that they might not feel comfortable selling at a show. If there is a physical store, I hope it is encouraging to people to make some really weird shit."
Eugene Terry, a longtime bandmate and artistic collaborator of Ryser's and the owner of Papertown Company, agrees with the importance of Dripper World's physical space. "If you go and see some cool shit in person, it's way more inspiring than if it's just happening online," Terry says. "You can go in there, touch it, talk to it, be inside of it. It makes more of an impression if it's in a real space that you can go to."
Ryser views Dripper World as a return to an old New York, where his scene can reclaim some increasingly unavailable real estate. "I feel like people think of New York as this majestic place, like in the early '90s where it was this decayed and crazy place where you could drink on the street and do graffiti way more easily; a place like that encourages freaks," he says. "After 9-11, the control got way more tight. There were cops with machine guns in the subway. That was kind of crucial for us. The idea of having more control in your life was prevalent. That might have been one of the most influential things in me and my friends getting into punk."
Ryser is a pillar of the New York punk scene. He has contributed artwork to releases for bands including Total Control, Nomad, Hoax, and S.H.I.T. He has drawn flyers for dozens of punk shows in recent years — New York's Alright 2014, Tragedy, Bloodkrow Butcher, La Urrs — which were highlighted in a recent art show at Dripper World and an accompanying booklet, 56 Flyers (which were all made between 2006 and 2013 by Ryser or Terry). He plays in three of New York's most popular punk bands: Dawn of Humans (a creeping and explosive musical and visual live experience who have written some of the world's best punk songs in recent years), Crazy Spirit (who play galloping, demented children's underground stompers), and Murderer (a three-piece, three-vocal rock n' roll celebration of being a young man and not giving a fuck).
These bands, along with others like La Misma, Anasazi, and Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, are often categorized under the Toxic State scene (referring to the intensely DIY record label that releases most of their music). Having been involved in it for around a decade, and participating in its evolution into the creative hotbed that it is today, puts Ryser in the unique position of being able to gather all of its important and sought-after physical products. "The New York shit we're involved with is getting to a point where it's pretty obvious that a lot of people are into it," he says. "There's a reason 200 people show up to a show that I would expect, like, 10 people to show up to."
With Ryser and his friends in charge, Dripper World may exemplify punk's next phase. "Punk will mean whatever the fuck punk means to a million people; I want Dripper to replace punk for me. I want punk to die and Dripper to blossom for everyone. It's gonna be that new shit."
Dripper World is open 2–8 p.m. Friday through Sunday in the Flea Market Alleyway at 467 Broadway, Brooklyn.