Whether or not you’ve been there yet, the stores at Punk Alley have been chugging along and selling items you won’t find anywhere else. It’s controlled chaos: the thoughtful curation mixed with an abundance of stuff—books, movies, trinkets, and other ephemera. Bushwick Daily wrote about the alley in 2014, but the past three years have seen it grow and change.
Here’s a rundown of what I found on a recent visit. It’s not comprehensive since some of the stores were closed, but it does give you an idea of the types of items you’ll find if you ever find yourself in the narrow alley at 867 Broadway.
Rebel Rouser is a store specializing in records—from mainstream to obscure—and books you won’t necessarily find at Barnes and Noble with titles like “Hell’s Angels,” “The Fox,” and “Compulsion.” I left with a purchase, gladly forking over $4 for “Harrison High,” a 1959 novel about the sexy exploits of high school students which were probably shocking at the time.
Dripper World is a punk lifestyle store that has sick t-shirts and other punk necessities. The first thing I noticed was a gumball machine with plastic babies inside. They reminded me of Mardi Gras babies from New Orleans and would make pretty awesome key chains.
Sam, the store’s proprieter, opened Dripper World three years ago. He doesn’t refer to the space as Punk Alley; he simply calls it the alley. At Dripper World, he focuses on items that bands create but can’t always be sold on merchandise tables, ranging from T-shirts to masks. He has plenty of records, tapes and zines. He describes Dripper World as a physical space for what friends make. When asked what he wants people to know about the alley, he said to check out a label, Toxic State Records, which is almost exclusively found in the alley.
At Thousands of Dead Gods, a newer addition to Punk Alley, the walls are adorned with cassette tapes. They have names such as “Friends with Corpses” and “Brown Piss.” It’s the closest thing I’ve been in that feels like a record store since I was a child. Justin, one of the store’s owners, says some of the cassettes are metal, but 95 percent are noise music or harsh noise. He says it’s hard to describe noise music to someone who doesn’t know what it is, but it involves lots of repurposed sounds, which are usually aggressively non-melodic.
Most of the tapes in the store are contemporary. Almost all the tapes they carry have less than 150 copies in existence. I asked him when cassette tapes made a comeback, and it turns out the underground has consistently used cassettes even after they fell out of the mainstream.
Thousands of Dead Gods reminds me of the sensation of opening a cassette case, and the memories of the long-forgotten radio station played Beatles songs back-to-back on Sundays. The store is open from Thursday through Sunday 1-8 p.m.
Street Fever is a small, but full, thrift store. A sign proclaims everything is for sale. There are hundreds of buttons and pins, with drawings of rock logos, obscene cartoons, playboy bunnies, and single words like “NUTS” which could very well be a punk band I’ve never heard of. There are old comics, and a surprising amount of Mickey Mouse memorabilia. A temporary tattoo depicts Mickey as a pirate giving the middle finger. I’m okay with Mickey’s badass image here.
I would recommend the alley to people who enjoy reading, those searching for stylish clothes, and anyone wanting to see a unique piece of Brooklyn you can’t find anywhere else. I took away a couple things from the alley, both tangible and intangible, and from now on, anytime someone visits me, I’ll show them Punk Alley, but only if they’re cool enough.
All photos by Edward Denegre for Bushwick Daily.