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Philadelphia Bike Rescue: Incubating Community Through Sound and Wheels.

April 8, 2015

PhillyBikeRescueOnline01Text by Justin Dowdall. Images by Rachel Del Sordo.

With the logic of capital devouring the subculture bike market (to the point that fixed-gear bikes have become a punch line to the trust funders who buy their personality at “that store” in Rittenhouse), there is a new way of thinking about bike culture that is both meaningful and exciting, and that recycles and refurbishes bikes, not ideas.

At center stage of this new way of thinking sits the Philadelphia Bike Rescue and its owner Dave Kazarov. The shop is gaining momentum as it emerges as an authentic voice in Philadelphia cycling and, as of recently, a strong supporter of the underground music scene.

PhillyBikeRescueOnline03This small shop located in East Kensington’s Viking Mill building is the perfect place for a bike rescuer/music promoter to operate. The space that the shop occupies is as much a reflection of the ideology of the shop as of its business model.

To visit the space, you to have to take either an old freight elevator or an old set of wooden stairs to the third floor, all the while passing exposed brick, drywall and random artistic residue throughout the halls. Surrounding you on all sides are non-descript doors that house intellectuals and artists in residence. There is even a recording studio down the hall, hammering out new artists and ambient noises. In truth, the environment is quite electric. When you find your way into the shop, you confront a hand-picked collection of old bikes that hang from the ceilings, a beautiful sight for any bike enthusiast to behold.

Last summer, the shop made a splash in the music scene when it started its collaboration with local bands by hosting shows in an undisclosed warehouse down the road. The frequent shows were the result of a partnership with the recording label Magic Death Sounds. These events included bands such as Banned Books, Exar Kun, Tygerstrype and Son Step, among others.

“Dave just has a community-oriented mindset,” says Tony Montagnaro, co-founder  of Magic Death Sounds. “I know for Dave, this is about fostering the incubation of community.”

This has been a fruitful partnership for the shop and Kazarov plans to continue to cross promote with more local bands, artists and of course local brewers, year round.

Unlike what some have critiqued as “exclusive” house shows, what is important to Kazarov is how the music engages the community as a whole and brings a diverse group of people together. When chatting about why music and community has been so important to his vision, Kazarov spoke directly to the scene in Kensington.

PhillyBikeRescueOnline02“It’s different in Kensington compared to the other neighborhoods in the city,” Kazarov says. “It has been a mind-opening experience. I still have a place in my heart for say South Philly but what’s happening down there is what I would call dry gentrification, or a kind of soulless gentrification. It just seems hermetically sealed in that area. We are a little off the beaten path – maybe even a little more dangerous. It may be that it’s that feeling that attracts young people and artists  who are more accepting of the existing community.”

What has emerged from his vision is apparent. Kazarov is redefining boundaries of what owning a bike shop means, while creating a soundtrack that speaks directly to the positive aspects of the scene building in Kensington as a whole.

One leaves the shop with an understanding that the bikes are not just used objects and events here are not just shows.

For Kazarov, they are two sides of an ideological move toward community building that stand against the stale hegemonic mainstream consumer culture.

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