Boing! Collective on 5th East has been giving the community a place
to go for those who feel disillusioned by the society we live in,
providing resources in several areas from politics and civil rights
to charity and even local music.
Firmly establishing itself as one of the few independent collectives in the state that puts focus on community. Truly a place that supports all in the scene, rarely selfish for its own needs. For those of you who are familiar with the Collective, you know full well that one of the things they tend to dislike is the mainstream media in most of its forms. Which is why I feel very privileged that the group would actually chat with me and answer my questions about the history of the collective and their house, as well as activities and events they host, and their thoughts on some other questions I had. Not to mention allowing me to come in and take pictures of the house.
The Boing! Collective
Gavin: Hey guys. First off, tell us who you are and a little bit about yourselves.
Dallin: We ride bikes. A lot!
Liam: Boards too, you can’t forget that some of us ride those. Music and comics are obsessions of mine as well.
Ian: Seriously. Don’t forget the music. Almost everyone that lives here is musically involved in one way or another, be it setting up shows, playing an instrument solo, or actually playing with a band, or even just dancing to a rad song. The people that live here are all very involved in their own projects, as well as collective ones. These projects cover a pretty wide range, from organizing the infoshop, to converting a diesel vehicle to run on vegetable oil, to fixing bikes, to installing a wood burning stove.
Madea: Aspiring joy-monsters, we are crazed and laughing, tearing down the walls of society and creating lives of wonder and amazement for ourselves!
Gavin: For those who are unaware, what is The Boing! Collective?
Dallin: The Boing! Anarchist Collective is a punk house, a safe space for kids of all kinds from all walks of life to come and talk and learn with the excitement and attitude of those of us who live here and hang out here.
Liam: Boing! (with the obligatory exclamation point every time that it appears in text) is a house devoted to not only to the basics like strengthening community and educating others about the alternative ways that they can live, but also to achieving the greatest possible amounts of fun and satisfaction out of a life that can only be lived a single time, and for an unknown period.
Madea: Community. I heard recently that this word can be frustrating because of its many uses, misuses, and associations. Scrub the excess and superficial! Boing! is an infoshop, an uncivilized island on the urban sea, and home to many hearts. We aim to support the individual in realizing her/his full potential and desires, while creating a culture responsible to the needs of the earth and all living things around us, not the economy, profiteers, and non-living things such as corporations. This is sustainability. “Community, unity, you and me, now that’s an idea!” –James Miska
Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start the Collective?
Dallin: Collective living is a very natural thing and something that many people strive to accomplish. Looking at it in a tribal sense, animals (human and non-human alike) live near their families and friends for their lives.
Madea: I think that the person who originally created Boing! saw the need for a source of radical information, culture, and the provision of basic needs in this city. Information. We are all taught in elementary school to question. And act. As “our forefathers” (and foremothers) did (though rape and genocide of natives is not a noble act). How can we question if we do not have many different sources of news and information? Watching the news is not adequate, to say the least. Culture. Homogenization is a disease of industrialized civilization. If this is not apparent, please come on over and read a book on media, advertising, political propaganda, etc. Basic needs. The current manifestation of the Salt Lake Food Not Bombs was originally organized through Boing!. FNB recognizes the massive amounts of waste in the first world, monetarily and in the food industry, as well as starving and homeless people. Edible, and in fact delectable food is tossed to the garbage, from the farms, in transportation, at factories, in stores, and on the residential level every day, while live, deserving people are lacking nourishment. FNB transports produce and other goods which would have been thrown away to deserving people. This is a grassroots effort that anyone, anywhere can take on. Though, this is only a tiny band aid on one relatively small problem, imagine what your neighborhood and circles of friends could look like if we all made this effort.
Gavin: How did you go about starting it up? And during planning were things easy or difficult?
Dallin: Starting it up happened years before my existence here. Which is one of the great things about the idea of a collective house, is years later me living at the house contributing while, when it started I was in middle school.
Madea: Unused resources are all around us. We could build skyscrapers to the moon with all of the unused books in this city. Knowledgeable people are all around us to help us fix things we need. It’s a matter of putting your amazing idea out there, while asking for and offering help where needed.
Gavin: The house itself is pretty cool. How did you guys get the house you’re in?
Dallin: The O.G.’s who started it found it as one apartment and eventually the upper level came open and they hopped on it.
Gavin: Do you take care of the maintenance and bills yourselves, or do people generally contribute charitably toward the upkeep?
Dallin: We do it all ourselves. The donations we get are for Food Not Bombs, and when people donate at shows we put on, it goes towards the touring bands. We all figure out our ways to make our money. We all are very D.I.Y. and have to fix things ourselves constantly. With a Slum-lord you have to learn how to do just about everything.
Liam: All of the bills are paid by the people who live at the house. Maintenance is supposed to be done by the landlord, and that “supposed” should probably be a little more strained. Any donations to the house go towards things like getting new books for our own informal library, or generally providing anything that can make the house more comfortable for any visitors who want to -or in some cases need to- use the space.
Gavin: In researching I've found the public conception and information about the Collective is confused and uniformed at best, mainly over the Anarchistic beliefs you share. What do you think has brought on those misconceptions? And what do you say to people who have those misconceptions?
Dallin: Because anarchy means “chaos!!!!” this is something that makes people very confused. Theories vary but a common one exists and it is that, “no one is better qualified to make choices for your life than yourself”. We exist in harmony, we have complications like everyone, we try to remain and live within the counter-culture we’ve created. The confusion might have come from bands or kids who don’t understand, who feel as if having a level of the house that is asked to remain alcohol free is restrictive, when it might actually be more open. That is something I’m waiting to see.
Liam: People have been living in a world that has been telling them the proper ways to live life for so long, that anything outside of that guideline is terrifying. It’s the same reason that we’re all afraid of our own dark closets as children, or continue to be afraid of death as we age. The unknown is frightening, and when you’re told all of your life that you need a steady career, a marriage, a family, a house, car, retirement plan, and a fucking wall-to-wall entertainment system; then a bunch of people doing what they want to with their lives and not afraid of the same things that you are is the most unknown concept that exists. Do I have anything to say to the people that misunderstand us? Yes. I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to be poetic or anything, but turn on your light. The monsters under the bed are someone else entirely.
Lindsey: I don’t know why this is the case, but people seem to get a lot of strange ideas about us. For example, I’ve heard of kids who think that our house is a secret and they can’t tell other people about it, and that we eat our compost.
Lisa: A lot of people think this actually a squat. Probably because of confusion with bikehouse. It’s not though.
Gavin: Do you ever have anyone come and raise hell over your ideals, or is there a mutual respect from most people who come by?
Liam: You can’t really place an “or” inside of that question, because both are true. Most of the people that I’ve encountered visiting this house seem to hold an admiration for it at some level, and many who don’t at least acknowledge the validity of the ideas. Despite the typical friendliness, there are definitely those who come into the house and take it upon themselves to debate with anyone who will provide opposition. The awesome people vastly outweigh them, however, and all of the amazing ways that people contribute tends to make me forget about the jerks.
Gavin: Do you do anything to educate people about what you do and stand for, or do you leave it more open for those who are really interested to come look?
Liam: It is in many ways an open house, so anyone who wants to come experience what it is that we do firsthand is welcome; but the first time that somebody comes over is almost always accompanied by a tour of the house, information about the events that we take part in, and encouragement to take part in everything themselves. If we don’t teach anybody what our purpose is, then it seems to negate what we’re trying to do. Any question that we’re asked we will answer.
Gavin: I know the house is usually open to people dropping in. How exactly does that work, and what kind of impact has that made on the community who frequent the house?
Liam: If you’re a cool person, treat us well, and at least try to be sociable, then you can be a part. Everybody that decides that they want to include themselves in that usually becomes a fast friend to the members of the house, and just causes the group to grow further. All of that results in an even greater community, which, once again, is one of the big reasons that we’re here.
Madea: The impacts have been unquantifiable amazing as Liam explained. If we were leading sheltered, “normal” lives we wouldn’t have been exposed to such dynamic and unique individuals! …however, we have had our share of creeps, scensters (read: egoizing attention seekers), and those who choose to take advantage. Our self-imposed, semi-open space has taught us to have open communication, express our needs, and assert our boundaries. Trying to be open, supportive, and loving while expecting all-around respect and avoiding detrimental situations can be a fuzzy and difficult line to walk.
Gavin: Some of the commodities of the house include a lending library, as well as a lot of political videos and DVD's. What inspired you to build such a collection of material? And how does that system work out for those visiting the house?
Liam: I can’t claim to be a part of the creation of the library, I didn’t even know about Boing! at the time. As far as the organization and the checkout system, we’re actually working on redoing what we had. Currently, anyone can borrow a book from us, as long as they let a volunteer know; and fill out basic information like a name, address, and phone number. It’s fairly informal, but just like a friend lending out a book, we like to make certain that we’ll get them back.
Ian: Although I wasn’t here at the start of the library either, it seems like the inspiration for such a project can be accredited to the individuals that reside here wanting to inspire people that come here from outside of the house itself. A lot of the material that makes up the library has been read by at least one person who lives or has lived here. When a book is inspiring to someone here, it will probably end up in the library eventually, so people that come here that are new to a more “radical” way of thought can check it out for themselves.
Gavin: You also allow people to use the space to hold events and meetings, like the Lost Film Festival. What other events have you held, and what should people do if they want to hold a meeting or event at the house?
Liam: We tend to have a lot of free shows from either local or touring bands, and every week we serve vegan food in a café like atmosphere. I don’t recognize that sound of this mysterious “Lost Film Festival,” but anything planned at Boing! needs to be done through a member of the house, so that we can ensure that nobody has any major problems with the event, or that it doesn’t impose on the idea and beliefs of the house. We’re not about to have a skinhead show or sponsored drinking contest.
Madea: The Lost Film Fest toured through with awesome D.I.Y. shorts. Thanks to all of the hard working DIY punks out there!
Gavin: It seems people like the Cafe Anarchista on Saturdays. How did the idea come about to start it up, and what stuff do you usually do these nights?
Liam: I don’t think that I’ve ever heard it referred to as “Café Anarchista.” I’ve always called it “Boing! Café.” That’s when we serve all sorts of awesome vegan food like grilled cheese sandwiches, cheesecake, and typically some form of soup. It’s a really open setup, and there’s always a lot of people sitting around and having all of their varied conversations. We also have a sort of an “open mic,” although there’s no actual mic in place. Anyone who feels as though they have some form of music, or poetry, or anything at all to perform is free to just stand up and do it. Sometimes everyone’s attention is drawn towards whomever may be providing the entertainment, and sometimes it’s more of a background for the continued conversation and eating. Either way it’s an incredible experience.
Lindsey: Robin, one of the residents here is one of the main forces behind the café and makes a lot of the food for it. The money we raise by donations is used to help expand the library. Recently we’ve gotten a lot of interesting new books from publishers you wouldn’t normally see in a public library or bookstore.
Gavin: Every Sunday you hold a Food Not Bombs event. How did you guys get involved with that, and what exactly do you do for those events?
Madea: Disclaimer – this house is not and does not do FNB, thanks to, as Liam puts it below, the ominous “city”. People from this house and all over town participate.
Liam: We also do it on Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays; the two S’s and the two T’s. We go to the park right next to Boing!, I’m not certain what it’s name is, to be unhelpfully honest. We take boxes of produce and bread that have been donated to us by local stores and we sort them out according to whatever categories seem relevant at the time. Citrus, greens, “weird stuff;” and we put all of the boxes in a nice big line. Then everybody who wants to goes through and takes something from each box, and the end result is that a lot of families get the food that they need for free.
Lindsey: We don’t do Food Not Bombs in the traditional sense-preparing large meals for free-rather, we distribute food from Whole Foods and other sources. That way, the people who get the food from us can cook it at home, which I think is more effective. We’re able to eliminate a lot of waste without a massive amount of work put into cooking, which would burn everyone out very quickly with as much food as we get.
Gavin: You've also become a hotspot for the music scene with the occasional performances. How did that idea start up, and what do bands usually think when they come by to play?
Liam: Most of the bands that come through are already familiar with the idea of a house show, so it’s not as if playing in somebody’s living room is an unusual concept. The touring groups tend to get excited about everything that goes on in the house, and are happy that they get a friendly couch to sleep on that night. It’s actually pretty amazing just how many people will make it a point to stop in Salt Lake on their tour, just to play at the Boing! Collective. A decent number of bands have told me that Salt Lake is the only city where people actually dance. We also have a lot of shows for bands that hold either members or friends of the house, and there are plenty of other local groups who make a habit out of playing here.
Gavin: Real quick, what are your thoughts on the local music scene, both good and bad?
Liam: From everything that I’ve seen (which may not be much compared to some), Salt Lake has a sweet music scene. Of course, most of what I’ve seen is at the house, but even that is enough to make me pleased with how excited that people around here can get about music.
Ian: Being in a band that has played at a venue other than Boing!, I feel like Boing! is a lot more awesome than anywhere else in Salt Lake. Everyone that attends shows at Boing! is so laid back, and into dancing and being intimate, and trying their best to eliminate the band/audience barrier, which I think is awesome. Everywhere else I’ve been, it feels like for the most part it’s more about making a statement fashion-wise than through the music. I feel like I could dictate my feelings about this a lot better in person...
Gavin: Have you ever taken any flack from the city for doing what you do, do you tend to stay on good terms with them, or so you just not care about them?
Liam: “Flack” seems like far too light of a word to illustrate what this house has had to take from the ever ominous “city.” There have been problems with us doing Food Not Bombs, having shows, the image of the house, and I don’t know what else. Everything has been “fixed” within the time that’s been given, but I use the quotation marks because I don’t think that there was anything wrong in the first place. Most of the times that the city has become upset with us are the result of neighbors calling in to report us over the most trivial of things, when it would have been much easier and more efficient if they were to come over and talk to us directly. Ultimately, we keep the city pleased enough to leave us alone for the most part, but it can be disappointing to have our goals of true community be ignored by disgruntled neighbors.
Gavin: Does the Collective ever take part in anything involving elections or politics, or do you tend to stray away from the system altogether?
Liam: I can’t speak for anyone else, of course, but I don’t care about politics at all. I could think of somewhere to go with that, or something insightful to say, but I truly don’t give a damn.
Gavin: What would you say the overall goal of The Boing! Collective is, and does that goal feel close or is there still a long road ahead?
Liam: The goals of Boing! are as varied and numerous as the people that make themselves a part of Boing!, and there are always goals being met, new goals being created, and effort being put into achieving the goals that have yet to come to fruition. No matter what happens, there is going to continue to be something to work towards, and I never feel discouraged by that. Having a constant goal is nothing less than satisfying.
Gavin: What can we expect from the Collective the rest of the year and going into next?
Ian: Hopefully, the re-instatement of the “Café Anarchista” which you mentioned earlier. That would be really fucking rad.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote?
Madea: Look for fliers downtown, and keep your ears and hearts open. Amazing shows and events happen all the time. Example: tUnE-YaRdS, Chaz Prymek, and Disposable Thumbs are playing at NoBrow on Nov. 7th, 7m-ish! Same night: Samothrace will descend upon this town; location and time TBA.