Welcome to The Congregation: An Exclusive Q&A
On April 18th, The Congregation Show will bring a variety of vintage machines to historic Camp North End in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s part car show, part motorcycle show and a whole lot more crammed into one very full weekend. Rather than assembling some sort of press-release filled with facts, figures, guidelines and parking instructions, I figured it would be better for all parties to get ahold of Dean Micetich, one of the show’s founders, and get the straight scoop.
“I’ve been into hot rods since forever,” Dean says. “Even in England when I was a little kid, I would buy Rod & Custom.” Always fascinated with machines and magazines, he and his longtime friend Matt Davis formed DicE Magazine in London in 2004. DicE has grown since then, but it has always been fueled by their punk-rock mentality. Even though Dean has a couple of motorcycles, he’s partial to his chopped, Cadillac-powered Deuce three-window that was originally built in the mid-’60s.
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to share the link for car submissions. If you’re in the area (or not) and think this sounds like fun, get in touch with the DicE and Prism Supply crews and they’ll point you in the right direction. More info under the SUBMISSIONS tab here.
And so, without further ado, let’s get the story of The Congregation Show. —J.U.
Joey Ukrop: How did you come up with the idea of The Congregation Show? What was your inspiration? Who all is involved?
Dean Micetich: We had a Dice Magazine release party about six years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina. I met these young kids from Prism Supply at a show in Alabama that my friend was doing. They were like, “Man, you should come out to North Carolina. There’s a really cool scene for vintage bikes, old cars and it’s really jumpin’ out here.” My wife is from North Carolina, but I hadn’t really been there for an event that involved hot rods, customs, choppers or whatever. The only shows I knew of were real bikerfest, do-rag riding, that kind of motorcycle meet where it’s like, “Nah, we’re good.”
I met these young kids and they had good style, great bikes and were really enthusiastic. They said, “Look, just come out to North Carolina, we’ll do a release party and we’ll show you around.” Six years ago, we did this release party in downtown Charlotte at a place called the Snug Harbor. Man, it was jumpin’. There were all these young kids—guys and girls—on these fantastic bikes, there was an alleyway near the bar that was all lit up, choppers all the way down. There were a bunch of cars outside. The Iron Lords Car Club came out, my buddy Jeromy had his chopped ’49 Merc, a bunch of hot rods—I was just blown away. It was a real breath of fresh air.
I lived in California for a long time at that point. In California, it’s easy. We’re spoiled. These guys were really super enthusiastic and really happy that was there. I kept in touch with the guys. A year later we met up in Brooklyn at an indoor motorcycle show called the Brooklyn Invitational. We were having a couple of beers, and I was really excited with how many people came out to the event in North Carolina and how many people were stoked on it. I was like, “You guys have such a great thing going on, it would be great to do a show that highlights the local builders.” Over the course of the evening, we started talking. “Would you want to be involved in it? Because we can do it.” I said we should do it. Of course, we had so much liquid courage at that point where we’re like “YEAHHH! We’re gonna do this and that!”
At that point, Jake, who’s the owner of Prism Supply—they make motorcycle parts, build great bikes and do some really good things in Charlotte—and I really connected and really had the same vision. We were like look, we’ll start off with whomever we can get from the local area. I was like great, the only thing we need is a space.
JU: That brings me to my next question. Can you tell me more about the venue?
DM: Three months later, Jake said “Hey man, I found the spot in Charlotte.” Basically, he had been looking for a new shop to move his premises, and he was meeting the guy about the building and there was this old factory that was empty and some buildings around it that were all empty. He’s talking about the shop and our friend Damon who actually owns it (it’s called Camp North End now) and it’s an original Model T factory in the center, and all these brick buildings in the surrounding area that have these different art collectives, coffee shops, Prism Supply has their shop, and the DicE office is there.
At the time, it was kind of just a bombed-out shell of a place. But he called me and was super excited. As soon as he said it was the original Model T Ford factory in Charlotte, I was like, “This sounds amazing.” Then he said, “You gotta see the floor.” After it was a Model T factory, it became a missile factory for the war effort. It has all this crazy soul and really good history, and it’s kind of untouched since back in the day. It was just used as a storeroom after that. It has all the original kerosene-covered wooden blocks, so if you dropped a missile shell it wouldn’t ignite and blow the whole place up.
We decided to put the show on. The owner of the factory said look, I’m not going to charge you this year, I just want to do really cool events in this space. Our friends in the Iron Lords Car Club helped us out and took care of all the cars. They had a bunch of early customs and hot rods in the show and we had 50 bikes. That’s how it started. This next one is our fourth year, and it’s grown three times what it is. It’s bikes and cars from the surrounding area so it’s growing slowly, but it’s definitely grown from what it was.
JU: It’s advertised as a one-day show—are there more events throughout the weekend?
DM: On Friday evening we have a pre-party that’s still yet to be determined in the surrounding area of Charlotte. Saturday morning is load-in, the show is 12-9 p.m. We have four bands that play, we have D.J.’s, we have an outside minibike race that should be quite fun. And then after that we have a post party that, again, is yet to be determined. Then Sunday is the big clean-up for us.
JU: Is it family friendly?
DM: Oh yeah! It really is. It’s for everybody. We have so much going on outside too. We have bands playing outside, we have outside bars, we have another bike show that’s outside and we have more cars and vintage trucks outside. It’s kind of inside/outside.
JU: So, the invited entries are inside, and the rest is a drive in where you bring what you want?
DM: Exactly. We have invited cars and motorcycles inside with everybody’s plaque and information on it. We curate that on the Saturday morning. Outside, it’s still kind of curated, it’s just people who are showing up.
JU: This year you’ve expanded the guidelines. Can you tell me more about that?
DM: We never have the same car or bike twice in the show. We just want it to be a different experience. I’ve been to shows where it’s the same cars every single year. And you’re like this is just like a bad wedding reception. You’re seeing the same people. You’re seeing the same cars. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love my car in the show every year, but it was in last year. It’s kind of one of those things that gets people a little bit motivated on that unfinished project or get the friends involved. If you had a bike or car in, you can still bring it to the show, but it’ll be outside.
Last year, we had Hilton Hotrods and they had a fantastic lineup of cars. We had a great time with those guys. This year, they’re going to the Lonestar Round Up and doing different things, going to different places and we love that because variety is the spice of life. Don’t do the same thing all the time. That’s kind of the ethos of the show.
JU: I’ll ask you this: What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen come through the door?
DM: I’d have to say it was Bobby Hilton in that blow-Olds Deuce five-window. He came into that and, honestly, the ground shook. That’s a pretty thick ground. Obviously, there’s like a four-mile-per-hour speed limit. He might have been doing more than that. Everybody’s jaw just hit the floor because he just dominated it. The venue is a massive part of the show. It has all the original windows and all the wooden floor, it has so much soul. And he just came in and it was a moment in time and we were like, “Oh yeah.” You know what it’s like. It’s great to see a hot rod when it’s sitting still, but when you see it blast down the road or you see it move towards you, you just get taken over.
Those guys are fantastic. They’re all like twice our age. They’re all driving like five times further than we’ve ever driven a hot rod, in the rain. It’s pretty inspirational where you’re like, “Man, I was complaining about a bad back yesterday and these guys are just killin’ it! That is rock-and-roll.”
That’s the reason it’s always good for us to have that rotating thing, and that’s why we’ve opened up to other cars—but still things that we like. I like a Hemi Barracuda and I like the van with the Cragar mags and side-pipes. It seemed a bit weird to limit ourselves, and that’s why we’ve opened it up a little bit. We just wanted to have a show where it feels like the magazine. We put things in because we like it. We don’t necessarily have too many rules about when it was made or a perfect year.
JU: That makes sense. From what I’ve seen from DicE, you guys have had a wide range of feature vehicles. Didn’t Matt [Matt Davis, the late co-founder of DicE] have a ’55 Chevy Gasser at one point?
DM: The reason I love Matt so much is that we saw eye-to-eye on so many things, but we were so different. For me, my ’32 three-window is my dream car. I’m so possessive about it. This is it. I’m never going to sell it. Matt would have like a different car every month. But it would be the extreme. When I first met him, he had a ’34 three-window coupe hot rod highboy. He sold that and bought a ’63 Impala that was on full hydraulics, corner-to-corner with Supremes on it. Then, from that, he bought a big-block, 1970 Chrysler—red with a white vinyl top. It’s the biggest production car ever made. And this is in London where it’s like 15 bucks a gallon for gas. I’m like, “What are you doing?!”
From that he bought a dune buggy, then from the dune buggy he bought a ’57 Buick that he had our friend Kevin Elliot fully scallop like Larry Watson over the whole car. Next came that ’55 Chevy (more on that in a future article —J.U.) Matt said to me, “Life is too short to own one thing. I want to own all of the cars. I want to ride all the bikes, because I love them all. That was his passion. He was a real inspiration to me on that. He’s right. If you want an E-Type Jag, don’t worry about what somebody is going to say to you. Do what feels right to you. Don’t wear a uniform, wear whatever you think is comfortable, whatever you think is cool and don’t worry about anything else because you just have to live your own life. That’s kind of the ethos of the magazine, having that punk-rock state of mind.
JU: I feel like a lot of this carries to what you’re building the show into.
DM: Yeah. It works so well because Jake and all the guys from Prism, who are equal partners in the show, are exactly the same way. They’re really positive, forward-thinking, open-minded people. The first year we did the show, I didn’t live in North Carolina. Now I do. I came to the show and he was like, “Dean, I want to introduce you to all of the volunteers. I turned around and—no joke—there were 25 people, family and friends of Jake. They were all like, “What can we do to help?” That was the first time where I was like, “You guys have a really strong backbone of support and people who really care about you—and care about this show. There was no money involved. They just wanted to be a part of it.
JU: Here’s a hard question that I like to ask. If you were to summarize The Congregation Show in one word, what would it be?
DM: Oh, wow. That’s a difficult one. In one word? To be honest, the word Congregation sums it up to me. I’m not a religious person. But when we were thinking about a word to name this show, one of the things that I spoke to Jake about was let’s not have hot rods in the title. Let’s not have bobbers or whatever. We want people to congregate and have a good time. The Congregation was the ideal name.
I think friends would be the ideal word, because that’s the most important part that makes up the entire show. It’s the friends that get involved. We all ride motorcycles, we all have friends that have cars and all that. The core of it is friendship.
JU: Makes sense to me. Here’s another question, this one a little more off-the-wall. If you were to pick one hot rodder or customizer, living or non, to have at the show who would it be and why?
DM: Ooh. I think it would be Bruce Meyer, because he has such a fantastic outlook on life and he he’s a hot rodder, he’s a maniac and he’s into it. He drove that chopped “3WLarry” coupe in the rain—him and his wife. No side windows, no fenders and he’s older than I am. I’m not going to say his age. Every time you see him, he’s smiling. I’ve emailed him out of the blue and he’s emailed me back. He has the Doane Spencer car and all these fantastic cars, and he’s getting excited about my car. I’m like, “This guy’s passionate. Super passionate.” He has a great taste in cars, and his outlook is just magnificent. His little hashtag on Instagram is #neverlift.
JU: Never lift!
DM: Never lift. That crosses everything and I think that should be adapted to everything in life. Not just the cars. Everything. You don’t like your job? Full blast. Go do something else but do it all out. Never lift. If you want to drive a three-window or you want to drive a Thunderbird, never lift until you get enough money to buy that car. Get in the car and never lift. It’s just such a great outlook, he’s always smiling, and he has the best cars. Bruce Meyer, please, bring him to me.
JU: So that brings me down to one last thing. What are your plans for the future? You’re on year four, what do you hope for this thing to become? Do you want to get it so huge that you have O’Reilly’s sponsoring it? Or do you want it to stay at a family level?
DM: The show is very organic. We want to see how it goes. It’s kind of like the magazine. Me and Matt said we’d stop doing the magazine when it became unenjoyable. I’m still enjoying doing the magazine. It may be next week. It may be in 10 years. It may be next month, like I don’t know. It’s the same with the show. It’s always quality over quantity. We’re not trying to make it gigantic or make a bunch of money out of it, we barely cover the costs.
It just feels good and everybody involved feels good. We have Converse this year and we have Dickies, they’re doing some merchandise for us. Converse are giving some free shoes to people. It’s just a good thing for North Carolina, and North Carolina has been really good to me. It’s nice just to give a little bit back. People seem to enjoy it. For Prism Supply and DicE Magazine, we enjoy it because we have a great time and we see other people have a great time. That’s the main thing. When that stops, or when money gets involved, we’ll have to stop.
JU: That makes sense—all good info. Is there anything else you would like to add?
DM: A big thanks to all our supporters. Obviously, The Rodder’s Journal. With the sponsors and car involvement, it’s pretty organic. It always changes and it’s always different. Thanks to you guys for always having our back and always supporting us, the Iron Lords Car Club from Concord, North Carolina, Hilton Hotrods and everybody that has attended the show and been a part of it. It wouldn’t be the show without any of those people. That’s a big thank you to all the people involved.
To Submit Your Car or Bike, head on over to The Congregation Show site here.
Now, for some photos courtesy of DicE, Dean “Chooch” Landry & Sid Tangerine