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06.21.24: Pins & Needles @ Skill Shot Arcade

As a fan of puns and pinball, when Pins and Needles was surfaced by "the algorithm," I knew I needed to go. Created by DJ Silenze and hosted by Skill Shot Arcade, Pins and Needles is a night where two passionate cultures joyfully collide, where both pinball and vinyl fans can celebrate and share their loves. The machines are set to FREE PLAY for unlimited fun and guests are encouraged to bring their favorite vinyl to share with the crowd. All music is welcome and DJ Silenze is happy to teach budding DJ's to beat match and crossfade to keep things smooth and seamless. He also has a stash of curated, crowd pleasing vinyl in case someone wants to try their hand on the wheels of steel but doesn't have their own.

DJ Silenze teaching the finer points of the 1's and 2's

Pins and Needles is the brainchild of DJ Silenze, who also is a "pinhead" (favorite machine: Bride of Pinbot). He learned to DJ in Ithaca and the event was inspired by open turntable nights he'd attended. Adding the Pins to the Needles came after he himself got into competitive pinball and wanted to unite the worlds of his two loves under one roof, plus who doesn't like a great soundtrack to their games? Pins and Needles has had other homes, having been held at pinball tournaments and unlikely homes, such as Funk'n'Waffles and Barnes and Noble before arriving at Skill Shot Arcade.

As a venue for building community, Pins and Needles couldn't have landed at a better one than Skill Shot Arcade. Proprietor, pinhead, and FM grad, Ryan Zlomek dreamed up the concept during the peak of the COVID pandemic, and brought it to life during 2021 with his partners Alyssa Kessler and John Gambacorto, who also own United Vending. Prior to it's founding, no current location in Syracuse had more than two machines at any one time. (RIP Sportstar 2000...) Featuring machines from 1979 to the latest machines, and themes from sports to ancient mythology, hit movies like John Wick to pop culture like No Fear, there's a machine for everyone at Skill Shot, and it's not just pinball. While it is mostly pinball, there are some truly classic arcade cabinets too, like Virtua Fighter, the light gun classic Area 51, and Pac Man.

Ryan (in black) working to get The Flashback into tip top shape.

Skill shot is truly a labor of love. Ryan has an encyclopedic knowledge of his machines. From his favorite in the arcade: Dirty Harry the the historic (if confusingly themed) The Flash. Ryan describes his machines as being like baseball cards to him: each one is unique and collectible. In keeping with that analogy, whenever possible, he gets the back glass (the lit up signage at the top of each machine) signed by the designers and artists who made that machine the electro-mechanical work of art it is. In addition to curation of the machines, and the day to day running of the arcade, Ryan also maintains the machines, doing what he can (with the help of the local pinball community) to make sure visitors are treated to every flashing light and sound as the designers intended.

The newest machine at Skill Shot: John Wick (from Stern pinball), has to be seen to be believed!

The place was full the whole night from start to finish. Like the music played, it was a diverse and balanced crowd, all ages and styles were in the house. The feeling of community was unavoidable. Everyone got along, from the parents with kids, to the couples on dates, and everyone in between. The music ranged from Wu Tang Clan, and chip tunes, to Nirvana, shredded guitars and heavy metal. I people from world ranked pinball players and people like Edyie (pronounced EE-dee), told me how she had driven all the way to Malvern, PA to buy her dream pinball machine (a 1979 Dolly Parton themed machine) and had brought her own records that night to spin a few tracks before heading to a friend's concert at The Nightdrop. The only things missing were the black lights and neon hued carpets from the arcades of my childhood.

If you like vinyl records, or pinball, then the next Pins and Needles should be on your radar. If you're especially nostalgic, you can even reserve the arcade for private events, like your (or your kids) birthday party!

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