In the 1960s, music lovers worldwide celebrated the hatched-in-Detroit Motown sound. Twenty years later, the techno movement was born in Motor City. Today, Detroit’s music scene, from rock, jazz and blues to country and metal – and every genre in between – continues to thrive. Here’s a sampling of the best live music bars in Detroit.
The Majestic Center
The Majestic Center, a circa early-1900s midtown hangout, hosts rock, blues, jazz, hip-hop and techno performances. This multi-purpose haunt houses The Majestic Theatre. Best bets for pre- or post- concert chow? Try lobster mac n’cheese or pork belly sliders from the on-site eatery, Majestic Cafe.
Live jazz and Cajun catfish sooth late-night cravings at Bert’s Marketplace in the Eastern Market district. The bare-bones club presents a sizzling line-up of local blues, rock and jazz talent. Warm weather draws musicians outdoors to perform on the patio while wafts from barbecue smokers entice passersby to sit, listen and savour.
Touted by Playboy as “one of America’s best bars” with “the works, just as it was way back when,” Cliff Bell’s supper club features live entertainment, dinner and Sunday brunch. Art deco dominates the 1930s-inspired former speakeasy, where smooth sounds of past and present jazz magically meld.
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge – Detroit’s oldest jazz club in continuous operation – also traces its roots back to the 1930s. The likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat “King” Cole and other jazz and blues greats have all performed in this intimate club with its signature piano-shaped bar. Live entertainment and soul food top the nightly agenda here.
Rhythmic vibes and snippets of multi-coloured neon lights bounce off the walls at Bleu‘s, a trendy downtown club. The place is huge – it accommodates 800 people during popular DJ-driven events.
Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine
On Friday and Saturday, Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine (also downtown) sizzles with salsa as patrons converge on the dance floor for free lessons. Dollops of rock and pop weave happily with Latin flavours at this after-dinner party.
MGM Grand Detroit Casino
Whether your preference is for piano bars, DJs sets and dancing to hip-hop, or even ballroom lessons, find it all at the MGM Grand Detroit Casino. With five different bars and lounges to choose from, there’s something for every musical taste here.
Sound Board, Motor City Casino’s premier entertainment venue, hosts international notables like Aretha Franklin, Jay Leno and Patti LaBelle. Live pop, rock, electronic, and Top 40 performers lead the nightly hoopla in the second floor Chromatics Lounge.
Head to the fringes of the city to Small’s in Hamtramck for an assortment of new wave, dark “˜80s, retro “˜90s and plenty of rock “˜n’ roll. The 200-capacity venue hosts live bands several nights a week.
Dirty Dog Jazz Café
Dinner and cocktails at Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe Farms is a great bet for weekly live jazz performances. Other musical neighbourhood favourites are The Magic Bag in Ferndale and Uptown Grille in Commerce Township.
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Have you visited any of these live music venues in Detroit? Where do you go to hear great music when you’re in town? Share your thoughts with us below.
Written by Mary Quinley