From dingy dive bars and scuzzy clubs to grand old theaters and galleries, the places to hear live music in Detroit are as eclectic as the music itself. Here is a selection of the best venues in the city where you can get your fix of rock, pop, metal and jazz on a weekly or nightly basis.
The Old Miami
Detroit’s premier dive bar has put on almost every famous band to come out of the city at one stage or another in its long history, from The White Stripes to Rodriguez. Some people have even called it the “CBGB of the Midwest.” These days, The Old Miami on Cass Avenue is a great place to see a wide variety of gigs indoors and out, with most bills featuring an eclectic mix for a bargain price.
Dating all the way back to 1928 and undoubtedly one of Detroit’s finest Art Deco buildings, they don’t make grand venues like the Fox Theatre anymore. It regularly hosts big-name rock, pop and country acts, with the décor making any gig feel quite the occasion. The sound quality is also understandably amazing. Seeing the venue is worth the price of a show ticket alone, really.
Saint Andrew’s Hall has quite the history too, as it’s been operating as a venue in some form since 1907 and hosting gigs since the 1950s. The biggest names in music history have graced the stage, from Bob Dylan and Paul Simon to Nirvana and Eminem. Nowadays, it’s a great place to see mid-level bands in an intimate setting. There’s also a smaller venue underneath called The Shelter.
They share a building, so we’ll count them as one. The Majestic Theatre certainly lives up to its name with over 100 years of history. Magic Stick opened when a second-floor bowling alley was removed in the early ’90s and has gone on to become one of the city’s favorite rooms for alt-rock, garage rock, and electronic music. Between them, they host some of the coolest bands in the world every week.
Cliff Bell provided Detroit with a number of venues during his long and storied life, operating one speakeasy after another during Prohibition before opening his signature club on Park Avenue in 1935. Closed for 20 years, it reopened in 2005, and now it has live jazz almost every night of the week, with artists from all over the globe playing all kinds of traditional and contemporary jazz.
Before it was brought under the Fillmore brand in 2007, this venue was known for most of its history as the State Theatre or Palms Theatre. Originally opened in 1925 as a picture house, it now holds 3,000 fans in a stunning, 80-foot-high (24.4 meters) space with classic chandeliers. Again, the room provides great acoustics, and the venue raises the caliber of every performance.
Originally opened in 1939 as the Harper Theatre, Detroit’s premier venue for metal became a rock club in 1974. Putting on shows by national and local heavy metal, rock, punk, and alternative acts, including big names such as Iron Maiden and Megadeth, Harpos has become a Detroit institution. The venue hasn’t changed much over the years, but it was recently bought out, and the new owners plan to make improvements.
As well as one of Detroit’s finest museums, the DIA is also a great place to catch some live music. On Friday nights and Sundays, it hosts free concerts by local and international artists, creating a different way for museumgoers to engage with their surroundings. Friday Night Live! and Sunday Music Bar take place each week around the museum.
In the heart of Downtown, Cafe D’Mongos Speakeasy doesn’t quite date back to the time of speakeasies like some of these venues, having opened in 2007, but it has captured the spirit of the time with its famous cocktails and classic rock, by Carl & Company. It’s struck a chord with Detroit’s hip crowd, and celebrities, including Quentin Tarantino and Ryan Gosling, have also visited. It’s only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge has been called the “crème de la crème” of Detroit jazz clubs. Many music historians consider it to be the world’s oldest operating venue of its kind, opened in 1933 by Chris and Fannie Baker. Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis are among the musicians to have played here, and it has Art Deco decoration that dates back to the ’50s. The caliber of the jazz shows will help you complete the journey back in time.