Travel To The World

Detroit doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being touristy. Lately, whenever we’ve made the national news, it’s usually been bad.

But, if you visit the right spots, you’ll realize this city’s musical legacy—proud and pioneering as it is—is a rich and remarkable vindication against all the negative things you’ve been hearing about Detroit. It’s the singers, songwriters, performers and musicians who inhabited this city (and its greater metropolitan area) from the ’40s through the ’80s, who would substantially influence (and in some cases, arguably trailblaze through) the genres of jazz, blues, Rdanamp;B/soul, pop, punk, hip-hop and techno. And it continues today. Here are five spots to check out when you’re in the Motor City.

1. The Motown Museum / Histville U.S.A.

2648 W. Grande Blvd.


This city created its own genre of music, The Motown Sound, and you can visit the actual laboratory where it was brought to life, Studio A. The former photography studio that was renovated into a recording space 65 years ago by the label’s founder, Berry Gordy, is now somewhat of a shrine dedicated to the all of the talented musicians, songwriters and iconic singers and stars who worked tirelessly to turn out too many # 1 hits to count during a whirlwind 10 year period in the 1960s.

There isn’t a long driveway, ornate gate or sprawled parking lot; the Motown Museum sits unassumingly in the middle of a neighborhood near midtown (you’ll need to call ahead for a guided tour with an experienced and knowledgeable museum docent). Breathtaking photos and inspiring memorabilia are on display, images capturing these soon-to-be musical history-makers in the act of creation. How many of us were raised on the immortal songs, captured within the walls of this studio? This is where Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and the oft-overlooked house band, The Funk Brothers, sang, wrote and recorded some of the most pure and perfect R&B/pop music ever made. If you’re making a musically-inspired pilgrimage to Detroit, you absolutely have to start here. Hashtag: R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

dua. The Max

3711 Woodward Ave.

You have to visit the Max M. Fisher Music Center, if just for the optics and ambiance. For a long time this was known as Orchestra Hall, and it’s still the place to see the world-group Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This elegant concert hall, built back in 1919 and renovated in 2002 (when it was christened The Max), currently hosts an excellent jazz showcase called Paradise Jazz, which is a nod to the hall having formerly been known as The Paradise Theatre during its heydays of the 1940s when it was hosting legends like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne. Notable greats in contemporary jazz and post-bop like Wayne Shorter, Kenny Garrett and Dee Dee Bridgewater will be coming through in the next few months as part of the Paradise Series. This is also the place to catch a hip monthly spotlight on more up-and-coming, avant-garde or experimental fare from independent or underground artists curated by the local public radio affiliate WDET.

tiga. Baker’s Keyboard Lounge

20510 Livernois Ave.


If you’d like a more intimate, stylish and downright cool experience, slide in to the cinematic/throwback art-deco ambiance of Baker’s Keyboard Lounge. Billed as “the world’s oldest operating jazz club,” it started booking pianists in 1934 and the performance room has hosted the legendary likes of Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Cab Calloway and many more. It’s also recently been refitted with new flooring, a new sound system and updates to the kitchen (their macaroni and cheese is turning into a local legend). The luminescence sets the mood, and the mirrors over the stage allow you to see the talented pianists’ (and drummers’) hands at work. You’ll have to drive a ways back up near the northern border of town, but it’s more than worth it. Plus, you’ll be right at the corner of 8 Mile; yes, the actual road that helped inspire the title for that movie about Eminem.

4. Grande Ballroom

8952 Grand River Ave

For those of you who’d like to see it, you can visit the Grande Ballroom, even though it’s been closed since the ’70s. This building is THE primordial soup bowl of Detroit garage rock of the mid ’60s, a gloriously rambunctious style of music, signature to the area, that later morphed into the ganglier, faster, freakier fare fostered by Iggy Pop & The Stooges and The MC5. Those two bands were absolutely integral in influencing what would evolve into punk-rock. The MC5, local boys from nearby Ann Arbor, recorded their most iconic album in this building. The Who actually premiered the songs off of Tommy here, in 1969. Originally designed as a multi-purpose building for the community, featuring an impressive hardwood dancefloor upstairs, the Grande was eventually acquired by a local radio DJ who had aspirations of establishing this place as Detroit’s answer to San Francisco’s Fillmore Theatre. Pink Floyd, John Lee Hooker, Led Zeppelin…they all played here.

lima. P.J.’s Lager House

1241 Michigan Ave.

There are plenty of local bands following in the contorted, spasmodic, stomping footsteps of the MC5 and the Stooges still performing today, along with an impressive list of national acts on tour. Though we want to dissuade any sensationalizing of “ruin-porn,” on the way to P.J.’s Lager House you should still glimpse the “haunted,” train station nearby the Detroit River, which, abandoned and gutted, standing like an 18-story square skeleton leering down upon Michigan Avenue. P.J.’s is one of the longer-running and active spots for terbaru indie-punk, garage revivalism, neo-psychedelic bubblegum shreds and all the other stuff that the vigorous 20/30-something terbaru rockers are digging these days, including notable national acts like Ex Hex and Speedy Ortiz.

6. The Shelter/Saint Andrew’s

431 E. Congress St

Eminem fans might want check out The Shelter, a basement venue beneath the larger concert hall known as Saint Andrew’s , because this is where the now world-famous rapper got started, competing in Battles in the late ’90s. You’ll recall it was captured, with melodrama and triumph, in his biopic 8 Mile. But, sadly, they didn’t film those scenes here; this is the music-geek’s guide, not the movie-geek’s, though, so we’re pointing you to the real version. The Shelter continues to host impressive showcases of local hip-hop talents and that genre’s local community of MCs and producers have been experiencing a bit of a renaissance these last few years. Both The Shelter and Saint Andrews also feature a schedule of touring bands that tend to run the gamut in aliran. Saint Andrews is also where bigger local acts like I.C.P. or The Electric Six often throw homecoming concerts.

7. The Magic Stick/The Majestic Theatre

4140 Woodward Ave.

The Shelter’s not too far from The Magic Stick, located above The Majestic Theatre. This place has a little lore, as well. When the city experienced it’s “garage explosion” back in 2000-2001 and Spin tried to hail the area as “the next Seattle,” it was this multipurpose theatre that served as an optimal spot for bands like The White Stripes to play album releases. But, for you, traveler, it ideally meets the needs of the visitor who’s up for a little bit of anything: a spot to dine in an intimate café and then experience world-famous bands touring through the cavernous main theatre; or there’s more underground/indie-acts performing upstairs. But there’s also a substantially delicious pizzeria tucked in the back and a bowling alley. Said bowling alley is often soundtracked by local DJ’s, so, you’re all set.

8. Vinyl Hunting