If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the well-known bars, clubs, and concert halls around Detroit, you’ll probably find it at some of the smaller joints, which are going just as strong—maybe even more so.Less
Housed in a former lumberyard in the Islandview neighborhood, this sprawling, multipurpose warehouse is an art gallery, record store, and co-working space by day and a spacious, wonderfully unpretentious dance club by night. The programming emphasizes Black music, particularly cutting-edge house and techno, and has made the venue a haven for the city’s electronic music heads. But it’s equally known for presenting other classic Detroit sounds of the jazz, funk, soul, and R&B varieties.
Located in the gritty basement of the rumored-to-be-haunted Leland Hotel, City Club has been a haven for Detroit’s goth and industrial scene since the ’80s. But it was also where a number of early Detroit techno DJs got their start (including one of the genre's founders, Derrick May). These days, goth and emo nights pepper the week’s schedule, but over Memorial Day weekend, techno reigns supreme, with local legends and international acts taking over with off-Movement parties.
This kitschy lounge in Hamtramck is the sort of beloved neighborhood dive where you can grab a beer, see local bands, and peruse the nearby flea market. It was opened in 2017 by Johnny Szymanski—better known as Johnny Hentch, the organist and bassist for local garage rockers The Hentchmen—who grew up just down the street. The vibe is low-key, lo-fi, and retro, with cheap drinks, a large back patio, and eclectic 1970s memorabilia covering the walls.
Tucked in a basement off of hip Belt Alley, this blacklight-covered, highly Instagrammable space is surprisingly chill. The hybrid bar, art space, and nightclub—which began as pop-ups in Miami and New York—chose the Motor City for its first permanent location, and is kitted out with Detroit-themed arcade games (help a pigeon navigate through Eastern Market!) and speed-pour cocktails from stylized taps. Shows are a mix of DJ sets, drag nights, and live bands, and the cover hovers around $10.
This artist-run venue and café, located in a quiet warehouse near Eastern Market, serves as the site for so many wonderful things: art shows, book fairs, poetry readings, film screenings, and eclectic performances from experimental musicians spanning electronica to avant-jazz. It was founded by composer Joel Peterson and cultural activist Rebecca Mazzei, who also run Two Rooms Records and the quarterly Three Fold Press. Next door, the vinyl mecca People’s Records is a must.
In 2019, the longtime owners of this Belgian bar and eatery, a Grosse Pointe institution since 1933, sold “the Caddy” to two mainstays of Detroit’s music scene: Paul Howard, who owns Cliff Bell’s, and local musician John Rutherford. During the pandemic, the pair turned the parking lot into an outdoor stage, bolstering the bar’s identity as a legit spot for live music (and one of the country’s only feather bowling alleys). Stop by to see local bands like Deadsurf or the Michigan Rattlers.
Just past the city line at 8 Mile Road (yes, that one) is the Magic Bag in Ferndale. It’s yet another 1920s movie house turned into a club, and one that Detroiters might think is unhip (it’s in the suburbs!), but they still show up because there’s always something happening: ’80s DJ nights, stand-up comedy, tribute bands, local artists celebrating their album releases, and a healthy roster of national and international tours.
This beloved Corktown staple has been in the same spot since Prohibition, when it posed as a furniture store before eventually opening as a beer garden. In the decades since, it has remained one of Detroit’s most popular dives, known for long pours and loud, lively rock and indie shows (Parquet Courts, Orville Peck, and local heroes Protomartyr have all played here). Don’t miss the guitar picks from visiting musicians and loyal regulars embedded in the bar top.
A survivor of the Cass Corridor’s bad old days, Old Miami is the king of Detroit dives. Opened in 1980 by a Vietnam vet ("Miami" stands for Missing in Action, Michigan), the place has staunchly resisted gentrification, and has seen every Detroit artist you can think of—Iggy Pop, former local Patti Smith, The White Stripes, The Gories—grace its stage. The club's lineup generally hews rock and punk, but during Movement weekend, its patio hosts some of the dance festival's best after-parties.