Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Detroit is not a Club Scene

Our criticism thus far has been limited to bars and clubs in Metro Detroit. But every once in a short while we feel it an obligation to make mention of the many alternate escapades available to you. This past weekend saw our return to the rock and roll scene at The Magic Stick (Downtown). Considering the lack of bars open to those under the age of 18, the chances our nightlife experiences all started with clubs is most unlikely. In its place, it's safe to say, was the concert. Maybe your first concert was at the Palace of Auburn Hills? Or maybe it was at the State Theatre? Regardless, after your first concert, the names of countless other venues entered your vocabulary.

Detroit has more concert venues than I can count with my fingers and toes, and I'm not ashamed to say I haven't been too all. From small, dingy bars with a "stage" in back, to giant stadiums, Detroit has it covered. The Magic Stick stands out amongst the crowd for numerous reasons. It's a small venue, with great acts and cheap tickets. And aside from being located right on Woodward Avenue, there is plenty of parking, with 2 paid lots nearby. It's part of the same complex as the Majestic Theatre and the Majestic Cafe. While the Magic Stick sits upstairs, The Garden Bowl is located on the first floor, along with a cool little bar and plenty of tables+chairs to accommodate everyone. If you're hungry, their pizza does a good job of curbing the hunger.

Far and away the best aspect of the Magic Stick is the intimate setting it offers concert-goers. By not limiting itself to purely local acts, we're all given the chance to see some of our favorite artists up close and personal before they get too big in the states. Acts like The Bravery, The Stereophonics, The Donnas, M.I.A., and The Arcade Fire have all played the Magic Stick, sometimes right after coming off arena tours in Europe, or exclusive sold-out underground shows in NYC or LA, only to come back the following year and sell out the State Theatre or Clutch Cargo's.

It's hard to discuss the crowd at concerts in Detroit because there is more variety than anything else. Ages will range from 18 to 50+, and you'll get a healthy dose of hipsters, scenesters, rockers, preps, pretty boys, and fashionistas. While there are definitely the usuals who check out every show, the majority are there for the bands and dress to their own desired level of comfort. It's important to remember the Magic Stick is a down and dirty environment. If you rock your brand new white tennies, don't count on coming out with them very clean. Expect to get them covered in every kind of alcohol imaginable (if you're in front of the stage). This isn't to say you shouldn't dress up. In the Detroit music scene, there is still something to being seen. At the same time though, you're not chastised for wearing old pants and stained tshirts two sizes too big. No one really cares. As for drinks, don't go in asking for premium whiskey, vodka or rum. They won't have it. Their bottled beer selection is tops though and includes a variety of flavors from Motor City Brewery. Keep in mind this is Detroit and you came here for the music, not the liquor.

Another great thing about the live music scene in Detroit is the camaraderie everyone shares. You'll run into old friends, co-workers, and everyone else you can't think of right now. We all have musical tastes that never get air time when we're with certain people, so there's a great amount of overlap that sometimes only reveals itself when we bump into each other at a concert. Go to the Magic Stick more than often than less and you'll run into more and more people. You might also develop a strong preference for the honesty of the scene and the absence of arrogance.

This past Saturday the Magic Stick hosted the record release party for Johnny Headband, with supporting acts Ghost City and The Witches. We loved Johnny Headband and were really impressed by Ghost City. The Witches weren't quite our favorite flavor, but to each their own. We know that more than a few new clubs had parties the same night, including Esko Lounge and Lot 1210, but we're glad we stuck with the Magic Stick. If the Esko Lounge and Lot 1210 are any good, we should all be able to have just as good of a time next week. If there is any doubt to be had in that last statement, then let's cross our fingers their doors close sooner rather than later.

Bottom Line? The Magic Stick has been around for a while and it's not going anywhere anytime soon. We've seen some of our favorite bands perform some of our favorite songs, and many have since gone on to playing larger shows at larger venues. We hope Johnny Headband and Robot Man can continue the trend. (Don't ask about the robot. You had to be there.)

Another small disclaimer: Once again, we feel obliged to show our relationship to those we critique. In the past, we have worked with the Majestic Theatre on the Rock City Music Festival. We're also friends with members of Johnny Headband and Ghost City. There does appear to be an obvious preference to our friends and business associates in this post, however, as stated before, we like to think we're being honest and would tell you if something really sucked.