Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tuesday Night Mini-Mash Up Featuring Northern Lights Lounge

This Tuesday night we made the drive downtown for a double-header. We warmed up at Northern Lights (Downtown), and later tired ourselves out dancing at the Untitled party at the Shelter (Downtown). The atmospheres were polar opposites of one another, which only helped to keep things interesting. There's not much point in talking about the Shelter since the quality of each night is directly related to the event, but we'll throw in our few cents.

If Buzz Bar (Downtown) is defined as an upscale, urban sort of bar, then consider the Northen Lights Lounge the lounge-y equivilent. You can catch the DJ spinning anything from house to hard hip-hop. If you're picky and not open to listening to good music regardless of the genre, check ahead to see what's happening. But we recommend you go there blind and just enjoy whatever they're serving up. Cover was only $3 that night.

One of the nicest things about Northern Lights is the amount of seating avaiable. When you walk in you'll see couches and chairs directly in front of you. The bar itself has high-tops, and there are a handful of high-top tables+chairs just opposite the bar. There's also a giant flat screen and a handful of smaller screens scattered around the bar. But walk a little further back and you'll see booths galore. The DJ spins in the back, and the dance floor amounts to whatever space is between the booths, and not already occupied by those who claimed their standing room. There's often always someone breaking it down and strutting their stuff in front of the decks, so don't think you can't come here to dance. You can- but watch out for break dancers. Really.

Getting a drink was a little difficult. But it wasn't because the bartenders were slow. For some reason it seemed like everyone at the bar always wanted a drink at the same time. There were numerous occasions when, drink in hand, the bar was wide open for orders- but it wasn't until we were ready for our next round that everyone else also felt the need to re-order. Such is life. Alcohol selection was also somewhat limited, considering neither Skyy nor Effen vodka was on hand.

The crowd was prodominentaly black with lots of giant, puffy coats and lifesaver vests. Mixed in were handfuls of hipsters from Wayne State, and a few other one-offs. Don't misunderstand us and assume people were dressed down. You could tell people made it a point to look good before coming out. Wear whatever your style is and wear it well, and you'll fit right in.

By 12/1230a, Northern Lights started to actually get busy. Whereas before it was easy to make it to the back, now was just a sea of people mingling and having fun. You still could have gotten through, but it looked as though effort might actually be required. We didn't stay much longer becuase our desire to check out the party at the Shelter was a bit too tempting. Fast foward 20 minutes and we're walking across an empty lot to the back door of St. Andrews Hall (Downtown). (Note: If don't care to read about the Shelter, scroll down for our overall summary of Northern Lights)

If you've never been to St. Andrews Hall or the Shelter, the first thing you need to know is that St. Andrews is the main floor, and the Shelter is the basement. Bands and DJs have played on both floors, and shows can either be really good or really bad. Nothing was happening upstairs tonight, but downstairs was the Untitled party. Lots of techno. Lots of flashing lights. Lots of good times.

When you actually consider it, the Shelter can hold a lot of people. The main area houses the bar, a small stage, and has a raised cage in the corner for DJs. There's a long seating area along one of the walls in the back with tables, and off in an opposite corner are a cluster of tables+chairs. But at a party like Untitled, there aren't many people sitting down. Everyone is either dancing, or waiting for a drink at the bar. There's also a MUCH smaller back room, which on this night, housed other DJs. Keep in mind the Shelter is a basement and it's not done up. It's the furthest thing from hip, but it can still manage to host some pretty hot parties. The only reason to really dress up is because you WANT to dress up. Unless you plan on going somewhere else before or after, we recommend you wear whatever is comfortable, and whatever you don't mind having to wash tomorrow because it smells like smoke. That's really all we have to say. Overall the party was fun. The music was great and the crowd was feeling it.

Norther Lights is a great place to warm up, cool down, or get down. You could get there early and close it up, or follow our steps and use it as a launching pad for the rest of the night. Many times we've criticized bars for creating a great ambiance, only to later ruin it by catering to the masses for the sake of financial gain. Northern Lights does not fall into this category. They installed a great vibe, and the crowd works with it. It is, for all intensive purposes, one of the closest things you'll find to a cool lounge in Metro Detroit.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Buzz Bar and the Un-Holiday Party

Last night was the return of various holiday parties in Metro Detroit. Our plan for the evening involved a stop at Buzz Bar (Downtown), followed by whatever entertainment came with the $20 cover charge over at Confidential (Downtown) and Plan B (Downtown). But plans don't always work out. We never left the the Buzz Bar.

For some reason I never feel like attending holiday parties. Even New Year's Eve events are somewhat of a turn off. My reason for this is that usually, but not always, there is nothing special about the event itself. Yes, it may be the day before Christmas Eve. And yes, everyone will be in a holiday spirit. But why should I have to pay a club anything more than normal cover when it is the patrons that are bringing something special. If you and I stroll in with smiles on our faces and are filled with holiday cheer, you and I should be getting some of that cover charge- not the promoters who chose to rape the Christmas spirit. But enough of that. This review is about Buzz Bar. It's about going out, having fun with lots of friends in a great atmosphere, and listening to Prince songs instead of the same old iTunes playlist assembled by your flavor of the month DJ.

Buzz Bar is on Larned, just east of Beaubien. You can see the name sprayed on the side of the building. I felt like I was back in New York the moment I stepped in the door. It's nicely lit and the ample seating is done in a manner that doesnt crowd the space. There are also two bars inside- one for coffee+food; one for alcoholic indulgence. A small cover will get you in upstairs and is for bands/DJs- but we can't comment on that since we stayed below. Everyone there had their own style, and yet no one was shy about inviting a stranger into their conversation. Let's break these details down a bit further.

The mood screams out with an upscale, urban attitude. The dark reds and oranges of the walls helped give off a very warm feel to a very cold night- which leads me to think that coming here to indulge in coffee on a dark, rainy evening may have some promise. After all, we don't always need to get buzzed (no pun intended) or trashed. But if alcohol is your thing, the back wall behind the bartender is covered in tastefully done colored chalk, listing drink specials as well as the scheduled upstairs entertainment.

The bartenders and waitresses seemed spot-on. Even though the Buzz Bar was far from capacity, it was nice to be able to order follow up drinks with a simple glance and a nod. Their liquor selection seemed fairly good, there were a few people who enjoyed their wine, and the beer drinkers were glad to know Motor City Brewery's Ghettoblaster was available on tap. Not sure how much the pints or wine were, but bacardi+coke ran $6, and black cherry effen+coke ran $8.

Around the time people probably started to dance at Plan B (ie. midnight), the tables at Buzz Bar managed to get pushed back a little so that we could have our own little dance party. The guy performing upstairs thought he was Prince, so we were treated to a handful of songs we wouldn't otherwise be dancing to at a club. I somewhat doubt this is typical behavior at Buzz Bar, but who knows.

The dancing lasted pretty much til the end of the night. And considering the good company of a handful of friends, I doubt Plan B and Confidential would have offered anything of value. The things is, when you go to a place with 12-15 people strong, it's pretty hard NOT to have a good time. With that being the case, one has to ask why we should bother going to typical bars and clubs? We still plan on making it out to Plan B and Confidential, but a second trip to the Buzz Bar is definitely in order- and sampling the pizza and the upstairs entertainment are our top priorities.

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.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dirty Martini's Midlife Crisis

We gave the Dirty Martini (Novi) a second chance. We paid our $5 cover and stretched out our time there as best we could this past Thursday, but the results never got any better. The bottom line of this review is going to be that the Dirty Martini is a great place for thirty-somethings who feel out of place, be they man or woman. The details, however, will reveal that potential does exist in the space above Andiamo, but it takes a great deal of lively conversation and entertainment within your own group of friends. Here we go...

The Vibe Awards
The Dirty Martini shares the same entrance as the Second City crowd, found toward the back of Andiamo. It seems like a nice lounge, but I'm not too sure I like the layout. To get in, you walk up a bunch of stairs. On your right is a small bar with a limited amount of alcohol. To your left are more stairs leading to the dance floor, VIP area and main bar/seating areas. Stamped on the stairs are the phrases "Work Hard. Play Hard. Get Dirty." I'm sorry... but that is way too cheesy and way too sleazy for a lounge that is trying to be swanky. The level of lighting is fairly good, except that the lights themselves are extremely gaudy. Although, when you put the lights next to the super soft and comfy chairs at the bar, they almost work to give off a 1920's or 30's vibe. But please don't' read anything more into that statement, because nothing else at the Dirty Martini puts out that vibe- including the cheap Christmas stockings covering the bar. If there were other decorations inside this fairly large venue, the stockings might not be such a minus. In the end, this is just another case of a venue owner setting themselves up to run what could be a great jazz and cigar bar, but instead ends up running a cheap imitation of a trendy club. Fortunately, they paid attention to seating and you should never be left standing- unless you want to.

People Watching
The general female demographic consisted of women in their 30s. The male demographic was mid-20s to early 50s, with the curve topping out in the late 20s. There are only two reasons why a girl in her 20s would be seen here: 1) She was invited to a party -or- 2) Her friend suggested it and neither of them had been there before. The dynamics of these age groups lead to some interesting people watching. The older women and younger guys match up fairly fast. And the older guys and the younger women manage to find one another. The end result is a lot of uncoordinated, drunken dancing. As for the fashion, don't come out expecting to see anything cool. Women may dress up to go here, but they don't get all dolled up. In other words, they look good enough to get into any bar or club you can think of, but their attire isn't turning heads. As for the guys.... *sigh* 1 in 10 dressed fairly cool, while the other 9 must have all seen the sale on Wrangler jeans in the paper last Sunday. A handful had on suits, and a handful more had the usual striped, button up shirt or plain Banana Republic sweater.

Bartending Basics
Even if the main bar is crowded, it's pretty easy to get a drink fast. But stay away from any martinis that use olives. Because there's a good chance you either won't get them, or if you do, they'll be stale and mushy. When I first walked in, the first thing I saw were the two bartender girls doing shots with their guests. In combination with their cheap and sleazy red tank tops, it put a bad taste in my mouth. Am I in a sports bar? Not sure. In all fairness, these bartenders were much better than the lazy girl who worked the bar the night before. First off, they informed me that they do serve Black Cherry Effen (which I was told earlier they did not). They also throw as many cherries in the drink as your heart desires (in the case of drinks that use cherries). But best of all, I needn't flag them down and tell them what I wanted for my second drink. I waived. They looked. I pointed to my empty glass. They nodded. Thirty seconds later I had a drink in my hand and another $5 on my tab. Great service. I can't comment on the waitresses, but I do think their dresses were a bit too dressy for waitresses. Also, there's a good chance one of them went out on the dance floor with a guest. Not good.

Watch Your Step
There are a lot of steps at the Dirty Martini Lounge- A LOT; one set when you walk in, one set to get to the dance floor, another set to go from dance floor to the main bar, and ANOTHER set to get to the rest rooms. And if you're sitting at the main bar and want to go to the bathroom, you'll have to scale them all. To make matter words, there is some funky raised piece of wood at the top of the steps leading to the main bar. It's quite easy to stick and stumble. There is a unisex bathroom on the same "level" as the main bar, but ladies... I wouldn't advise it. Men can feel free to use it, but as always, make sure you roll up your jeans when you first walk in. There are a few other little things that could help raise the level at this bar, such as making the drink menu look better; picking it up I thought for a minute I was looking at the commencements from my 6th grade graduation, made from a copy machine loaded with that off-green colored paper.

The music on Thursday night is filled with typical 80s remixes, and the occasional Top 40. A handful of dance tracks are thrown in for good measure. There's also a guy who stands off to the side and plays the bongos. It wasn't bad music, but it wasn't anything special. The fact is the music is the number one culprit for killing any chance of having a chill out night at a lounge that has the visual appeal of a relaxing environment. We're guessing the VIP room was filled with the DJ's friends, but we're not sticking to that claim. It's just a guess.

There's nothing special about the Dirty Martini Lounge in Novi. Its target audience, or at least the people who end up staying, are all in their early-to-mid 30s, enjoy getting a little more than buzzed and dancing to the same beats the younger crowd listens to at every other bar in Detroit. The drink quality is alright, and prices aren't outrageous. There is also a wine/cigar list, but I'm far too unqualified to speak of them. Mixx Lounge and 5th Avenue have a similar "Novi" feel, and The Dirty Martini Lounge is no exception. Something tells me this place would be a really nice after dinner spot if the music was toned down... but of course, we'll never know.

Dirty Martini Mishap in Novi

We stopped in for last call around midnight at the Dirty Martini (Novi) and were presented with what may just be the worst service we've had in a long while. We'll hold off on a in-depth review so that we can focus on this one minor incident which we hope was a remote case of an inexperienced bartender. We'll make this short so you can get on with your day...

My friend and I sit down, order up a Dirty Martini and Captain+Coke, and continue on with our conversation. After the bartender pours the drinks, I see her rummage around a bit before bringing them over. As she approached, I thought I knew the words that were about to come out of her mouth. I was wrong. Here's a rough transcript of the exchange:

Bartender: Sorry, we don't have any olives or limes for your drinks. We're out.

[Bartender sets down the drinks and starts to turn away]

ME: Haha. So I get half off my drink right?

[Bartender turns back]

Bartender: I wish that was the case.

[Bartender walks away]

W T F .

It's one thing to not serve up a lime with rum or vodka, but you can't leave out the olives in a martini. Furthermore, it's pretty audacious of the bartender to just assume I'm going to take the drink.

What makes this whole situation even worse is that it was last call, and my friend and I each ordered a single drink. We didn't come in with 40 people. We didn't order up a handful of shots and beers. We ordered two measly drinks. Proper bartender etiquette for this scenario is to say "We're all out of olives, but I already made the drink. Do you still want it?" However, considering the situation, the generous thing to do would have been to put the martini on the house.

I was told they would have more olives tomorrow. Translation: "We put them away in the back room and even though we're closing early, I'm too lazy to go back and get them. But the guys who open the bar tomorrow will bring them out."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

De-Evolution of Detroit Nightlife

It doesn't take a genius with an MBA from an ivy-league school to recognize that any new business will change and adapt to market demand. So we should not be surprised when a new bar opens up down the street, or a new club moves into an old space downtown, and their ambiance changes after the first two months... right? WRONG! In the world of bars and clubs, the customer does not run the show. They are merely presented with options. The business owner's choice of atmosphere is merely another portion of the risk they take in opening their doors. Venue owners and promoters need to recognize this new concept and simply let venues close down if they can't hold their own, rather than bastardize a potentially nice atmosphere for the sake of $$$.

Take a trip to New York, Chicago or LA. Hang out for the weekend, and don't go back for a year. When you do, you'll notice that only a handful of places you visited are still operational. There are most definitely a collection of dingy, hipster bars that exist and will forever remain standing, but for the most part, any swanky-chillout-ultralounge-euro-miami-eqsue venues will have departed. The reason they'll have closed is that they get stale. In Detroit, such is not the case. Over here, places stay open and start playing host for college crowds, which is always a safe financial gamble. The music changes, the prices *might* change, the seating arrangements will shift a little, and the overall effect is a degradation not only in the quality of said venue, but also of the Metro-Detroit area as a whole.

This unwillingness for a venue to stand its ground and face the threat of opening only to close one year later is putting Detroit into a downward spiral. If no one takes the risk to differentiate themselves from the bar next door, then the city will never have a chance to gain any nightlife success. True, Detroit is all about rock n' roll. But there's no reason we can't have at a decent selection of hotspots in a variety of styles.

A handful of places are guilty of catering to the masses. Mixx Lounge (Novi), despite the praise we have thrown its way, could be 100% better. The setup, lighting, attention to detail and even its name all scream "Lounge." Go there on a Sunday night, and you'll almost get that. To us, a lounge is a calm, cool quiet place. A place you can go to relax and talk in normal voice. Keyword: Relax. Unfortunately, you can never really do that on a typical night. Even the DJ has started mixing between Nelly Furtado and White Snake. WTF is up with THAT?! Another culprit of change is Cinq (Royal Oak), which has gone from upscale bar to basement frat party. The cool light up tables, couches and high top tables+chairs create a potential swanky midnight til 2 hang out, especially with the private rooms off to the side. But they ruined it. At some point along the line they should have capped the number of people allowed entry as well as filtered out the crowd who can't meet trendy dress code standards. Something tells us they were doomed from the start by the number of televisions airing sports. If only they could still muster a line out the door, they might be able to sway things back in the direction of cool.

It's not only bars that should be criticized. How long has Bleu (Downtown) been open? Or how about Elysium Lounge (Downtown)? It's about time these venues are wiped clean. We're not asking for a simple name change. We want you to properly gut the place and hire a top firm to come in and design something that will make us feel good walking into your club. Why should we get all dressed up, pay for cover and/or valet, and be left with a space that hasn't changed since our fake IDs were still of use? We haven't yet checked out Plan B (Downtown), but we hope it wasn't the victim of a lonely name change. iLounge (Pontiac) did it right by gutting the place and hiring someone who knows what they're doing to handle the interiors. But we'll hold off on passing out awards until we're sure that it won't stay that way for another 10 years.

Every sane person wants to maximize the amount of money they get in return for their investment. But if they're not willing to look at the big picture and make positive contributions to the city that supports them, they should just stay away from investing. Detroit needs more than just another place that serves up rum, whiskey and vodka. It needs more than a place that cycles through top 40's and top hits of the 70's and 80's. Detroit needs someone to come in and set an example. We're still waiting for a venue with a velvet rope and a guy with a list in his hand who turns people away at the door because they're dressed in last year's fashions.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Eye Exam at Crave Lounge

"Double Vision" at Crave (Dearborn) Saturday night was full of potential. And as much as we want to bitch and moan about all the bad things we found, we really can't. Sitting around a table at the Hyatt for brunch, we all agree that Crave did a great job this past evening and threw out most of the stops. Of course there were a handful of things that could have been better, but the overall turnout in combination with Nick Kimber's mix led to an almost perfect night. I'll admit that I'm more than guilty of making out on the dance floor and should probably be banned from Crave for the number of toes I stepped on while trying to keep my dance partner from falling backwards. But I was kindly rewarded with ringing ears that I'm guessing will stay with me well into next week. We'll see...

Start Time
Aside from the "Crave the [blank]" parties, events at Crave always seem to be hit or miss. After the complete failure of "Tribe" (or whatever it was called), we were slightly concerned that this event would also bomb. In fact, we passed up the first snowboarding excursion of the year, just for the chance of writing what we thought would be a really horrible review of the night. Luckily, we were wrong to think such things and were right to pass up the slopes. Arriving at 930p, we found the place to be somewhat dead. It was unfortunate that the majority of people were still eating dinner, but we expected as much. If the rush hits at 1030/11p, the only way to really avoid it is to get there earlier and stand over the shoulder of people enjoying their dinner. Personally, I would be pissed if I had a dinner date and people were allowed to mingle in front of me, but whatever. Crave does what they can with the space available. If you got there early, you only had to pay $10 to get in. If you got there later, it was $20+mandatory coat check. Yikes!

Crave is a trendy place. The decor is great (incl. the Christmas additions), the music is always something kind of euro, and the staff is extremely professional. Inside the restaurant there is a strict no smoking policy, while the tent outside the restaurant offers an alternate vibe, as well as ashtrays. But don't come here to do shots, watch the game, and drink beer. Instead, pick your favorite flavor of liquor and start talking to the person next to you. I sampled an Espresso Martini and was pleasantly surprised- not only by the drink, but also by the quality of the martini glass itself. It's very well balanced, and allows for easy movement in a bumpy crowd without the worry of a spill. However, go with the typical rum+coke or vodka+tonic and you'll most likely get either a plastic cup, or a hot glass straight out of the dishwasher capable of giving you burn blisters. On a side note, there is a lot of great seating in Crave. On a bad side note, pretty much all the seating has to be reserved. We say kill all reservations after a certain time, save for the back room, and let people mix it up on the couches. By the way, is the back room limited to private parties? We're curious to find out.

Attack of the Clones
Looking around, at no point did I NOT see two guys who looked almost identical. Between the haircuts, shirts, jeans, and shoes, I swear that there must have been a website out there that helped facilitate some kind of fashion coordination amongst the men. This isn't to say that the guys didn't look good. Nor am I claiming that everyone out there had a clone of their own. I'm merely pointing out that maybe the L'Uomo Vogue and Dolce Moda mass emails that are going around might be getting too good of a response; either that or everyone is taking advantage of the same daily H&M Christmas sales. From what I heard, there were also a string of bad pickup lines and bad jokes going around. We feel for the women who had to suffer through them. And in case you're wondering how the women looked, you need not ask. The default answer is that the women who go to Crave always look spectacular. I've seen the same girls out and about elsewhere in Detroit, but for some reason they just look better when they walk into Crave. Maybe it's a testament to the quality of the environment? Because in all honesty, no matter how good a girl looks, if she walks into any Post Bar or club in Pontiac, the last thing a guy is thinking about is how good she looks with her clothes on. (Sexist? Yea. But it's true.)

Head Music
The best part of the night had to be the moment Nick Kimber stepped into the DJ booth. All the music that you never really hear had a chance to finally come out. No longer are the memories associated with Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi tracks confined to events that happened while listening to songs at home or in the car. The response of the crowd only further demonstrated that Detroit clubs no longer have to lower their standards to Top 40 and Booty Music. Someone should start stamping the Hed Kandi logo on their flyers instead of listing people's birthdays. It's a real shame though that a good percentage of guests partied outside in the tent during Kimber's set. Hed Kandi was a real treat and probbably better than anything anyone got on Halloween.

Dude Where's My Coat?
If Ashton Kutcher ever wanted to create a sequel to his insanely unsuccessful comedy from 2000, he could stage it at Crave. Try getting your coat from coat check near the end of the night and you'll hate yourself for leaving a tip at the beginning. Coats went missing. Coats were lying on the ground. And people were causing worse traffic jams in the hallway than those on 696 on morning weekdays. Next time, just keep your coat in the car and deal with the cold until the heat kicks on.

If only Crave could find DJ's to play Ministry of Sound and Hed Kandi tracks on a regular basis, it would have an excellent chance of becoming the hottest spot in Metro-Detroit. If only they wouldn't buy into the whole "Come Celebrate My Birthday" events, they might be able to bring in an even more diverse crowd. The event was actually a CD release party for Captn20 (I think)... Exclusive Detroit has no idea why that was the main event, and not Kimber's visit. It should have been the other way around, with the local DJ's being grateful for even getting on the bill.

Our request to Crave? Please break free from local DJ's who play the same music at every other venue they book. Fix your coat check, kill [at least some] table reservations, and try to find a way to validate my parking so I'm not paying for it. We're glad to know that you haven't gone the way of the lowest common denominator and started catering to the masses at the expense of your ambiance. The vibe currently maintained should be the standard for any venue trying to create a hip atmosphere. We're also especially glad your cappuccino machine has since been repaired. If you promise to look into some of the above issues, we'll do our best to attend your next party and encourage others to do the very same."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Thursday Night Maturity

There's something to be said of a calm, cool evening with friends and drinks. And Thursday nights set the stage almost perfectly. After countless nights of dancing, music, shots, and a never-ending flow of vodka+tonic, a select number of stops in Royal Oak and Ferndale brought about a much needed evening of moderation. We highly recommend you at least try the following itinerary for any future Thursday night desires: Bastone (Royal Oak), Vinotecca (Royal Oak), Gracie's Underground (Ferndale)and The Bosco (Ferndale).

We arrived at Vinotecca just before 8:30p and found ourselves standing around with a light-up pager, waiting for a table to open up. Luckily, Bastone next door had a few seats open, so we settled in for a drink. Despite the commotion of a busy restaurant, the bar was quite comfortable. The bartender was smart enough to throw a cherry in my Black Cherry Effen+Coke, and everyone around was in good spirits. Just before finishing our drinks, the pager lit up and we were off. Since we were just passing the time, it wouldn't be fair to really evaluate things... but if you're begging for it, let's just say "it's cool." Make of that what you will.

I haven't been to Vinotecca in over a year, and for that reason I place a small bit of disappoint in myself. Why? Because it does a wonderful job of blending their atmosphere with their guests' desires. From social discussion to intimate conversation, Vinotecca should be able to cater to most needs. A handful of bottles can be had for ~$40, though the majority are a bit pricier. Between two appetizers and a bottle, we checked out at $82- not bad.

If you're planning on making a visit, make it a tasteful one. Don't go in there with a dozen people for your cousin's friend's birthday party and start asking for shots of Jagermeister. It just won't do. That being said, you should recognize that Vinotecca is not the place to go wearing jeans, tennis shoes, and a shirt from Pacific Sunwear. (You shouldn't be shopping at PacSun anyways, but I had to say it just in case you are/were *hint*). You don't have to front the suit and tie or get all dolled up in the latest trends, but at least look presentable. Pretend for a moment you had a real job and it required you to look professional. Better yet, make some use of that sweater grandma gave you. Vinotecca is a classy place, and if you mange to put in even the least bit of effort, you should be good to go.

The place itself isn't very large. There are a handful of sit-down tables in the back, but the front is pretty much all high-top tables and chairs. If you're waiting for a table, you might be able to find a spot at the bar. Keyword is "might." Once you get seated, don't expect to unload the contents of your pockets on the table, or hang up your coat. There isn't much room, so you'll have to settle for putting everything on the back of your chair, or next to the person sitting across from you on the giant padded seating area that runs halfway down the narrow space. Unfortunately, since the space is so narrow, whenever someone opens main door you're going to feel a slight draft. In general, Vinotecca is fairly dark; typical mood lighting. Wine bottles line the wall above the bar, which also has a variety of liquor if that's what suits your fancy. There's also a downstairs which houses their wine cellar and has rooms for private parties. Unlike Cinq (which happens to be next-door and downstairs), the Christmas decorations were tastefully done. But above and beyond all else lies the best aspect of Vinotecca: No Smoking.

You don't have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy a glass or share a bottle. You just need good company... and some halfway decent clothing.

Gracie's Underground
Around 1030p we decided to check out to check out Gracie's Underground in Ferndale. It's situated almost on the SW corner of 9 Mile+Woodward. Walk in, go downstairs, and enjoy. It's fairly new, so it's fairly clean right now. Be careful though because it has very dim lighting; perhaps almost too dim. Suggestions include tea lights on each table, and the removal of all televisions. Considering the place was pretty empty, it's hard to tell what kind of ambiance was intended. My guess is they're going after the casual professional and creative crowds. "Casual professional" because of the overall appearance. "Creative" because the DJ was playing Tiga. Although, the Ultimate Fighting on TV suggests a third audience.... we'll have to wait and see.

The Bosco
If you haven't yet been to The Bosco, you don't know what you're missing. Since this place always yields a good time, we decided to finish the night there. When you visit, be mindful of the coat check at the door, but wait before handing over your coat- usually there's a place inside to throw it. The look is very Scandinavian; mixing soft woods with muted natural colors. Seating consists of a handful of chairs at the bar and large padded seating areas in the front and the back, scattered with the typical Philippe Starck stools. A heated courtyard is also open, weather permitting, and is an ideal summertime nighttime stop. Service is always good, and empty glasses are scooped up quickly. There's really no dress code here, but the general vibe suggests you dress to impress. Leave your work clothes at home, unless you're in a creative field or got the day off work. People come here looking hip and hot, and those that don't are usually just there because they got dragged out. Regardless, the music consists of some solid hip-hop, with bits of whatever other music might be hot at the time. Bottom line: The Bosco will make you glad you went out.

Most nights we go out, we go out to have fun. We look for energy, excitement, and a bit of mischief. But it's not always fun to wake up the next morning with fifty drunken pictures from the night before, and only three showing you sober. This past Thursday night was the perfect opportunity to leave a little earlier, get home a little earlier, and not have to worry about any rough hangovers. Though it may be entertaining, getting trashed doesn't make you any cooler. So why keep doing it? Take a break from the norm and pretend to be all grown up. With places like Vinotecca and The Bosco, it's not all that bad.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Metro Times. Real Detroit. 6Degrees. Ambassador. Clear. Am I missing any? Oh, what about Lyceum? It's a publication straight out of U of M Dearborn's campus. Don't laugh! I'm sure half of it is just as good as anything else out there. It's true. There isn't one thing special about the magazines or entertainment weeklies being published locally. From the horrible local advertisements, to the countless pictures of scenesters, to the latest trends that were last year in New York, you have to wonder just how much time is spent working on each issue.

We don't wish for any of these magazines to go away... well, not all of them at least. We simply ask that they gain a little perspective and stop trying to be more than they are. Clear Magazine, for all its national success, still can't hold its own to Wallpaper or Flaunt. Metro Times and Real Detroit will always be bottom-barrel reading material. 6Degrees is just another socialite magazine catering to the almost-classy. And Ambassador- well, that I just don't understand. Emin and Ivana are replicating what they did with Clear, but this time without any intention of going national, all the while taking hints from the Archer and Illich families. Come on. It appears as though instead of researching anything, they simply pull from board members who are in need of press and mix it with whatever was in the latest issues of FHM, Vogue and the Robb Report.

Hour Magazine may be the only exception to all of our criticism. It's like Ambassador, but without the arrogance. It speaks to the wealthy, but also whispers to the middle and lower-classes. If we had to pick one thing that makes Hour stand out amongst all other newsies, it would have to be that it encourages people to participate in being a Detroiter, rather than touting the greatness of the city. The fact is, Detroit isn't perfect. It never will be and that's part of its charm. So please stop showing everyone what they missed and where they should go because "it's popular," and start inviting the community to explore its own backyard.

There is definitely a demand in Detroit for the monthlies and weeklies. But demand does not imply quality, and that's the point we're trying to get across. Everything out there has room for improvement, some more than others. While we don't expect (or really even want) Metro Times or Real Detroit to change, we do think Ambassador is way too cheesy, and 6Degrees is just a glorified coupon book.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Saturday Night Mash Up

I was presented with a handful of options Saturday night, but instead went the way of the usual. The schedule had me at Cinq (Royal Oak) around 11p, The Post Bar (Novi) at 1230a, and ending the night closing up Mixx Lounge (Novi). All in all, I have to say I'm deeply disappointed. Every stop along the night was filled with an ambiance that didn't suit the environment. Cinq felt more like a house party. The Post Bar had GUYS dancing along the upper area of the dance floor. And Mixx Lounge was way too loud for its own good. Let's break it down.

The first thing I noticed last night was the absence of a line out the door. I thought to myself that maybe we were just arriving early, which would be good considering the bar has a better vibe when there is room to walk and enough silence to talk. I was wrong. The bar was PACKED; too packed in fact. And for the first (and only) round, I was stuck waiting for the couple in front of me to stop doing shots at the bar so that I could grab a bartender and get my drinks. Surprisingly, Cinq now stocks both flavors of Effen vodka. Another note of interest is that their bartenders have since grown too lazy to bother putting limes in drinks, overshadowing the cleanliness of the bar, which on previous visits I always found to look like the kitchen counter of frat party.

Speaking of frat party- I have never seen so many under-dressed people at Cinq. I don't think we have enough readers yet to assume that our plea to expose your other friends to other bars is the cause of the awkward crowd. But I did my part and brought my brother along. He turned 21 recently and hasn't yet made the rounds in Royal Oak, Ferndale, and Birmingham. He hated the place... which is fine. He's not the type to dress up to go out, and when he does go out, he wants to be able to sit down. While this means he will probably despise every hip bar or club, that's alright. I'll drag him along from time to time so that at least he's aware of his options. But back to the point. I was shocked to see so many women looking like they just got out of class at OCC. There were also a handful of older men, looking unemployed, walking in circles. Not quite sure what that was all about. The guys seemed typical. Nothing too fancy, but not really under-dressed. Again, it was just all around strange seeing things so jumbled. Since when are more guys dressed up than girls?

Apparently, Cinq has really lost it. When the decor and style of the bar is cool, but you pack the place with so many people that it's difficult to tell you're NOT in a large, dirty basement, you've got a problem. The cheap blue Christmas lights that were probably bought on sale at ACO Hardware for 39 cents, and the single row of snowflakes hanging from the ceiling only added to the holiday cheer.

The Post Bar (Novi)
Originally I was going to take my brother from Cinq over to Bosco in Ferndale. But a few friends were in Novi and I figured a change of plans was in order. There's really not much to say here. The Post is the post is the post. They're all the same and generate the same kind of crowd. I still can't get over the fact they charge cover. It's only $2 or $3, but still. It's the post. Did you see that? I didn't even capitalize it. It doesn't deserve it anymore than I deserve to be waiting outside, freezing my ass off, while the girl at the door collects money and hands out change. What did I get for my $3? I got to watch a handful of guys who thought they were the Gotti brothers, all pretending to dance like Justin Timberlake on the ledge around the dance floor. Usually it's a girl bending over the rail, pressing her ass to a guy forced against the wall. Oh well. Not much different.

Mixx Lounge
What is going on here? IT WAS WAY TOO LOUD AT MIXX!! What? I said, "IT WAS WAY TOO LOUD AT MIXX LAST NIGHT!." The place seemed just as busy as usual, but the sound was incredibly deafening. I did my part to take the party down a level on the class scale by getting a little freaky on the dance floor. Although in all honesty, I didn't bring anything to the table that wasn't already there. On the plus side, if I haven't said it before, I'll say it again- one of the nicer things about Mixx is that if you show up with a handful of friends, regardless of how busy it is, it isn't difficult to end up in one of the booths. I don't know how it works, but it just does. Whenever I need a booth, I end up with one. Also, the bartenders and wait staff did a great job as always. I have yet to get bad service at this place.

The night seemed out of whack. Bottom line. Other friends who went other places experienced the same disorder. We're not really sure what happened, but it may have something to do with the cold front that came in. Exclusive Detroit hopes you stay warm this winter.