The New York Times

IN a city whose name is forever entwined with that of Motown Records, it is tempting to expect to hear songs like “Dancing in the Streets” blaring constantly from speakers on light posts, or to see Eminem or Kid Rock shooting videos on the downtown streets.

But Motown left town a generation ago, leaving behind only the small white house that is home to the Motown Historical Museum. And while Eminem and Kid Rock still live and record there, they keep lower local profiles than their fame might suggest.

But the clubs where they and other Detroit acts got their starts are still very much a part of the city, developing performers who could join the ranks of other famous Detroit artists. Even though the city, and its auto industry, have been hit by hard times that threaten some venerable places, live music endures in the Motor City.

Alex Lovat, 17, was born the year the Magic Stick opened on Woodward Avenue, nestled on an often desolate stretch halfway between downtown and the campus of Wayne State University.

On a recent Monday, Mr. Lovat, a high school senior, was taking a break in a cafe below the second-floor club, to soak up the atmosphere of a spot that presented the White Stripes and the Toadies early in their careers.

“I really like the history of the place,” said Mr. Lovat, who wore vintage purple velvet pants, a brown and beige polyester button-down shirt and round, wire-rimmed sunglasses.

The Stick is a gritty 5,500-square-foot industrial spot that offered its first acts in 1992. It is housed in the Majestic Theater Center, a blocklong entertainment complex with a restaurant that emphasizes Middle Eastern specialties and a bowling alley that is nearly a century old.

For followers of rock as well as folk fans, the Stick is the center of the Detroit club universe. Chris Cervenak, 18, recently saw the Black Lips, a flower-punk band whose sound is described as “hippie meets punk” from Atlanta.

“I just dig the concerts here,” said Mr. Cervenak, a high school senior from Hamtramck, Mich.

While Jack White, half of the White Stripes duo, has since moved to Nashville, the Stick is a frequent showcase for up-and-coming artists, including some trying to broaden their visibility in the United States.

Los Campesinos, the seven-piece pop band from Cardiff, Wales, is set to appear on April 2, while the Glasgow alternative rock band Glasvegas visits the Stick on April 4.

During the N.C.A.A. Final Four men’s basketball tournament, which will take place next month at Ford Field, north of downtown and south of the Magic Stick, the city will hold the Big Dance, not just the name of the showdown, but a three-day festival beginning on April 3.

It will feature a block party, a wrap-up concert hosted by Ryan Seacrest, and acts like the Pussycat Dolls, Gavin DeGraw, Fergie and Staind.

But Detroit’s music scene stretches beyond downtown, and it can be hard to sample without getting behind the wheel.

Forty-five minutes west in Ann Arbor is The Ark , one of the country’s top folk clubs, along with the Michigan Theater , which regularly features artists like Ben Folds and Randy Newman.

Mark Braun, a local pianist known as Mr. B., will perform at The Ark on April 4 and 5, while Chris Cornell, perhaps best known as the lead singer and drummer of Soundgarden, appears at the Michigan on April 14.

Northeast of downtown, Hamtramck, long a working-class Polish-American enclave, is now home to a busy collection of small bars that hold the annual Blowout, a three-day festival in which 200 bands play 15 places. This year’s Blowout, held March 7 to 9, took place in bars like the New Dodge Lounge , which opens at breakfast, serves some of the area’s best burgers and offers a free shuttle to Ford Field.

North of the city sits Ferndale, home to the Magic Bag, a converted theater known for holding retro ’80s parties and presenting a variety of artists, including Lez Zeppelin, an all-women tribute band covering Led Zeppelin songs, which appears on April 3.

But the area’s entertainment center remains Detroit, where live music, poetry slams and big-name acts can be found every night.

St. Andrew’s Hall, a converted church just a few blocks from the Detroit River, made its name in the 1980s and 1990s, featuring bands like Nirvana, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Cure on its concert floor. Meanwhile, its hip-hop dance floor is known as the spot where the local rapper Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, battled other Detroit-area emcees before breaking onto the national scene. Coming acts at St. Andrew’s include Lily Allen on April 13 with her opening act, Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head.

In another direction, geographically and musically, are two clubs with a strong link to Detroit’s jazz past.

Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, located on the city’s far west side, calls itself the world’s oldest jazz club, operating since 1934. Named for its founder, Clarence Baker, the club has been home to generations of jazz greats from Fats Waller and John Coltrane to the Detroit natives Tommy Flanagan and Earl Klugh. It will celebrate its 75th anniversary with concerts May 1 to 4, though there are fears that the city’s financial straits may force it to close after that.

For now, the club holds a jazz-for-kids program on Sunday afternoons and open jam sessions with the Noah Jackson Trio on Sunday nights. The Diego Rivera Quartet, whose saxophonist-founder shares his name with the famous Mexican muralist, appears at Baker’s on April 11.

Back downtown, Cliff Bell’s is a small, elegant spot, once the heart of the city’s jazz world, in a building designed by Albert Kahn, architect for many Detroit landmarks. Founded by the local entrepreneur John Clifford Bell in 1935, the club closed in 1985 but was reopened a few years ago by Paul Howard, who relied on photographs for restoration. As close to a Manhattan jazz spot as anything in the city, Bell’s has two long, intimate rooms divided by a double-sided bar, and curved, rich mahogany ceilings hung with chandeliers. Patrons sit beneath vintage photos of the club.

Bell’s emphasizes local acts like the Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra, akin to its house band, which is led by one of the city’s best-known jazz educators. The club features poetry readings, attracting a diverse young audience that nearly filled the club on a recent Monday night.

“When the organs work together, it’s called or-gan-i-za-tion,” said the poet Liteshineth, whose fiery cadence elicited shouts of “That’s right!”

“Everybody here is really real, and has a story to tell,” said Kristine Milostan, 22, of Clinton Township, Mich., who, like half the audience, was waiting to perform.

Another Detroit poet, Fluent, 31, wearing a black-and-red-checkered cap, brown jacket and red gym shoes, said the setting at Bell’s was inspirational, especially in a city that has seen such challenges, financially and artistically.

“Detroit has such talent,” he said. “Something about this place — it’s like family.”


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