Are you in the mood to check out some really good music, whether it's a weekly jam session or a cool bar with a heavy schedule of solid local and traveling talent? Basically anything except for hip-hop and dance music? (Already expertly discussed elsewhere in our Annual Manual.) From stages where jazz is alive to venues where rock has never died to intimate clubs where folk is revived on a daily basis, we have got you covered with these six can't-miss clubs.
Scoping it all out:
PJ's Lager House is always a great first spot to hit early in the evening. Their food is far better than the average fare, their bar staff has far better music taste than any DJ on the local airways (save for AM 580), and drinks are reasonable. It's centrally located just on the edge of Corktown headed toward downtown on Michigan Avenue, and is populated by friendly Detroiters who've probably lived here for more than a few years. The bands that play PJs tend toward the rock, blues, folk, and garage spectrum, and more often than not are venerable locals. So, if you do enjoy the music, just hang out. But if you're looking for something else, you're liable to get expert advice on what's going on that night from anyone within an earshot. Owner PJ even operates a B&B space above the bar if you really want to stay there, literally.
Open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday; 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; pjslagerhouse.com.
The buzz band hive:
Marble Bar is one of the newest additions to Detroit's nightlife, catering to alternative rock, dance, and hybrid forms of both. Don't worry that it looks sketchy when you arrive; not only does Marble Bar regularly employ security on the periphery of the venue, but it's super nice inside. The venue has ample space for people to lounge and chat in between acts, notably in the beautifully restored wooden alcove above the stage area. However, it's not really a place you want to be if you're not in love with the music going down on the spacious main level, so make sure this is a show you want to be at before you enter. That's because the well-connected owners of Marble Bar have installed a menacingly state-of-the-art sound system.
Open 9 p.m.-2 am. Daily, 1501 Holden St., Detroit; 313-551-3158.
Sweet sounds of jazz:
Cliff Bell's is such a well-run and sophisticated spot. Detroit is so lucky to have this swanky, restored art deco joint that pairs a creative, eclectic menu with live jazz on stage nightly. The cocktails are not cheap, but there's so much care put into each one that it's definitely worth it. Here is where you take someone you want to impress. The quality of the music is on par with all else; it may not be revolutionary, but it's always very damn good.
Open 4 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday, 5 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday; 2030 Park Ave., Detroit; cliffbells.com.
Rock 'n' roll connoisseur:
The UFO Factory just might be your best single bet for a spot to have a great night out, if you're looking for underground rock music. All varieties of new, loud, and fun music happen here, from the greatest karaoke event of your life ("Jennyoke" on Sundays) to any random sampling of local or touring acts. Artists who record for Hardly Art, Sacred Bones, Holy Mountain, Trouble in Mind, and Captured Tracks are liable to play at this understated venue. The fancy hot dog menu is actually worth trying, and if you order a side of Tater Tots remember you can put a fried egg on top of it to really satisfy cravings. Don't forget to take a selfie in the mirror of the bathroom while there; that's a thing, apparently.
Open 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily; 2110 Trumbull St., Detroit; ufofactory.com.
To say that the Ark in Ann Arbor is a local institution is barely touching the surface. The storied folkster hangout recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. If you're thinking of checking out one of the national troubadours who perform at this low-key but kind of swank spot, be sure to do your best to get those tickets early; events here tend to sell out quickly. The crowd is a nice mix of old and young devotees, and their attentive disposition is contagious. What we mean is, you probably don't want to bring any bachelor parties here.
Open most days at 7:30 p.m.; 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor; theark.org.
Trinosophes doesn't have events every night of the week, but they often hold events on the weekends. At most of them, an employee of the venerated Peoples Records will be on hand to open the store in-between acts. Experimental, unclassifiable sounds that straddle the lines between jazz, folk, noise, ethnic, improvisational, and rock-based sounds are the norm here, which is basically to say that there is no norm. Spacious and chronically underattended, one often feels like a Trinos show is your own private performance. Just roll with it, and enjoy.
Open most weekends at 9 p.m., 1464 Gratiot Ave., Detroit; trinosophes.com.