AAN Convention 2012: Detroit Rock City, Part 3

Part 3 in a series of guest posts from the staff of Metro Times leading up to AAN’s 2012 Annual Convention in Detroit.

Detroit Rock City, Part 3

By Brian Smith

Detroit is provincial, prideful, yet somehow produces music that speaks universally. Another of our great contradictions. See, the city’s spiritual base — a heady blend of Southern migration and industrial revolution — became a force in creativity long before John Lee Hooker recorded the first rock ‘n’ roll record here (1948’s “Boogie Chillen'”). Hence, superstar creatives who want to stay close to their inspirations — from Bob Seger to Eminem — won’t live anywhere else.

It’s easy to see how Detroit shifted culture too: The Motown Museum beckons, just a cab ride away from the AAN convention’s downtown hotel. Go sense the youthful ghosts of the Temptations, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and others whose influence extends into our souls. Roll through the nearby North End neighborhood and spy Aretha Franklin’s old family mansion and that superstar breeding ground where Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Bettye LaVette, Jackie Wilson and others grew up. Then absorb Detroit beats old and new nearby at Northern Lights Lounge, or the three clubs inside the Majestic complex.

Or simply step out to a rhythm, an easy sidewalk medium in the downtown of a world music capitol: Hit Cliff Bell’s, the art deco masterpiece whose jazz and blues program is a quiet Detroit giant. Its polar opposite is the underground (literally) City Club in the Leland hotel basement that features weekend fetish-tinged and DJ’d industrial and electronic. There’s the legendary St. Andrew’s Hall, a club and long a haunt for Eminem, Royce da 5’9″ and Kid Rock, or PJ’s Lager House and the tattered Old Miami, both rousing dives for rising indie stars. Bigger stars do the glorious Fox Theatre or its resplendent neighbor the Fillmore. Cap it off to DJ dance at L!V Resto. It’s all out your hotel window.

Brian Smith is the managing editor of Metro Times.