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For fans of brash, guitar-driven rock and roll, a trip to Detroit right now can feel something like a stroll down an idealized Bowery of 30 years ago, offering the chance to observe not young Ramones or New York Dolls but various White Stripes, Von Bondies, and Demolition Doll Rods in their natural habitat.
The Motor City is the garage-rock capital of the world, and conveniently enough for rocker-stalking tourists, members of most of the local bands frequent one another’s shows at the same handful of bars and clubs (which still allow smoking) every weekend. Check out motorcityrocks.com for gig info before booking a trip, but there are almost always acts worth seeing at the Lager House, in the shadow of the decommissioned Tiger Stadium on Michigan Avenue (313-961-4668; lagerhousedetroit.com); at the Magic Stick, part of a block-long bowling-eating-drinking complex and the site of last year’s notorious White Stripe–on–Von Bondie assault (313-833-9700; majesticdetroit.com); and at Small’s, in the ludicrously-thick-with-bars city-within-a-city of Hamtramck (313-873-1117; smallsbardetroit.com). And dozens of local bands will play the d-pollen festival at the Hastings Street Ballroom this May 21 to 23, including the red-hot one-man-band Jawbone and catchy sixties-ish longhairs the Sights (dpollen.com).
Wherever you go, you’re likely to recognize the people standing next to you from their CD covers—here a Dirtbomb, there a Come On. (And yes, that is Jack White.) After the show, follow the rock stars to the thirties-era Bronx Bar (313-832-8464) for a locally brewed Ghettoblaster beer or the very bright Lafayette Coney Island (313-964-8198) for a looseburger.
During daylight hours, fill out your Detroit record-and-tchotchke collection at the brilliantly stocked Pure Detroit in the city’s most beautiful—and intact—skyscraper, the Fisher Building (313-873-7873; puredetroit.com), and drop by local-scene honcho Dave Buick’s Young Soul Rebels record store (313-832-2001) for the latest releases and tips on what’s happening while you’re around.
N.B.: Bars close at 2 a.m.—but ingratiate yourself with the natives (not hard to do in this friendly small town masquerading as a desolate big city), and you’ll be invited to the after-party.