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Michigan is also known for its revolutionary role in arts and music. It has possibly more books written about its music scene than anywhere else, with hundreds of titles including Detroit Rock City; Louder Than Love; Grit, Noise, and Revolution; Beautiful Music; Motor City Rock and Roll; Heaven Was Detroit; Before Motown; and Detroit Ragtime among others. Keep reading to uncover more about what makes Michigan a marvel in music.

Michigan has one of the most robust music histories in the world

Michigan’s musical roots run deep. In 1920s, big band jazz groups such as McKinney’s Cotton Pickers and the Jean Goldkette Victor Recording Orchestra gained crowds and created some of the first modern recordings of music. Soon after, rolling ragtime, evolving jazz, and boldening beginnings of rock spurred in the state. By the 1950s, rock reigned over Detroit, leading the way to the infamous rise of 1960s Motown with compelling beats and rebellious dance. Tamla Records alone brought in acts such as Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Edwin Starr, and Aretha Franklin. Popular music once again became performance entertainment, inspired by civil rights, rebellion, and social realities. By the 70s, these national music stars cooled into smooth, soulful vocal. In the 1980s and 1990s, Michigan transitioned into a hotbed of tehno, rap, and hip-hop.

Unlike newer music capitals in the United States, Detroit has music history embedded in the walls of its buildings. Built in 1928, the Fox Theatre offers the art deco backdrop that has held the biggest acts in rock, pop, and country. Another historic building, Saint Andrew’s Hall draws listeners in with the appeal of a more intimate setting; imagine seeing Bob Dylan, Pail Simon, Nirvana, or Eminem up close. For jazz aficionados, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge has been pushing out smooth sounds since 1933. Every big name in jazz from Chris and Fannie Baker to Ella Fitzgerald to Miles Davis has taken the stage.

What does this rich history mean for contemporary concert lovers? Music bleeds out of Michigan. The state has been a major force in music for over a hundred years, paving the way for new genres and hosting talent in its studios and venues. Today, audiences can except the authenticity and ingenuity that has permeated cities like Detroit for over a century.

From legendary spaces to hidden havens, Michigan’s venues offer an array of options for concert enthusiasts

No matter what type of vibe a listener craves, Michigan venues have the bases covered. Cafe D’Mongos Speakeasy is a hip joint that offers cocktails alongside classic rock. Harpos Concert Theatre is a metal and rock venue promising mosh pits, weighted sounds, and punk spirit. The Old Miami is the veteran community’s favorite spot, with a juke box to supplement live sounds. The Magic Stick, an old bowling alley turned concert space tucked above Majestic Theater, houses alternative rock and garage bands amidst pool tables, a dance floor, and a rooftop deck. PJ’s Lager House is the hangout spot for musicians, offering killer burgers and baked goods between performances. TV Lounge is where Detroit’s techno scene radiates, boasting a constant stream of dance parties.

Although Michigan’s most legendary clubs, popular bars, and iconic theaters have their spot in the fabric of music venues, those overly familiar with mainstream options ought to look to DIY spots, nestled in the fringes of urban hangouts. For concert-goers who appreciate more than a sporadic, casual show, these are the ideal spaces to take in new sounds. These hubs are found across the state, in the metro areas of places like Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Detroit. Richie Wohlfiel’s Lo & Behold! Records and Books is one of these unique spaces. Being a musician in the Detroit Cobras, the Belle Isles, and Richie Wohlfiel & the New Wild Mountain Thyme, it is no surprise that Richie operates an eclectic shop devoted to the arts. Since opening in 2011, this shop has turned into a community-oriented space, hosting local band rehearsals, meditation classes, Alcoholics Anonymous meets, and—of course—live performances. Like many of the best community establishments, Lo & Behold! Records and Books took on a life of its own, which Riche calls “magic”.

Michigan’s influence in music is not a thing of the past; today, the state still churns out incredible artistry

For listeners looking for specific artists, aptitude is found all over The Mitten. A few University of Michigan students in Ann Arbor formed Vulfpeck, a new style funk and groove band adored by the likes of Stephen Colbert. GRiZ’s Grant Kwiecinski is another funk and soul fellow; he revives sources with electronic brightness and bounce in Detroit. Traverse City is home to William Apostal—aka Billy Strings—who brings jiving, spirited acoustics in his folk and bluegrass tunes. The Accidentals embody Americana with moving, light, lyrical tunes. Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas delve into edgy, energetic dark soul and gothic pop in Detroit. Other new artists doing cool things are Minihorse, Laith Al-Saadi, Serration Pulse, Emile Vincent, Double Winter, and Aplus.

Michigan has performance spaces devoted to unusual sounds. Trinosophes—a coffee shop, art gallery, library, and performance space—is one of the places bringing weird and wonderful sounds to Detroit’s Eastern Market. Afro-futurist jazz, improvised jazz-rock, international mashups, and yet-to-be-defined genres are in regular rotation. With experimental spaces like Trinosophes for radial and avant-garde artists, people seeking live music find that Michigan’s sounds are boundless.

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