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Winter Music Fests


By Josh Malerman.

Winter. The oft-feared triumvirate of colder months. It’s especially worrisome in the north, in cities such as Detroit where people imagine walls of white snow and ice that trap you inside. But, of course, a place like The D is the last place to fear winter. The city is not only ready for it, but a series of rich, exhilarating music festivals, concert halls and nightclubs of all styles and sizes declare the area’s decision to celebrate the season with a vengeance. 

Detroit’s musical footprint may have been kicked into high gear by the Motown sound in the ’60s, but the city’s place on the musical map doesn’t stop there. For decades, the area has been generating a disproportionate number of famous and influential artists. Bob Seger passed an invisible torch to Kid Rock as techno was birthed, back when raves were all the rave. Eminem stormed the global scene and revealed Detroit was made of soul, electronic, hip-hop and rock ‘n’ roll. Recently, Insane Clown Posse, the Dirtbombs, the Sights and many others remind the nation how loud this area can get. 

Let’s face it, the Detroit music scene has never been as deep as it is right now. So come on, jump in and tune up your winter in The D.


Colder-weather music fests really crank up the heat in metro Detroit. And a few spring flings you won’t want to miss have also been added to the list.




Ferndale is just about the faddiest stretch of Woodward Avenue in metro Detroit. It’s positively in-style any season of the year, including winter. The Ferndale Blues Fest is proof. Another example of how much fun can be had when it’s freezing outside, this fest provokes many of the restaurants and storefronts along Woodward Avenue to convert themselves into rocking venues, hosting all manner of spirits, fare and, yes, the blues.

Jan. 25- Feb. 2
Downtown Ferndale
Ferndale, 48220 O
(248) 545-1435


What began as a modest gathering of trashy bands, hip, fresh faces and a smattering of venues has exploded into the Blowout, one of the more important festivals of the year — certainly of the season. Nowadays, just about any space in Hamtramck is optioned as a potential stage, hosting hundreds of local bands and giving visitors a fantastic sense of the city’s multifarious music scene. Blowout is the closest thing Detroit has to Austin’s South by Southwest and, let’s just say it, it’s actually a whole lot more fun.

April TBA
Various venues
Hamtramck, 48212 DD


In a city with as much musical history as Detroit, a DMA is an exciting award to win. But, as is the case for all award shows, it’s not only about the winners. The captivating gala is a series of performances from some of the city’s most established names, as well as those climbing the local charts, a thing not to be taken lightly as Detroit has a way of producing songsmiths as glamorous and original as any city is wont to do.

April 19
The Fillmore Detroit
2115 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48201 DD



You’ve got rock. You’ve got soul and country and rap. You’ve got the blues, of course, and you’ve got jazz. You’ve even got easy listening. But Detroit has the extra-interesting distinction of being one of the birthplaces of electronic music. It’s huge here. And Movement, a three-day festival hosted in downtown’s Hart Plaza, is the glorious confetti-filled culmination of all that interest and adoration. National acts and local DJs perform for thousands. And the after-parties are as notable as the shows.

May 25-27
Hart Plaza
Detroit, 48226 DD 
(248) 584-1646 




What with Motown, garage rock and whatever kind of music Insane Clown Posse plays, it’s easy to overlook the presence of country music in the city and its surrounding environs. But it’s a mistake to do so. The Hoedown, a three-day hootenanny hosted on the grounds surrounding Comerica Park (home of the Detroit Tigers), features local acts on the rise, national acts who’ve already figured out how to fill seats, and tons of fervent fans. The Hoedown rings in the beginning of summer with a big twang.
May 31-June 2

Grounds surrounding Comerica Park 
Detroit, 48226 DD


Let’s just call this East Side staple a cornucopia of music, culture, food and fun. Lots of outdoor jazz jams, of course, but you can also expect the lineup to include subgenres of blues, rock and maybe even a gospel revue or two. And the acts range from local favorites to nationally recognized players. Art, organic food vendors, an outdoor bar and riverfront tours round out the fest. Be sure to stay after dark and watch vacant storefronts turn into late-night pop-up jazz joints. Not to be missed.

June 14-15
Jefferson Ave. at Marlborough St.
Detroit, 48215 DD



One of the hallmarks of a city with an indefatigable thirst for music is the number of terrific venues it boasts. There’s never a shortage of national talent comin’ to town, and Detroit delivers the stages to showcase each and every one of them.

The Palace of Auburn Hills and Ford Field
Stadiums can be intimate, providing surprisingly cozy experiences for major artists. The Palace, where the Detroit Pistons play basketball, will welcome Lady Gaga (Feb. 16) and Pink (March 5) this year. When Ford Field isn’t playing home field to the Detroit Lions, big names often take to the stadium. Past acts include Taylor Swift, Kid Rock and Tim McGraw, so you can expect similar top draws in 2013.

Palace of Auburn Hills
6 Championship Drive
Auburn Hills, 48326 O
(248) 377-0100 

Ford Field
2000 Brush St. 
Detroit, 48226 DD

Saint Andrew’s Hall and The Fillmore
Where do the brightest new bands in the world play when they come to Detroit? Saint Andrew’s and The Fillmore rank high on the list. Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran plays The Fillmore on Jan. 24.


The Fillmore Detroit 
2115 Woodward
Detroit, 48201 DD 

Saint Andrew’s Hall
431 E. Congress St. 
Detroit, 48226 DD 

Joe Louis Arena 
This classic Detroit address is lauded for its fantastic sound and will play host to acts such as Rihanna (March 21) this spring. P.S. The Joe is home ice for the Detroit Red Wings, too.

19 Steve Yzerman Drive
Detroit, 48226 DD

DTE Energy Music Theatre 
Each tune played is an instant memory when heard on the hillside of this outdoor concert space that hosts pop through heavy metal headliners May-September.


7774 Pine Knob Road
Clarkston, 48348 O 
(248) 377-0100 

The Fox Theatre
Incredible décor, unforgettable experience. See musical wonders from blues/rock star Joe Bonamassa (May 3) to Experience the Beatles with RAIN (Feb. 23).


2211 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, 48201 DD




Music is as much a part of Detroit as the canals are of Venice. The natural result of this love affair is the sprouting of fresh clubs and cozy lounges all over the metro area to catch thrilling, hungry acts.

Cliff Bell’s
Old school all the way, the round table booths and dim lighting harken back to an era when jazz was king of the underworld.

2030 Park Ave.
Detroit, 48226 DD

Wildwood Friendly Tavern
Sometimes the earthy, acoustic acts are just what the musical palate thirsts for, and most great songsmiths are drawn to the mellower mood of the solo act.

46712 Hayes Road
Macomb, 48044 M 
(586) 203-8600

Tin Fish
After you have your fill of fine seafood and sirloin, grab another martini and hunker down for some intimate entertainment. Open mic nights on Thursdays are popular at this restaurant/lounge that Novi locals have named their city’s best place for live music.

Twelve Oaks Mall
27862 Novi Road
Novi, 48377 GN
(248) 344-8166

In a scene so rich, it’s hard to keep tabs on everything, but Dino’s Tuesday open mic nights bring out some of the area’s unknown pearls.

22740 Woodward Ave. 
Ferndale, 48220 O 
(248) 591-3466 


Josh Malerman is singer/songwriter/laid-back frontman of the Detroit band the High Strung, whose song The Luck You Got is the theme tune for the Showtime TV series Shameless.



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