Aside from being known as the Motor City, Detroit is also commonly known as Motown, named after the famous music genre born here. Rock n’ roll fans know Detroit as Detroit Rock City, and every rock band loves coming to The D to play for Detroiters.
And although it isn’t as well known, Detroit is the birthplace of techno. Basically, if you love music, you’ll love Detroit. From amazing concert venues to Detroit-born artists, here’s everything you need to know about Detroit’s musical side.
Ford Field is where the big name artists go. Think Taylor Swift, Beyonce & Jay-Z, and Kenny Chesney almost every summer. It’s the biggest concert venue in Detroit. Although the historic Fox Theatre hosts more plays, you can still catch several big name acts on their beautiful stage. The Fillmore Detroit plays host to many big-name indie bands and up-and-coming artists, and it’s right next to the Fox Theatre. The new Little Caesars Arena has become extremely popular among performers and bands. It’s one of those venues where any seat is a good seat. Justin Timberlake, Travis Scott, Fleetwood Mac and Elton John have all recently performed here. Even our baseball field, Comerica Park, hosts its share of musical acts. Zac Brown Band, Def Leppard, Journey, Metallica and The Rolling Stones have all performed on the same field that the Detroit Tigers play. And the Masonic Temple was recently rescued from demolition by Jack White of the White Stripes. The theater currently sees a lot of electronic and R&B acts.
There are also several smaller Detroit venues that get a lot of love from touring acts. Chene Park Amphitheatre, now known as Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, is right on the Detroit River, allowing you to watch many throwback acts from the grass or on a boat, if you have access to one. St. Andrew’s Hall in Greektown is where you go if you want to know who the next big names in music will be. Tickets are reasonable here, and it’s general admission. The Magic Stick, at the Majestic complex in Midtown, started hosting bands in the 90s when owners removed some of the bowling lanes from the space and added pool tables and a dance floor. The space is perfect for hosting garage, alt rock and electronic bands. One of the lesser known – but equally cool – venues in Detroit is El Club in Southwest Detroit. They host unique parties but also upcoming musical acts.
Aside from all of the Motown artists (we’ll get to that soon), there are quite a few artists that have hailed from the Motor City. Rapper Eminem is one of the bigger names, and he supports Detroit in all of his work. Madonna is from the metro Detroit suburb of Rochester Hills. Kid Rock is from Romeo, and Bob Seger was born in Detroit and grew up nearby in Ann Arbor. One of the newer rock bands to the scene, Greta Van Fleet, was born not far from metro Detroit in Frankenmuth. They frequently play special shows for their Detroit fans.
3. The History of Motown
Motown, both the record label and the style of music, was started by Detroiter Berry Gordy, who created Hitsville U.S.A. on West Grand Boulevard. Diana Ross & the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips (do we need to keep going?) all got their start at Motown. And many of them grew up in the neighborhood. Aretha Franklin also lived in the neighborhood, but she didn’t technically record music for Motown.
The studio is now home to the Motown Museum, which is one of the most unique museum experiences in the country. Aside from learning the full history of Motown, you can literally walk through Berry Gordy’s home and stand in the studio where some of your favorite Motown hits were created. It’s a not-to-be-missed experience.
All of those bass and electronic beats that you hear at night clubs were started in Belleville by three high schoolers, and local DJ The Electrifying Mojo, in the early 1980s. Today, Detroit hosts the annual Movement Electronic Music Festival over Memorial Day weekend. Techno fans from all over the globe come to town to see their favorite acts in the city that the genre was created.
5. Detroit Music Festivals
As mentioned earlier, Movement Electronic Music Festival is hosted in Hart Plaza every year on Memorial Day weekend. On the other end of summer during Labor Day weekend, annual music events include the Detroit Jazz Festival in downtown Detroit and Arts, Beats & Eats in Royal Oak. The Detroit Jazz Fest has had Esperanza Spalding and Chick Corea perform in the past. And past performers at Arts, Beats & Eats include Kip Moore, Eddie Money, the B52’s, Montgomery Gentry, The Isley, Martina McBride, Rick Springfield and more. This Royal Oak festival is always a rockin’ good time. In July, the west riverfront welcomes music’s favorite alternative and indie acts to Detroit for Mo Pop Festival. Past acts include Bon Iver, The National, St. Vincent, Portugal, The Man, Tyler the Creator, Brockhampton, Alt-J, Solange and so many more. And new to the music scene is the Detroit Music Weekend. It started in 2017 in downtown Detroit with headliner Aretha Franklin in one of her last performances. The festival hopes to grow more and more each year.