The Ann Arbor Sampler: Detroit – The Fillmore Detroit/Flogging Molly, The Town Pump, Cafe D’Mongo

I’ve got a lot of living to do, which means getting out of the house, and heading down to the D.  Detroit has long been shat upon for its deserted streets, crime, and overall blight.  I know that’s not made up, I won’t be naive about it.  Part of the Ann Arbor Sampler project is to get around to other parts of Michigan and see it all, for the good, bad, ugly, and impressive hidden potential.  I believe Detroit has a lot of that, and I’m kind of excited to get educated about it.  In saying that, I have to give a shout out to a friend who has been harping on me for years to experience Detroit.  He knows who he is.  Sorry it took me so long!

Our night began with heavy traffic, a pleasant surprise for nighttime in the D thanks to the concert, a Redwings game, and the Detroit Auto Show.  There is a magical spark in the air that I imagine is reminiscent of Detroit’s glory days, when it was the place to see and be seen.  We skipped the street parking hunt in favor of a cozy lot across from our starter location, The Town Pump.  It wasn’t until we walked in that I realized I’ve been there before, and watched a crazy old man dance with himself in front of a mirror all night.  Priceless.  Tonight, however, the TP was filled with pre-concert/pre-hockey patrons partaking in reasonably priced pub fare.  The TP is framed with wooden walls, topped with a tin ceiling, and maybe could use just a few more seating options.  We were lucky to get one of the last corner tables that could fit more than 2 people.  I went with cheap beer and a hand spun BBQ chicken pizza.  The crust was delicious and thick, just the way I like it.  Our friends ordered a half pound burger, and the “fire chicks”, which looked a little like “Cap’n Crunch” style fried chicken on a stick.  I’ll be honest, it looked like the weakest link of our meal experience.  I did not take pictures because my focus was on the cheap beer.

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Courtesy of Michigan 1001 Daily Photos

Onward we went to our main destination, The Fillmore Detroit to take in a Flogging Molly show.  First time at the Fillmore, fourth time with Flogging Molly, I was anxious to see what kind of impression the experience would make.  After a thorough pat down at the door (prepare to have your bras snapped, ladies!) we entered the grand foyer which was grand indeed.  Originally opened in 1925 as a movie house, the Fillmore has been restored to it’s original grandeur with ornately decorated walls and ceilings, and numerous chandeliers.  My husband noted the decor’s Roman influence, but pointed out the giant suits of armor on either side of the stage might be a tad misplaced.  The theater itself was no different,  impressive with it’s tiered standing area, and a far reaching balcony with theater seating above.  It definitely won me over.

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Sweet pic, I know. This is not a photography site.

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There are lots of bars within the venue to grab an (overpriced, but what do you expect) drink, relatively clean restrooms with an attendant, and plenty of helpful yet non-overbearing security to tell you where the bathroom is.  I am already looking forward to our next show there.

When we arrived, the first thing I heard was the beautiful acoustic sounds of Dave Hause.  Immediately, I recognized his voice, likely from one of the seasonal music compilations that are created within my family every year.  My cousins are big fans, and I can see why.  Great voice, great “nostalgic” lyrics, and he also picked on someone for texting right in front of him.  I quickly put my phone away and remained nervous for the rest of his set.

Dave Hause
Dave Hause

The following opener, London-based Skinny Lister was a boisterous Irish band with a Pogues-like influence .  Although I was digging a lot of their songs, I (along with most people around me) were mostly distracted by the dancing lady flailing about on stage.  Her instrument seemed to be a giant jug, presumably filled with booze that she would wave around wildly when not doing interpretive-style dancing to each song.  We all imagined she was the girlfriend of a band member, looking for a reason to be on tour with her man.  Keep looking, honey.  Get yourself a tambourine or washboard, then let’s talk.  That’s mean, I’m sorry.  But it’s kind of true.

Skinny Lister. Guess who thinks she's the star of the show?
Skinny Lister. Guess who thinks she’s the star of the show?

When Flogging Molly finally graced the stage to the ever-rousing recording Teenage Wasteland, I was excited, despite it not being my first rodeo.  FM is an extremely ambitious group of Irish punk rockers, fronted by Dave King.  I am a little embarrassed to acknowledge that I didn’t know of their tight connection to Detroit, as it turns out Dave and his crazy-talented wife Bridget split their time between a home here, and one overseas in Ireland.  It added to the evening when Dave told the crowd he wouldn’t have to worry about driving tonight, since he’s already home.  He proceeded to take a giant swig of Guinness.  He introduced several members of his family that were present, including his father and mother-in-law, waiting in the wings.  It was nice to be included in a “hometown” show with one of my favorite bands.

Flogging Molly did not disappoint.  They played some of my favorite tunes, including all the best oldies: Drunken Lullabies, Selfish Man, The Seven Deadly Sins, Rebels of the Sacred Heart, Devil’s Dance Floor, and the one I was crossing my fingers for, Within a Mile of Home.  I can close my eyes and see my street in Buffalo as it plays.  I listen to that song, perfectly timed to end as I pull into my driveway, every time (cheese factor!!)  I was also happy to hear some of my newer favorites like Float and The Power’s Out.  For a fourth time concert, I couldn’t have been happier.  I look forward to the fifth!

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After the concert, we decided to take the five block stroll to a bar that my husband recalled having “free sloppy joes and jazz music in the corner.”  The Cafe D’Mongo Speakeasy is located in what I’d call a nook, across from a strip club and next door to Detroit’s only synagogue.  Unique!  We were greeted by a sweet older woman, who informed us that there was standing room only.  Wow, is probably the best word I have for this place.  It had character, for sure, with all kinds of dusty knick-knacks on the walls, a jumpsuit that may or may not have been worn by Michael Jackson electrical taped to the wall, and lots of pictures of the owner, who also greeted us as soon as we walked in.  Despite the obvious wear and tear on the place, it obviously has Detroit draw, packed to the gills patrons from all walks of life.  The band in the corner consisted of 3 guys, none of them particularly fancy looking, with a love of classic rock.  This was not your typical cover band people.  These guys really had heart.  I wish I could link you up to their website, but can’t find much about them anywhere!

The friendly bartenders made sure we were serviced right away, and when 2 seats finally opened at the bar, the owner quickly ushered my friend and I to have a seat.  It was a welcome seat, after hours of standing!  I could have stayed there til close.  I would absolutely return in search of the elusive free sloppy joe, which we never did find!  I’d love to find out more about this gem- their website currently seems to be down.

It’s easy to see that I loved my night out in the D.  I can’t wait to share more adventures with you in the coming months!

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