Tag Archives: outdoor movies

DETROIT: Old Skool Chillin’ ….

16 Jul


There’s nothing like a Summer night in the city; the sun has set beyond the skyscrapers, the temperature has dropped only slightly, the concrete tightly grips the heat. Out of nowhere a slight breeze ruffles the leaves of trees planted along the streets, it is a welcome gesture. The season is short, we are drawn outdoors to soak it up, we will remember it fondly come January. It is Wednesday evening, Movie Night at New Center Park, tonight we are seeing PSYCHO! We pass through the park gate and grab ourselves chairs, we scan the area and choose where to sit, dusk is falling. New Center Park opened as an outdoor concert, activity and concession venue on the corner of Second Ave and W Grand Blvd in 2010, it was an instant hit. The indoor concession area offers a bar, restrooms and a small amount of seating. A patio off to the right offers menu choices such as popcorn, hot dogs, hamburgers and Better Made potato chips. We are starving, I follow the scent of food and place my order at the outdoor cash register, in an instant both a veggie patty and a burger are placed on the sizzling grates of a grill. While I wait for the food Kris goes indoors for drinks, we arrive at an open table about the same time. We dress our burgers with condiments and vegetables, we share bags of BBQ and Sour Cream & Chive chips; dinner under the stars.

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The movie begins just as we finish our meal, we take our seats in the orange folding chairs we had placed on the grass earlier. The sloping lawn has become dense with blankets and chairs, viewers are quiet, all eyes are glued to the big screen. It is 1960, Janet Leigh appears onscreen as Marion Crane, a mild-mannered secretary employed  by a real estate company.  Regarded as one of Hitchcock’s best films, he creates a great sense of tension and doom as Marion flees Phoenix with $40,000.  The Fisher Building’s Golden Tower is aglow, it watches over us as the infamous “shower scene” takes place, it’s even scarier on the big screen. I had forgotten the iconic scene takes place so early in the movie, the close-ups are unnerving. We anxiously follow the characters quest to solve the mystery of what happened to Marion, in the final scene Marion’s car is being pulled from the swamp. Janet Leigh won the Golden Globe that year for Best Supporting Actress. As the credits roll the crowd begins to disperse, we have only a short walk to our next destination.

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Northern Lights Lounge is just around the corner on Baltimore. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be surprising to find us here on a Wednesday night, NLL is one of our favorite spots to catch Jazz in the city. Home to live music every evening, each night features a different genre; tonight is Str8 Jazz No Chaser, don’t you just love Wednesday’s? Inside, the bar is done up in funky light fixtures, groovy furniture, knotty pine paneling and glass block windows; it captures the hip, cool style of the 60’s, I think I just saw Joe Mannix walk by…. The music is in full swing, the stage, crowded with visiting musicians. Plates filled with burgers, nachos, seasoned fries and their quasi-famous chicken strips fly by; several steps above your average bar fare, we often partake. Finding an open table near the back, we order drinks, an apple martini and VO & diet will soon arrive. 

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The Mike Jellick Trio consists of pianist Mike Jellick, bassist Miles Brown and Drummer Jesse Kramer, you can find them here each Wednesday beginning at 9pm. The group mainly plays great Jazz standards from days gone by. A song begins, it is easily recognizable, then we are taken on a musical joyride lasting a dozen or so minutes, ending up right back where we started. The musicians are extremely talented, their play looks natural, effortless. Tables near the stage are becoming crowded with hopeful musicians. The trio play the first set exclusively, after that there is an open invitation for others to take the stage. Each session is unique, some nights the horns rule, it is not uncommon to see a flute or guitar added to the mix, on rare occasions we are treated to a vocalist. The music is always top-shelf, Detroit is home to a multitude of fabulous musicians. If you are a fan of old Motown tunes, be sure to stop in on a Tuesday evening, former Funk Brothers studio band member Dennis Coffey will astound you with his guitar-playing skills. Blues more your thing? Thursday is the night for you. Great music, chill atmosphere, delicious food, what more could you want?

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New Center Park, Hot Club of Detroit, The Bronx Bar

6 Sep


Detroit’s newest entertainment venue is New Center Park, located across from the fabulous Fisher Building on West Grand Blvd and Second Ave, this outdoor urban space is delightful! We went down for the Thursday Jazz & Blues; arriving about 10 minutes before the 6pm start time, street parking was plentiful, and there was no lack of wide open lawn seating. Orange folding chairs are available for your use, many bring their own or simply spread out a blanket. The amphitheater like park can easily accommodate hundreds on the gently sloping lawn. Tall trees provide needed shade while planters filled with flowers add color to the landscape, historic buildings make an eye catching backdrop for it all. Activity surrounds the park, cars drive up and down the boulevard, dogs are being walked by owners curious to see what the all the activity is about, nurses from nearby Henry Ford Hospital have a listen and a snack before heading home.

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Hot Club of Detroit was the evenings entertainment, they are incredible! Their music is pure pleasure for your ears, to watch them play a thrill for your eyes, the guitarists play with amazing speed. They had a female vocalist join them for this performance; she sang in french as her crystal clear voice got carried away in the gentle wind of the summer evening. It was one of those blistering hot days that transforms into a perfect night; cool grass beneath your feet, intoxicating music filling the air, time passes easily.

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Opposite the stage is a bar; enclosed on all sides by glass doors this paprika colored room offers bar and table seating, restrooms are found here too. The alfresco cafe menu is perfect for the venue; appetizers like chips and salsa, crudites and dip or hummus with pita wedges, also available are four sandwiches, salads and nachos, and of course a full bar. Food and beverage purchases are what support the facility and allow all the entertainment to be FREE, no coolers here. New Center Park hosts a variety of events such as the Wednesday Lunch Series, Wednesday Night At The Movies, and Thursday Jazz and Blues, check the website for details.

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The Bronx Bar is a Midtown mainstay, located on Second Ave, word is they have great burgers. It was still kind of early for the bar crowd to file in, so we thought we’d drop in. Walking in your  immediate observation will be that it is dark, very dark, but once your eyes adjust you notice the personality of the place; vintage ceramic tile covers the walls, the wood is stained dark and varnished in high gloss. Posters of Jean Harlow and Raquel Welch compete for every males attention. Tiffany lamps hang from the ceiling providing only dim light. The side by side jukeboxes are legendary for the wide variety of music selections.  Order at the bar and then have a seat, wanting to soak up as much of the pleasant evening as possible we sat outside. Before long our food arrived; a club sandwich with turkey shaved thin and piled high, crispy bacon, mayo, lettuce and tomato served on a delicious bun. The blackbean burger was out of this world; a slice of pepperjack cheese to give it a kick, next a stack of spinach then topped off with sliced ripe tomato, a wonderful mix of flavors. Unable to decide between fries and onion rings we got a half order of each; the fries were fresh cut, crispy and delicious, the onion rings were the small rings fried to a perfect crunch. Definitely a step above your average “bar food”, many items are homemade. Bronx is within walking distance to Wayne State and seems to be a popular hang out for students and hipsters alike. Most weekends you can’t even get in the place, if it seems like someplace you’d like to try I’d say the earlier the better. Prices are fair, portions are good and the bartender was helpful and friendly. 

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