Old Miami remains unique gem for music in Detroit’s Cass Corridor

Old Miami on Cass Ave. By Erick Kiska.
Old Miami on Cass Ave. By Erick Kiska.
By Eric Kiska
Music writer

To say the least, there isn’t a shortage of nighttime activities in the Cass Corridor. You could go to the Bronx Bar for a burger and sift through one of the best jukeboxes in Detroit; you could meander to Honest John’s for a beer and a Belgian waffle, or maybe you could saunter down to Motor City Brewing Works for a tasting of some of Detroit’s best microbrews. When seeing live music, though, many agree that the Old Miami is the best small venue in the Cass Corridor.

A modest brick building with a green awning, The Old Miami was established in the late 70’s on Cass Avenue as a bar for war veterans. Miami is an acronym for “Missing in Action Michigan.” Over the years it slowly evolved into what some music critics call “The CBGB’s of the Midwest” because it attracts many of metro Detroit’s best musical acts, including the White Stripes and Rodriguez . The CBGB was a popular music club in New York City.

Remnose performs at the Old Miami. Photo By Eric Kiska.
Remnose performs at the Old Miami. Photo By Eric Kiska.

There were four bands that performed Friday night: the 80’s-synth-driven sounds of Soft White, the indie-rock-blues echoes of Remnose, the “folked up” interplay of Woven Tangles and the “chamber pop” of Eleanora. Metro Detroiters savored the wonderful atmosphere of this cozy neighborhood bar.

Old war memorabilia, posters, photographs, trophies and relics of the past create the decor of the Old Miami. There’s a stage, a dance floor and a lounge area fully-loaded with T.V.’s, pinball machines, a pool table, a fireplace and grungy couches that you’d probably find in your average college kid’s basement.

They also have a spacious backyard filled with medieval gargoyles, statues of angels, another bar, a patio, a pond, and a campfire space while Detroit’s best food trucks cater to the customers on weekends.

Since the inside of the bar is a bit cramped, the acoustics were muddied, but not enough to ruin the music. The band Eleanora proved they could conquer any setting with the soothingly soulful vocal harmonies of Leah Elizabeth Dunstan and Julia Stephenson.

Remnose was also an act to write home about. Their most recent album “For the Birds” is an intriguing exploration into the indie-rock folk-blues territory. Marlon Morton’s somber, crooning voice and guitar style is brilliantly bone-chilling at times. In an interview with Real Detroit Weekly, they described their sound as “if you were drunk-star gazing, on a rowboat, floating somewhere out in Lake Superior.” I’d agree with that description.

Although younger people have started to come to the Old Miami for its atmosphere and music, Vietnam veterans and older metro Detroiters still frequent the place. The bar has become known for its diverse crowds where folks of all ages enjoy cheap drinks and live music.

There is no doubt, The Old Miami is a unique gem in the Detroit bar scene. You can keep up with their schedule for live music on their Facebook page.

Other stories in the series:

Eric Kiska

Eric Kiska graduated from Northern Michigan with a BS in English and writing and minor in art and design. He’s also a former video editor at Detroit Public TV.

  • Smartest OneHere

    Great place!

  • Tim Burke

    My Uncle Joe Burke Used to Bartend there back in the day.