Punk in the Motor City:
At Home at the 2500 Club

by
Agent Automatic

 

 

Although Detroit is known for the Motown Sound, R&B and Hip Hop it also has a seminal, if sometimes ignored, punk history. Legendary acts like Iggy and the Stooges and the MC 5 came from this area. For a time it seemed there might not be much demand for punk in the Motor City. The demise of The Gold Dollar and Lili's 21 were indicative of a shrinking interest in the form, but punk goes in and out of fashion, experiencing something more akin to regeneration than rebirth.

While it seemed there might not be much demand for punk in the Motor City after the demise of The Gold Dollar and Lili's 21, a number of newer punk bars have opened and much like in the late '80's they book many of the same acts and even compete for bands. The Old Miami, one of the original Detroit punk bars, still holds its own in this game. The Lager house has been booking punk acts for a number of years (absorbing much of the clientele of the Gold Dollar when it closed). The new kid on the scene is the nascent 2500 Club, which leaves one to ask if this new club is meeting a demand or driving the market through the shrewd appearance of demand?

The 2500 Club is located across the freeway from the bright lights of Mike Ilitch's urban amusement park empire. It sits nestled across the street from the Detroit Cab depot, in a part of town cross-crossed by freeways and abandoned high rises. As such it reminds me a bit of the location shots from Fight Club. Much like Leland City Club, The 2500 Club does not advertise, so its patrons are generally those who have been told about the bar or have stumbled across it accidentally. In what has become a Detroit punk tradition, The 2500 Club is located in what was previously a dive sports bar and some of the memorabilia from this era remains. Instead of opting for a new paint job, The 2500 Club kept its old sign, crossing out the word, "Sports" and spray painting "Punk" underneath it.

"The 2500 Club is an extension of my house" says manager Jeff Hilling, and if this is the case then he is undeniably the unholy love child of John Waters and Tura Satana (the lead vixen in Russ Meyers' Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill). Posters of the Plasmatics, Cramps, and GBH line the walls and a statue of the Virgin Mary sits on the back porch. Jeff is a horror film maven and he'll often run fetish films from the 60s and 70s along with drive-in movies on televisions set up around the bar. The 2500 Club is a shot and a beer joint that prides itself on having some of the cheapest drinks around. They've had mud wrestling out in back by the Burly Girly Wrestlers, and they've held fund-raisers for cancer patients and the Detroit Derby Girls.

Jeff has a quick wit and is not afraid to put surly customers in their place. While he doesn't own the club, Jeff is what drives it to excess, booking local bands and pushing the Detroit scene.

"I'll book almost any band provided that they are independent and do not perform cover songs or techno. I hate electronic music. If you want to do cover songs then do them at some white trash bar in the suburbs."

For such a young guy, Jeff has a surprising "no bullshit" approach to running the club and denies having a vision for this bar, insisting instead that he "just runs it day to day." Jeff has worked in over a half dozen bars, and after spending time in Memphis returned to Detroit.

I asked Jeff is there is one thing he doesn't allow at his club, to which he replied, "Yeah, no fucking in the bathrooms!"

Surprisingly this has been a perennial problem at the 2500 Club. An investigative trip to the men's room revealed its coital appeal to be roughly on par with having a serial killer axe their way into your bedroom. It occurred to me after I interviewed Jeff that he should put up a sign; perhaps a silhouette of a Mohawked couple next to a urinal, joined at the crotch, bisected by a diagonal red line.

It is not uncommon to see folks at the 2500 Club dressed as aliens, wearing glam makeup or costumes from the 1970s. Occasionally, a homeless person will wander in and drink from discarded beer bottles. Overall, Jeff does his best to keep crack zombies out of the bar. The crowd is often made up of musicians, scenesters, (yes you, swine!) and some of the old 2500 crowd, from before its transition to punk. Similarly, this eclecticism is embodied in the bands that Jeff books: Nuke and the Living Dead, the Amino Acids and Death in Custody. I've witnessed The Wildly infectious surf sounds of The Breakers who play the theme from Peter Gun and James Bond along with Secret Agent Man and Rock Lobster. They're also known for a riotous rendition of the classic surf tune Misirlou, popularized in Tarantino's Pulp fiction.

Some of the bands that play at the 2500 Club remain from the early days of Detroit Punk when bands played at venues like The Hungry Brain and The Greystone. The Hillside Stranglers (with Wally Cravens and Laci from the 80's hardcore scene) and Country Bob and The Blood Farmers play the 2500 Club.

These days the concept of punk is about as mercurial as the idea of selling out. Because the 2500 Club is owned by the same people as the posh Agave restaurant it is fundamentally different from Blondies, which was owned by the alleged Czechoslovakian gangster Ruzvelt.

I mention Blondies because it is the 80's punk bar I'm most familiar with from back in the days of Disgust, Full Circle, and SBLC.

Fortunately, The 2500 Club is more benign than the punk clubs of yore, some of which worked really hard at screwing bands out of their cash. Whether you go there for a fundraiser, cheap drinks or great music remember, the first rule of the 2500 Club is, you don't fuck in the bathrooms.

2500 Club
2506 Parke Ave. at Henry 1 block N of I-75
Detroit, Michigan 48202
(313)962-9077


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