BBQ Nation - Metro Detroit, Michigan

Hanging On Detroit's East Side

DETROIT - IN 2020 the music scene is filled with autotune, synth sounds, and Rap. We have boy bands, and Disney radio and cheeky pop tunes to fill up our ear drums. The dangerous days of rock and roll seem to be something distant and the subject of documentaries. There seems to be very little danger in the rock music element to the point where it almost missed. The Tonight Show even welcomed The Replacements to appear live on stage after they were banned from 30 Rock. Its as if the public was homesick to see a sense of real trouble and danger in their entertainment.

Harpos was for anyone who wants to experience a real unpretentious rock and roll. Located on the East side of Detroit Harpos served as a home base for Heavy Metal and real rock acts that didn't compromise. Over the years some of Rock's biggest acts played there including u2, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, Molly Hatchet, Saxxon, Nightranger and so on. It was built in 1939 and was originally a movie theater that was converted into a rock and roll club in 1974. It was always considered a rough area and people have been carjacked in the parking lot. There was a famous murder there across the street when Steven Krass from the Fiesty Cadavers was gunned down in 1994.

My memories of it are both humorous and a bit deadly. A buddy of mine had a stash of beer in our car and decided to take a break and drink it between sets. We got our hand stamped and surprisingly the staff let us out. This was in the middle of winter on a cold January night and we were pretty out of our heads. We decided to take a piss and walked up to the side of the building and do our business. Two cops snuck up behind us and pointed guns at our heads and said: "Whip it out and you're dead!". At first, I thought we were being mugged by the locals and I didn't get that they were police. As I stood there with my hands over my head and holding in my urine I could hear their walkie talkies hissing and I relaxed a bit. The cop was disappointed that we weren't buying and selling drugs and didn't even write us a ticket. The cops walked back to their cruiser and crunched through the icy snow and took off.

While we were standing there silently thanking God we felt like we were being watched. Sure enough, we were. As we turned to face our next encounter there stood a Little Ceasers cashier in full regalia and a big floppy red chef hat. This was at midnight in sub-zero temperature and he wasn't wearing a coat. He stood and stared at us and finally spoke and said "Do you guys have five bucks?". Dude, what the fuck? We told him no and he just kind of stood there. We didn't hear him come up either and he finally turned around and walked back to his store.

Another Night The Whole Gang Went Out

Right before I graduated college a bunch of my buddies went down to Harpos to hear some bands. They had really cheap beer prices and that was a big hit with the guys. The pitchers were tiny but we didn't mind and sat up in the balcony and listened to the DJ play tunes. I remember the song "Whoop There It Is" and The Cult "She Sells Sanctuary". At some point, I decided to jump on the cheesy Saturday Night Fever lit up the dance floor. My friends were all supposed to get up and follow me down and rock out to the ear pounding music. On the way down the stairs, I stumbled on the last few steps and then tripped over the raised dance floor and slid across it on my belly. I realized I was all by myself and when I looked up at the balcony my buddies were all looking down at me pointing and laughing. Thanks, buddies. That was hilarious.

We started doing shots and they were distributing them on what looked like a barbers chair. You had to sit in this old rickety metal chair and then some girl would shove shots down your gullet. I did two of them and noticed that the woman who served me was wearing a white Patti Smith wife-beater shirt, had no breasts and had long scraggly hair. I informed my pals that this was the ugliest girl I had ever seen and they laughed and told me it was a guy. As I stumbled around in the spacious pit the band took an intermission. The club was putting on an "all-male hot bun contest". As I looked up I was being mooned by a dozen long-haired Heavy Metal guys. Great night.

Recently I had heard another story about this place. The New York-based Fleshtones played at Harpos to an empty room. According to the guitarist Keith Streng there was only one person at this Detroit location. He sat way in the back of the club at a table sipping his beer. The Fleshtones always give it there all no matter how many people are in the audience. This guy gets up and walks over across the spacious hall space up to the stage where singer Peter Zaremba is performing. He then takes his two hands and flicks off the singer and tells him "You suck". Not only is it a rough place but this is a rough crowd.

Harpos is a classic Detroit environment for people who like their rock and roll rough and real. Now we have newer venues to see shows right in the downtown area of Detroit such as Motor City Casino, Little Caesars Arena, and Saint Andrews Hall. You can even see big rock and roll acts at Comerica Park and have security and good parking. All of this is designed to get you in and out of the city safely and its made quite an improvement. I don't have too many gritty rock experiences anymore like the Harpos and CBGB days. But I do look back on them with a certain fondness, laughter, and hold them dear to my heart.

See QUEENSRYCHE Live at Harpos - 1984

See GWAR Live at Harpos - 2014


See SLIPNOT Live at Harpos - 1999





Harpos Detroit | Punk Rock| Detroit Rock and Roll | Harper Avenue Harpos| Detroit Entertainment| The Fleshtones| Heavy Metal Judas Priest| u2| Molly Hatchet, Iron Maiden, Saxxon| Hot Metro Finds

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