Some time ago it was suggested by my S.O. that we go see the Rolling Stones; we pulled the trigger. May is a self-confessed fan, and hitting this show would be a dream come true for her. And for myself, as a fan of music in general, it would be a chance to witness legendary greatness. We got out of work on Tuesday and cruised right on over to Detroit.
We arrived to the Motor City Casino sometime after midnight, and went to walk the gambling floor. We deserved some drinks after the long haul in the car, though we both managed to refrain from donating our money to the house. That next morning is when the tourism really kicked off. May insisted that the purpose of this trip was to see the Stones, and not pack the day full of everything else (as I tend to do). That said, we did still maximize our time.
Our first stop was to Astro Coffee, where the former barista and I settled in for some hipster drip and a healthy breakfast. We took it slow, enjoyed the distinct flavors of our coffees, and started to plan out the rest of the day. We coordinated to meet with a good friend of mine from my Japan days, and to make a quick jaunt over to Canada. With plans set, we left to explore Corktown.
The effect of Detroit’s shrinking population and ensuing debt crisis was apparent everywhere. Although the towering skyscrapers could be seen just a mile or so away, there were enormous swathes of empty green space where buildings had once stood. One of our stops was to the former Tigers Stadium, site of their 1984 World Series win. The building was torn down to make room for…nothing, and now all that remains is a rusticated ball diamond and unkempt vegetation. We did a little shopping before working our way down to gawk at what epitomizes Detroit’s post-apocalyptic vibe – Michigan Central Station. This awesome old building was built in 1913, closed down in 1988, and now stands as a monument to the glory days gone by. There have been numerous proposals for how to redevelop and re-purpose the structure, but nothing has yet materialized.
After a bit we connected with Saad and got in the line to go to Canada. They weren’t able to stamp our passports, but I was able to add a couple of notes to my currency collection. Our first order of business was getting food. This was Canada of course, so naturally we stopped for kebabs. To May’s and my delight, they also had poutine on the menu which is actually a Quebec staple. None of us had had it before, but this was the only ‘Canadian’ dish they had, so we gave it a whirl. They unfortunately dressed it with the less authentic shredded cheese, rather than the curds that should adorn the schlopp. We did at least add some flair to the meal by washing the grease down with Canada Dry. For the record, this dish essentially consists of french fries, gravy, and cheese. Savory yes, but one could not possibly finish it all without experiencing a complete degradation of self down to ‘louche status’.
We went on over to the Canadian Club distillery for a tour. None of us had a particular fondness for their whiskey, but it was something to do. It wound up being a very informative historical tour that brought us through a mansion and explained the origins of the company. Thanks to prohibition in the ’20s there were plenty of ties to the mob, and there was even a room set up for Al Capone. Ask me if you’d like to hear the origin of the phrase ‘the real McCoy’, or where the word cocktail comes from. As you can clearly see, Saad and I were having a great time! At the end of the tour, we did have the opportunity to do some tasting. We were offered their newest Canada-only Maple infused whiskey, and also a higher-end rye variety. Both were good, and I was pleased to find that they had poured a few too many samples…
We finished up our tour and meandered on back to the USA for dinner. Slow’s BBQ had a superb selection of [Michigan] beers, and according to Saad, the best food around. May and I each wisely went with the brisket, and Saad opted for some lame sandwich, but the beauty of the meal was in all of the sides that came with it. They had six sauces at that made each bite a different experience.
Stuffed, we bid adieu to Saad and transitioned into the next stage of the evening, which truly was the purpose for our coming all the way out here – it was time for The Rolling Stones! May had long wanted this experience, and it fell on me to make it happen. We started by working towards Comerica Park, at which point we had to get a concert T. I didn’t mind, but the 40 minutes that it took felt a bit excessive. The shirts were Detroit-specific, and made for a pretty cool souvenir. The excitement you see us wearing is from having finally escaped the shirt queue, and in anticipation of our pre-concert visit to the Detroit Beer Company. We made it in just as Walk the Moon was playing their lone hit ‘Shut up and Dance’.
There were certainly some loonies seated around us – people who had been in the concert game for far too long. Soon enough, the lights dimmed, and the first notes ripped across the sound system. It was hard to believe that these legends were actually there before us. Their plan was to play music from the Sticky Fingers album, a Motown cover, a few by Keith Richards, and then that smattering of hits that they couldn’t possible ignore. I had done some homework in the weeks before to familiarize myself with the album, but was amazed at how many of the songs I knew. Mick must have changed what he was wearing at least 8 times throughout the show.
Prior to the show, my dad had mentioned that he was at their ‘Farewell Tour’ back in ’82, and now 33 years later they are still just going for it. Spindly Mick moved around a bit like he was wearing heels, but still far more spryly than any other 72 year old I know. At one point he mentioned that this was their 9th time through Detroit, with the first being 51 years earlier, back in 1964! They certainly wont be going for another 50, so getting such a legendary show under out belts now was a great call. They closed out with ‘Satisfaction’, and these happy concertgoers definitely got some.
With the fun over, all that remained was navigating the crowds and dark Detroit streets back to the car. We stopped for some munchies and soda to keep up us up and running, and then at 1am finally began our return to Chicago. Both May and I were ecstatic about work the next morning, but by putting up with some mere exhaustion saved ourselves us the utter waste of taking another valuable vacation day. Traffic was sparse throughout the wee hours, so we made good time. We even managed a couple hours of sleep before having to report for duty. It’s amazing how much can be packed into 36 hours.