Revived Magic Stick relaunches with UK’s Buzzcocks

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

Detroiters will finally get to experience the newly revived Magic Stick when the venue officially reopens for business Friday with a launch party featuring U.K. punk legends Buzzcocks.

When the Majestic Theater Complex announced in July that the Magic Stick would return this fall, there was plenty of room for skepticism. In spring 2015, the beloved rock venue was converted into an ill-fated electronic dance club, Populux, which closed its doors in July after a series of racially charged tweets appeared on its Twitter feed, drawing national attention. Investigations by Wayne County’s internet crime task force and the FBI are still underway to determine the source of the messages.

The venue’s transition left many Detroit music fans and bands feeling betrayed. The Hard Lessons’ lead singer Augie Visocchi told The Detroit News in July that while he has had “some of his best nights” in the club, he has “... kind of let the Magic Stick go.”

Magic Stick manager Dave Zainea and his partner Dan McGowan, of the Crofoot Presents, said they are confident Detroit’s music scene will re-embrace the venue when they see the new improvements made over the past two months.

Major upgrades, including a colorful paint scheme, vintage Magic Stick concert posters and ticket stubs, new floors and walls, renovated bathrooms, a bigger stage and a new green room with a shower for performers, are intended to give the space a more inviting feel, McGowan says.

“Overall the place is substantially cleaner than it used to be, but it still has the sort of classic Magic Stick look and feel,” McGowan says. “I think people will be really excited to come check it out.”

The venue faces competition from several new rock venues which have popped up in the Stick’s wake over the last year, including Corktown’s UFO Factory, southwest Detroit’s El Club and New Center’s Marble Bar. But Zainea says he thinks there’s room for one more.

“If we can emulate scenes like Nashville and Austin and have a density of clubs, it only helps promote live music,” Zainea says. “It increases awareness, and it builds a higher volume of people being attracted to live music.”

Pontiac’s the Crofoot and the Majestic Complex have a business partnership designed to find the right neighborhood and performance space for the bands they book, McGowan says. And having the Magic Stick back in business allows them to transfer shows to the smaller room, if needed. For instance, a show by the band of Montreal was moved after lower than expected ticket sales to the Magic Stick, opening before the official launch party scheduled this weekend.

McGowan and Zainea say Buzzcocks are the perfect band to kick off the rebranded Magic Stick. With the band’s legendary status and high-energy shows, the performances hopefully will remind audiences of the venue’s glory days.

Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle, a founding member of the band that has been around 40 years, says the group today is playing to increasingly younger and more enthusiastic audiences. That blessing doesn’t come without its problems, though. The band’s 2006 show at The Shelter in Detroit was fraught with tension between new and veteran fans, and lead singer Pete Shelley threatened to walk off the stage if the audience didn’t behave.

Diggle says even though Buzzcocks shows bring out “the best, and the worst” of their fans, being able to see how the music affects new generations keeps them going.

“I’m looking at a different audience every night, and we’re getting a different vibe in a different room,” he says. “That keeps you fresh and alive. You’ve got the band and the audience, and in the middle is the third. That’s the place where you can see god, the devil, or anything else. That’s the unification of the band and the audience: The magic.”

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

‘The Official Magic Stick Kickoff Party’

with Buzzcocks

Residuels and Deviant Ones

8 p.m. Fri.

The Magic Stick

4120 Woodward, Detroit

Tickets $25 in advance, $28 at the door

(313) 833-9700