Jun 7 2014
My four examples start close to home.
When the 10th annual Steel Bridge Songfest happens June 12-15 in Sturgeon Bay, most performances occur in or near the 18-room Holiday Music Motel, whose cubist design, neon signage, glass-block windows and retro furnishings remain true to its 1952 construction.
Inside, that means rotary phones, Simmons metal furniture and color schemes (peachy pink, minty green) popular during the 1950s. Room rates include free bowling at Cherry Lanes and continental breakfast, served in a sleek little diner with an orange counter and upholstered green stools.
Working musicians gain a lodging discount, on the second floor is a recording studio, and the motel’s owners include pop rocker Jackson Browne.
Music jam sessions happen in the roomy lobby on Wednesdays, and Thursdays are open mic nights for the spoken word, poetry to comedy. Add occasional house concerts in that recording studio, which seats up to 50.
Innkeepers are Purgatory Hill performers Melaniejane and Pat mAcdonald (formerly with Timbuk3) broadcast original music and musician interviews at steelbridgeradio.com.
Holiday Music Motel, 30 N. First Ave., Sturgeon Bay, faces the Michigan Street Bridge. Room rates are as low as $49 in winter. holidaymusicmotel.com, 920-743-5571
The Steel Bridge Songfest began as a way to fight for Michigan Street Bridge preservation, and now the 1930 bridge is on the National Register for Historic Places. Festival earnings support people who perform original music.
A $25 festival ticket provides access to 175 acts at a dozen Sturgeon Bay venues during four days. steelbridgesongfest.org, 920-559-0384
About 1,200 miles south of Door County is Blue Moon Saloon and Guesthouse, where Cajun and zydeco music draws lively crowds, and lots of dancing happens under a tin roof on the back porch on most Wednesdays through Sundays.
Non-dancers swig beer and sit or lean on wooden planks that flank the open-air dance floor. This two-story honky tonk is in an average neighborhood, and across the street is the world’s last Borden’s ice cream parlor, around since 1940. Not a bad place to land when in need of a break from music in tight quarters.
Accommodations resemble a hostel; that means paying $18 for a bunk bed in a shared room, or upwards of $75 for privacy. Rates include free admission to watch musicians, a free drink, kitchen access and a used book exchange.
“Yes, it’s LOUD – you’ll think the band is IN your room,” an online explanation concedes, but saloon music typically ends around midnight and “it’s always good.” bluemoonpresents.com, 877-766-2583
The Rex Hotel, which some polls rank as Toronto’s top jazz club, is a quick walk from the downtown of Ontario’s capital and lots less expensive than waterfront venues.
Owner Bob Ross offers his stage to high school jazz ensembles as well as the music world’s heavyweights: Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Elling, Harry Connick Jr., Joshua Redman and more.
Indoors, the vibe is casual-cool, respectful and down-to-earth. Upstairs, simple lodging in 12 rooms is a good match for music lovers and budget travelers. It’s been that way for at least 40 years.
The 501 Queen, the longest streetcar route operating in North America, stops in front of The Rex. Riding the 15-mile line is an excellent way to get acquainted with Toronto’s diverse neighborhoods.
Across the street from jazz club are Friendly Stranger, a cannabis shop, and the Condom Shack – so it’s not a boring neighborhood and can sound a little wild late at night. That’s not because of The Rex; although music begins as early as noon on weekends, it ends by midnight.
Overnight rates begin at $85, with shared bathroom, and $100 for a private bathroom. In the music club is a restaurant whose specialty is burgers and pub grub; breakfast is available to overnight guests. therex.ca, 416-598-2475
Ground Zero, when you’re in Clarksdale, Miss., brings on the blues – in a good way. The music club, in a former warehouse for cotton grading, takes credit for being where blues music was born. It is next to the Delta Blues Museum downtown, and native sons include Muddy Waters.
Locally to nationally known musicians play at Ground Zero on most nights, and the blues club restaurant serves plate lunches of traditional southern dishes. That means catfish, barbecue, turnip greens, black-eyed peas and – for dessert – pecan pie, magnolia ice cream or fried cream cake.
Upstairs are eight stylish and roomy apartments for travelers; each accommodates up to four (“you can’t let someone sleep on the couch,” the innkeepers warn). Rates are $125 to $175 per night, with discounts for staying longer than one week.
The population of Clarksdale is a mere 18,000, but music has long placed this town on the map. It has gained attention from the Food Network to the Travel Channel. Music ends by 11 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. groundzerobluesclub.com, 662-621-9009