Best of Detroit 2021 Winner Spotlight: El Club

With live performances on pause, the 2021 best club for live music figured out other ways to uplift the community
el club
Techno marching band Meute, pictured above during an October 2019 show, is among the acts that have played El Club’s stage. // Photograph by Jennifer Schmid

While El Club regulars couldn’t enjoy live shows as they did pre-pandemic, the Southwest Detroit music venue found new ways to provide joy and support to the community over the past year.

Just two weeks after Michigan went into lockdown, El Club began offering free pizza to food-insecure families. It served as a voter registration site for two days in October. Free meals were passed out on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the club hosted free COVID-19 testing between January and April. 

In return, metro Detroit stepped up to support the venue’s own efforts to stay afloat. It launched a temporary web store for merch with 100 percent of proceeds benefitting its staff of 16 — the product sold out in days.

El Club has been closed for live music, but it welcomes locals back to its space in September for a show with indie pop artist Arlo Parks. // Photograph courtesy of El Club

Locals also quickly bought up the venue’s limited-edition Vans sneaker, a collaboration with the company’s Foot the Bill pandemic relief initiative and local artist Freddy Diaz. And to get folks looking forward to its eventual return, El Club offered show packages for future performances that also sold out. 

Speaking of its return, El Club will be back with live shows in just three months, beginning with British indie pop singer-songwriter-poet Arlo Parks on Sept. 29. “This is giving me [so much] hope!” an Instagram user raved about the show. “I miss El Club, concerts, and people so much.” 

No doubt many metro Detroiters share that sentiment. 

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See who else made this year’s Best of Detroit list — our annual reader voted poll of the top things, places, and people in the metro area — here