Skip to site content
Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader Group Travel Leader

Hear it live

Courtesy Detroit Metro CVB

Visit a jazz club in New Orleans and you’ll hear more than just music — the sounds that float through the air carry the soul of the city.

The Big Easy is one of many destinations in the United States that is easily identified by its music. Like Motown in Detroit; Portland, Oregon’s indie scene; and the rich country tradition of Renfro Valley, Ky., New Orleans enjoys a thriving music tradition that speaks to the essence of its local culture.

For travelers, live music can make a great introduction to new cities. For a lively evening of entertainment, consider catching a concert when your group visits these great music destinations.

In the middle of the last century, Detroit made its mark on the nation’s music scene as the birthplace of Motown. Since then, the city has continued to produce popular artists, among them Kid Rock and the White Stripes. Today, visitors can enjoy the city’s musical past and present at museums, performance venues and festivals.

Many groups start at the Motown Historical Museum.

“It’s very popular,” said Jennifer Petrous, international sales manager for the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s the original recording studio — Studio A — where hundreds of Motown hits were created. You can tour the studio, and even sing a bit as a group inside.”

Many live performance venues around the city feature artists that perform Motown-style music, as well as soul, gospel, and rhythm and blues. Baker’s Keyboard Lounge and Cliff Bell’s both feature nightly entertainment and the space to easily accommodate a group.

Several annual music festivals in Detroit also make great opportunities for group visits.

“The most music-oriented festival is the Detroit Jazz Festival over Labor Day weekend,” Petrous said. “It’s the largest free jazz festival in the world, and we get top recording artists from all over the world.”

—  —

Portland, Ore.
One city that has gained recent notoriety as a music destination is Portland, Ore., where a growing community of independent (or “indie”) artists enjoy the good vibrations of this environmentally conscious city. Venues throughout town give these bands great places to highlight their unique sounds.

“The Doug Fir is a popular venue with the indie scene,” said Greg Eckhart, tourism sales manager for Travel Portland. “It’s a really unique venue that feels like a log cabin lodge. Upstairs they have a restaurant, and then down in the basement is the music venue.”

Groups also enjoy evenings of music at the Crystal Ballroom, an old theater ballroom that sits above a restaurant. The ballroom’s dance floor sits on springs, so visitors who get up to dance with the music have the feeling of dancing on air.

Festivals also make great opportunities for visitors to get to know Portland’s indie entertainers.

“One of our best festivals is called Pickathon,” Eckhart said. “It’s an indie, roots, bluegrass and blues festival, and they’ve really incorporated the sustainability message into the way they operate. It’s set in a wooded area and has appeal to a broad range of generations.”

—  —

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.