A hum rolls to howl across a great divide. A reverberation 40 years in the making, the sound is that of wrenches dismantling preconceived notions, working to sustain a long-denied sense of sanguinity.

It's coming from the bar.

Whatever it is, could it really be happening? Or is it a happening — like an episode?

Eavesdrop awhile. Listen to them chant: "Rise from the ashes … so sayeth the prophecy of the Phoenix … do work, son."

Who's that cutting it up over the accordion, under the guitar, beside the fourth photo of Coleman A. Young? He's doling out subset gossip to a gangly group of glass shakers. Watch him gloat about — Detroit? — over Vernors, whiskey and bitters. That's the specialty of the house — gloating about Detroit over pungent cocktails. In the dialogue, there's pattern, a chorus, and a clear signal. How does one tune in? Whateveritis transmits via culture-geared media as much as it does fixed-gear nighthawkes, through headphones, mediadrones, and a tangible series of artful reclamations.

The weekend nights at Café D'Mongo's Speakeasy magnetizes an improvised congregation of Detroiters whose affiliation is often that of DOER. You'll hear all about it.

Radiomen and journalists, musicians, photographers, lawyers, teachers, engineers and ad-men; the brave hearted transplants you read about; future-minded folks; college students; community organizers; good humored weirdos; artists of all kinds; the good guys.

They're realists — cheering themselves on throughout the night — and the taste in music is as good as the conversation, but no bones are made regarding the challenges ahead.

The frequency of this transmission translates into a good time.

It's New Detroit. Or, maybe it's just a bar.


Facing north, the angular and symmetrical qualities of Griswold Street draw pull on you. In the center of the street, you are triangulated, and the painted double-yellow lines in the pavement tilt the buildings narrowly. A fire escape breaks up the vertical wall, like a crack in the earth.

It dead-ends at Clifford, a bleak street with tons of "could be" and "once was" appeal. Before its dramatic demise, however, are a strip club whose name and owners rotate with the seasons, a storied inner-city synagogue, and Café D'Mongo's Speakeasy. That's Detroit.

Larry Mongo's joint is peculiar and attracts a crowd that, to its credit, could be described the same. It's lush enough for Liberace. Dubbed Café D'Mongo's Speakeasy, the bar is like a den, and anything but demure. Decorated with era and genre-spanning musical memorabilia, historical documents and instruments, and a piano that hangs upside down from the ceiling, the club is strewn in workable chaos. At its best, it transcends time and space. At its most material, it's a maze of mirrors and antiquated furniture playing on de-saturated green, orange, brown and gold notes. Under all the spurred laughs, casual debates and plan making is a crackled layer of jazz, soul, funk and folk records, or local live interpretations of such. When Larry's your host, you're at home with him, at his party. It's a Friday night bbq. His friends — whom he's only just met — are readily acquainted. The place becomes a living and breathing common denominator; a social icebreaker; a hub. And Larry is its northern playalistic sage. Obi SoulKenobi, ya dig?

A visit is a singular experience. It's happening.


There was a day this summer when Griswold Street and D'Mongo's was over run with The Hounds Below, a new group led by Jason Stollsteimer, he of the Von Bondies. They offered up a brand of bar room croons in the vein of Valens and Orbison. Stollsteimer even backed up the sound with black cowboy-ish boots and Ray Bans. Filming and perhaps harboring hangovers was a subdued crew from the notoriously rowdy Vice Magazine (or were they a production squad making a boot commercial with the dude from Jackass?), in town documenting Detroit, filming Single Barrel and Mongo for their project. After the band moved inside, a group of girls, including working filmmakers and fine artists, grabbed patio seats with the two film crews and Mongo. A known muralist passed by on her way to grab the paint she left at the synagogue the night before; a writer pulled from a flask; a sound engineer snatched headphones and tape; a cook brought out food; a band played rock and roll; a day-rate saxophonist slept in a chair like he'd done it a hundred times.

- Travis R. Wright
Making use of the early twentieth century term "Speakeasy", Larry Mongo has bent the meaning to his fancy. Café D'Mongo's is best described as a living collage of whatever works. Serving cheap drinks and soul food, Larry (cook/owner/bartender/and most pleasant host) first opened his Jazz club in the late 1980's transforming an old Greek restaurant into his own establishment. Only being open one night a week was the common attribute between his speakeasy and those littered with mobsters in the 20s and 30s, because everything else was perfectly legal. In 1993 Larry closed his doors to the public due to the localized threat of neighborhood crime but the club was still available for private rental. It was not until June of 2007 that Larry decided to re-open his doors to the masses, and they met him full force. Though Larry has no real reason to be so illusive with his well-kept Detroit secret, his business to this day still survives solely on word of mouth. He does not advertise or actively promote the club, he smiles and converses with the flocks of people who line up to get in and continues to pull in crowds week after week.
All These Things

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Cumberland's Crumblin'

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Hey, Kids!

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Two Step

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Love's No Longer Here

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Sticks n' Stones

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Chris Breest
Dan Walters