Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Goodbye Magic Stick, hello Populux

Posted By on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 12:24 PM

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Turn to page 25 of last week's issue of MT and you'll notice a mysterious ad — a stark, retro-looking red, white, and black illustration along with a logo reading "Populux," accompanied by the message "coming soon to Midtown Detroit" and a web address, populuxdetroit.com

Earlier this year, it was announced that the Majestic Theatre Complex was partnering with Amir Daiza to renovate the club, which has seen declining attendance in recent years. Daiza is owner of Pontiac EDM club Elektricity, and a partner of Ferndale restaurants Imperial and Public House — and has also run clubs like St. Andrew’s, Industry, and Clutch Cargo’s throughout the years.

Daiza confirms that "Populux" is the new moniker for the Magic Stick.

He explains the name comes from the word "Populuxe," a mid-century aesthetic. "It’s a combination of the word 'popular' and 'luxury,'" he says. "If you look it up, it was a futuristic thing."

In the spirit of the name's retro-futuristic vibe, Daiza explains that he wants to preserve the building's architecture, which features an Art Deco facade. "The problem we’ve had with old architecture is we’ve hated it, and we tear it down," he says. "I’ve always been into buildings with architectural features."

He points to past projects like Clutch Cargo's, which occupied an old church. "Architecture is a very important part of the experience I create," he says.

Populux's $250,000-plus renovations will include all-new bathrooms, a bigger stage, and dressing rooms for the artists. "I want to modernize it, but not take away the old character of the structure," Daiza says. "Even the outside. We’re not changing anything, we’re just going to enhance it." Additionally, the new club will also switch from all-ages to 21-plus only.

But the change that has generated the most buzz so far is the announcement that the new venue will be switching formats to electronic music — which some read as a signal that "rock is dead." Though the Magic Stick was known to book a variety of musical styles, it came to prominence as a scene favorite during the garage rock craze in the early 2000s.

In that sense, the retro name also refers to Daiza's desire to return to Detroit's techno roots. Daiza explains that Populux will be a completely different concept than Elektricity: Elektricity is, broadly, an EDM club. Populux, Daiza says, will focus solely on sounds inspired by early techno and house.

Daiza says his affinity for techno goes back to the genre's early days, when he owned an after-hours punk-rock joint called Asylum located across the street from seminal club the Music Institute in the '80s. But his passion for Detroit, he says, goes back even longer. Originally from Baghdad, Iraq, Daiza considers Detroit his home. "I’ve been in Detroit since 1981, and I’ve seen the evolution of it," he says. 

Recently, Daiza began DJing under the name "A Guy Called Amir," and is starting a new label, Obsession Detroit. "The key is developing new artists here," he says. "I didn’t become a DJ to become the next Tiesto. That’s not my ambition. I don’t even want to tour. This is more about developing a Detroit sound again."

The market for electronic music has exploded in recent years, and it's no surprise that people are trying to capitalize on it here in Detroit, regarded as the birthplace of techno — a Berlin entrepreneur is even eyeing the old Fisher Body 21 Plant as a possible venue for a new techno club.

But Daiza says he sees room enough in the scene for everyone. "Success breeds other success stories. If I’m successful here, things can grow," he says. "For me, competition is good. If there wasn’t competition I would stagnate, get lazy."

As for name change, Daiza says he weighed his options and ultimately decided on a fresh start for the Magic Stick. "I don’t own the name. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it," he says. "I’ve had a lot of names that I’ve had to put away — one was Clutch Cargo's. Another was Industry Nightclub." 

Not all re-branding efforts, of course, stick. People still call the re-branded Movement Electronic Music Festival by its old name, DEMF — which hasn't officially been used since 2002. There are plenty who still refer to Fillmore Detroit as the State Theatre. And basically anyone over the age of, say, 40, still calls DTE Energy Music Theatre "Pine Knob." (Daiza admits he's among them.)

But Daiza adds, "For me to go in there and call it the same name, the Magic Stick, would have been crazy for me."

And as for the "rock is dead" declarations? Daiza says he still believes in the genre. "I’ve been doing that music from the start. Why would I give up on it?" he says, adding that he still books rock shows at the Masonic Temple and the Crofoot. "I still do these shows, so why would I abandon a genre of music that I wrap my arms around?"

He adds, "I’m about music, not a certain genre. I love every kind of genre of music — I’m just doing a venue for a certain genre."

Construction is expected to be completed by mid-April. Stay tuned for a launch party lineup.

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