Art & Entertainment, Culture, Feature Story

A Sunday Visit to Jazzin’ at the Vanity

On Sunday, Travis and I attended Jazzin’ at the Vanity in the Jefferson-Chambers neighborhood in Detroit. The music event was a free two-day jazz and blues festival that featured live performances from many talented music artists, delicious food from local vendors, a small marketplace, live art, and a kids’ zone for the little ones.

Jazzin’ at the Vanity was a neighborhood festival presented by Jefferson East, Inc. (JEI), a Detroit neighborhood nonprofit. The festival was positioned in front of the historic Vanity Ballroom and JEI owns it.

According to the website, the Vanity Ballroom is one of the last surviving big-band era ballrooms in Detroit. The Jefferson-Chambers neighborhood used to be one of the hot spots for jazz and blues music during the 1920s and all the way to the 1950s.

Outside of The Vanity – Fall of 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia/Albert Duce)
Photo of the inside of The Vanity Ballroom. (Photo credit Wikipedia)

Music legends Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, the MC5 and the Stooges often played at the Vanity Ballroom. Can you even imagine what it must have been like to see music greats like Duke Ellington perform live at the Vanity?

I’m a big fan of Ellington’s music so when I found out this historical fact I was definitely amazed! Here’s a video of the inside of the Vanity featured on Jazzin’ at the Vanity’s about page.

I SERIOUSLY NEED TO ATTEND MORE JAZZ EVENTS IN DETROIT!

Even though I love jazz music and listen to it often, I haven’t had the chance to attend many live jazz performances. I know Detroit has a great history of jazz music and there are quite a few jazz lounges in the city. It has been one of my long-time goals to visit a few of the jazz lounges and watch more live performances.

With that said, I think this was my third live jazz performance in Detroit. The first jazz show I attended was at the Detroit Public Library and I really enjoyed the music then! Attending Jazzin’ at the Vanity gave me an opportunity to discover even more jazz and blues artists. YES, I will plan to attend more jazz concerts this summer!

NICE WEATHER, GOOD SIZE CROWD

Sunday was the perfect day for us to attend the jazz event because the crowd size wasn’t too big. It made walking through the festival more enjoyable and finding a place to sit and listen to the music easier.

The weather was pretty warm that day, but a nice breeze kept us cool. There was even a cooling station set up for patrons. I know I stood near the cooling station quite a few times to cool down from the heat!

There were also plenty of places to sit that offered shade. Some people opted to use umbrellas to keep cool.

This cooling station was a great idea for patrons to cool off in the warm weather!
Some people brought umbrellas with them to keep cool.

LIVE ART INSTALLATIONS CELEBRATE VANITY BALLROOM’S RICH HISTORY

I loved the live art featured at Jazzin’ at the Vanity! The artists worked on their paintings during the festival and guests had the opportunity to sit and watch them paint.

Travis and I got to see Detroit artists Sintex, Trae Issac, and Tony Whlgn paint their art pieces on Sunday. The story behind the live art is in January 2019, JEI invited Detroit-based artists to apply for an opportunity to create public visual art.

The theme of the artwork was to reflect the history of the Vanity Ballroom. I think all of the artists did an excellent job of using their artistic vision to create beautiful pieces!

Tony Whlgn painting his artwork at Jazzin’ at the Vanity.
Detroit artist Trae Issacs painting his art piece called “Soulful Revival” at the Jazzin’ at the Vanity.
“Ice Cream Dream” by Sintex Artist

A PLACE FOR CHILDREN TO CREATE AND PLAY

The Kids’ Zone at Jazzin’ at the Vanity featured art and game activities for children. There was a miniature golf station, sock puppet creations, balloon animals, face painting, and more art activities for kids!

SHOPPING AT THE MARKETPLACE

I also did a little shopping at Jazzin’ at the Vanity. Ha! Of course, I did! You guys know how much I love food trucks and shopping at festivals. I love finding unique fashion styles, accessories, and art at city festivals.

I ended up purchasing a cute bag that says “One Love” on it and two pairs of earrings. I also bought both of my girls Michala and Zhen a bag. The girls were so excited when I brought home the bags for them.

(What about my boys, though? No worries! I ended up getting my three sons small gifts at a local store not featured at the festival.)

MOTOWN BURGERS AND STRAWBERRY LEMONADE

Travis and I also enjoyed burgers, fries, and strawberry lemonade from Motown Bistro. The price for the burger and fries was just a tad high for the meal size, but it still tasted pretty good. I really loved the strawberry lemonade. There’s nothing like enjoying ice, cold lemonade on a summer day while listening to jazz music!

Funny story– another couple was sitting at the same table as us. I think they’re new to Detroit because they were so excited to try the burgers from Motown Bistro. The woman said to me it was her first Detroit burger and they both thought the food was amazing!

After the couple left, I turned to Travis and said, “If this is her first Detroit burger then she ain’t seen nothing yet! There are SO many good burger places in Detroit so she’s in for a real treat!”

NEIGHBORHOOD EVENTS CELEBRATE THE COMMUNITY

We loved our time at Jazzin’ at the Vanity! During the music festival, I shared a few tweets of our experience. A twitter friend of mine replied to my tweets about the event. This is what she tweeted:

“I really enjoy seeing people from outside the Downtown area have world class Detroit entertainers come into their neighborhoods and provide top-shelf entertainment. Detroit is all about community and always has been. We need more entertainment in the neighborhoods.”

@DetroitDwelling via Twitter

I think this brings up a good point about creating more neighborhood events in Detroit. It not only celebrates the community, but the neighborhood events also give us an opportunity to learn more about each neighborhood.

The neighborhood events help bring the arts to communities, especially for children. While we were at Jazzin’ at the Vanity, I was thinking about how blessed we are to have the opportunity to take our kids to art and music festivals in Detroit. It gives the kids a chance to experience art and music first-hand.

Also, even though I live in Sterling Heights, I love attending community events in Detroit and the metro area! For one, I am still fairly new to Detroit (moved here in 2015) so the community events help me learn more about Detroit’s history.

For instance, if it wasn’t for Jazzin’ at the Vanity, I probably wouldn’t have known about the historic Vanity Ballroom and that jazz legend Duke Ellington used to play there!

The other reason I love attending community events is that I love learning about different cultures, including my own culture. Detroit offers so many wonderful cultural events like the “Celebrate India” event I attended a few months ago or the headwrapping expo I attended a couple of years ago!

What do you love about attending neighborhood events?

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All photographs are courtesy of Good Life Detroit.

What are your thoughts?