Before its transformation into a music venue, Mac’s Bar was a post-football game gathering place.
Started in the 1940s by Lansing resident Clare Mackenzie, bartender Craig Doepker said Mac’s Bar, 2700 E. Michigan Ave., in Lansing, began hosting concerts in the ‘90s.
“Mac turned it into a kind of seedy dive bar,” Doepker said. “After home games, people used to hang out here … this was when East Lansing was dry, so people had to come out here to drink.”
Now known for its concerts, Mac’s Bar has made the final five for Best Music Venue in Top of the Town for the fourth-consecutive year. Top of the Town is Lansing City Pulse’s annual contest honoring Lansing entertainment, such as restaurants, music venues and local bands.
“It’s always an honor,” Doepker said. “It means we’re doing something right — we’re a little bit more of an intimate place, the place is distinctive of a lot of life.”
Winners are rewarded based on the number of votes received. Other local heavy-hitters were chosen as well, such as The Loft, 414 E. Michigan Ave., and Uli’s Haus of Rock, 4519 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
When it comes to the winning venue, The Loft’s marketing manager Bill Barrett said the diverse spectrum of performances could provide an advantage.
“Uli’s does mostly rock, Mac’s does a little bit of hip-hop,” Barrett said. “We have a lot of country, hip-hop, metal — there’s a wide spectrum of music we’ve had here.”
Doepker said Mac’s Bar has hosted many popular artists just before their “big break,” such as The Devil Wears Prada and Mastadon.
“We get to see bands just before they break,” he said. “We see some still come back after they’re far too big for this place because they like the intimate atmosphere.”
Nate Dorough, the owner of Fusion Shows, has brought several artists to Mac’s Bar in the start of their careers, such as We The Kings, Macklemore and Manchester Orchestra. He said the venue’s smaller size can be both a blessing and a curse for bands.
“All shows (at Mac’s Bar) are intimate, up close and personal, and there’s that aesthetic,” Dorough said. “Once it’s full and teaming with people, it kinda is a throwback to old-school punk-rock clubs of the ‘70s and ‘80s.”