The Blind Pig: My love letter to a historic temple of sweat and music
I decided to write about my love for The Blind Pig long before I knew I would have to say goodbye to Ann Arbor and its many strange institutions that I love. As such, this piece feels entirely bittersweet, tinted with more longing than a simple ode to my favorite concert hall in town would normally be.
The Blind Pig is certainly a spot worthy of nostalgia. Within this dive, eager and passionate college kids come together with local hippies night after night to experience music ranging from college bands to respected indie acts to groups that are now insanely famous (even hosting Nirvana way back then). Searching pictures of the venue online brings images of performers like the Flaming Lips, Kim Gordon, Darren Criss and Theo Katzman.
Upon entry, you can feel the proud grittiness that exists not only within the mirrors and framed photographs on the sides of the performance venue, but even the popcorn machine near the bar. The disco ball overhead always casts the perfect amount of sparks for each concert goer, romanticizing the dark, cramped space. Red and blue lights saturate the walls and the faces of those around you, and the checkered floor beneath your feet only sticks slightly. The bar serves as an oasis of cooling drinks and (if you’re lucky) provides occasional free water that allows you a breather from the intense mess of the dance floor. The shared sweat of carefree dancers makes it a place certainly not immune to infectious natures of any kind. It’s absolutely wonderful.
The stage is quite small, allowing artists to connect with the crowd more intimately, sometimes even thrusting themselves forward into the crowd when fits of passion overtake their performance. The small size of the venue permits crowds to fill the room with their presence. You’re close enough to see the way the lead singer shifts from foot to foot nervously, to observe the shared glance between the keyboard player and bassist, to hear the drummers exhaled laugh as he hits that groove just right. This place isn’t the kind of “alternative” where you have to style yourself to look like you’re protesting fashion’s mainstream ways; people are there for the music and the good time, not to show off. It’s hard to imagine a more informal, welcoming place. At one show, I watched as the drummer jogged off stage to the back of the room to grab a beer from the bar, and then made it back onstage before the band’s vamp had gone on too long.
I’ve seen the room packed to capacity for Cory Wong (the guitarist from popular funk band Vulfpeck) and his band. The crowd frothed and surged, navigating their way around the pillar in the middle of the room. You had to fight with your elbows in a way that made it all the more rewarding when you finally got halfway through the room.
I’ve seen the room with maybe 40 people in it for a college band show. People reveled in the open space, throwing their bodies with abandon, imitating what might loosely be called “dance moves.” The passion of the performers was not diminished. It was worth my eight dollars.
I’m not sure if it’s the classic bathroom graffiti, the vending machine that sells cigarettes or the warm buzz of neon lighting inside, but The Blind Pig has its own brand of dirt-covered charm that goes beyond your typical dive. It is filled with history in the least pretentious way possible, and carves out a space for all. Its faded light-up sign provides a welcoming torch to a true Ann Arbor institution. And personally, I can’t wait to be back.