Music is rockin’ at the Blind Pig
There is one thing that many of the local bands covered in The Eastern Echo have in common: They have performed at Ann Arbor’s Blind Pig. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012, the venue is a crucial part of the city’s culture and the music scene in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.
Ann Arbor natives hang out at the Pig on the weekends, and so do people from surrounding areas who like live music and cheap drinks. The clientele of the Blind Pig tend to be loyal.
It’s a small, dirty joint. Your feet are liable to stick to the floor and the smell of smoke lingers from when it was legal to smoke indoors at bars. It is a cash only business, so don’t bother trying to start a tab. This is the kind of place that music was meant to be played in; it’s intimate and charming to say the least.
“It’s divey, but chill. If you don’t want to hang with bros, come here,” Sean Flores, a senior at the University of Michigan, said jokingly.
In 1971, the Blind Pig was opened by Tom Isaia and Jerry DelGiudice with the intention of housing a European-styled cafe, complete with espresso, wine and biscotti. There was blues entertainment, but it wasn’t the Blind Pig’s main selling point like the musical entertainment is now. In 1975, DelGuidice started Blind Pig Records to showcase the regular acts and it is still in operation to this day.
In 1981, Isaia and DelGuidice packed up, and sold the Blind Pig to it’s current owners: Roy and Betty Goffett. The Goffetts bought the building next door, expanding the venue and adding the charming little Eightball Saloon downstairs, which has also become a popular hangout for college students.
In the ’80s, the Blind Pig became a notable stop for touring acts such as Joan Baez and George Thorogood and later, like almost everything else in the ‘90s, it started housing alternative and grunge bands.
The Rollins Band, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam made stops at the Blind Pig before making it big. One very notable, some might even say legendary, staple of the nineties even cited the Blind Pig as their favorite venue of all time to play at during an interview with MTV. That band was Nirvana.
“Blind Pig Beginnings,” a little-known recording of Nirvana’s show at the Blind Pig, is almost impossible to find a hard copy of, but can be streamed online. Recorded in 1990 and released in 1992, it features hits like “Breed” and “About a Girl,” and lesser known tracks like “Love Buzz” and “Scoff.” There are even videos of their Blind Pig performance on YouTube.
Most small venues have a certain niche of performers that tend to play there: The Ark usually houses indie acts and the Magic Stick tends to gravitate toward rock ‘n’ roll acts, but the Blind Pig doesn’t discriminate.
“It’s what you think of when you think of Ann Arbor,” said John Riley, a U of M graduate. “It’s the best venue in the city and the people that run the sound are great.”
In addition to the number of local acts that perform at the Blind Pig, touring acts are still booked there, making for a show almost every night of the week. Punk act The Adicts performed there Sept. 16 and rapper Brother Ali will be playing Oct. 2. They even hold dubstep shows.
Steve Gertz of The Michigan Daily said it best, “Although Ann Arbor may not be the largest spot on the map, the Blind Pig is to the city what CBGB’s is to New York or what the Whiskey A Go Go is to Los Angeles. It is a living legend, a place that has seen history unfold in its very confines.”