The Blind Pig is named after a Detroit slang term coined for the police officers during the Prohibition era that had been bribed by the owners of speakeasies. If the Prohibition era name gave you the idea of a place with music, games, and plenty of alcohol, then it is safe that you have the right idea. The Blind Pig hasn’t always been that way though. When it opened in 1971, it was one of Ann Arbor’s premier blues clubs, but it was not strictly a nightclub; it doubled as a café, serving cappuccinos and pastries during the day. The Blind Pig was more exquisite than the average nightclub, but as the
musical landscape changed entering the 80’s so did the Pig. It became a home to many local rockers and a destination for many on tour. Renovations moved the stage to a larger area upstairs with a bar and gave more room for an audience. It played host to many legendary bands such as REM, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam. The Blind Pig finally received some share of the spotlight when the well-known rock band Nirvana cited it as their number one venue of choice, anywhere, ever. The Blind Pig has helped Ann Arbor become the cultural oasis that it is today by creating a buzz with many known artists on tour and local talents to match.
Over the past three decades, the Blind Pig has won countless local awards including: best hip-hop venue, best rock venue, best place to see a local band, best college bar/nightclub, and best place to sing karaoke. What makes this small club so great to see a concert at? “There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the setup of the room, but it does really sound excellent, both on stage and in the crowd. Like, EVERYTHING sounds
excellent; hip hop, folk music, death metal, whatever. That’s kind of rare,” Jason Berry, the Blind Pig’s talent buyer for the past 14 years said. “And the relatively small size of the room allows for a very intimate experience with the artist you’ve come to see,” he added. The intimate experience is something that can’t be understated. You can literally reach out and touch the artist you came to see while you are jumping around in the crowd with the opening acts. A lesser known fact is that the Blind Pig has some of the most affordable drinks in town; cheap in comparison to many on-campus bars, and definitely better than what you would expect to pay at a large concert venue.
Another draw of the Blind Pig is that it isn’t exclusive to any type of music. As mentioned there is plenty of rock and hip-hop, but they also host indie, soul, R&B, and electronic artists. It is a really “happening” place. On any given night, it is more likely for a band to be playing there than not. There are a couple of annual events you can count on each year. “We do a tribute to Joe Strummer of the Clash every year in August. We do a
Halloween band masquerade every October, where local bands dress up as legendary bands and play covers. We do a Bob Marley Birthday bash every year at the top of February. That’s about it. … We just like the Clash, Halloween, and Bob Marley a lot,” Berry said. Occasionally, they host cover free karaoke for ages 21 and up. Downstairs in the 8Ball Saloon, visitors can play darts, billiards, pinball, or sit down at the bar and get drinks; it can be good to escape noise from upstairs or simply for entertainment while the set is changing.