The Blind Pig often hosts noteworthy indie artists from around the country, but their show this past Friday showcased some of the best talents from right here in Ann Arbor in the form of two bands: the Euphorics and Vulfpeck. Founded by Jack Stratton, Theo Katzman, Woody Goss, and Joe Dart while they were still students at the University of Michigan, Vulfpeck released their first song in 2011, and have since gained both popular and critical acclaim. They now have four EPs out, and their unique style of funk has captivated audiences across the country.
The Euphorics, who opened for Vulfpeck, came onto the Ann Arbor music scene less than a year ago, but members Erez Levin, Dan Sagher, Oren Levin, and Sam Collins grew up in Ann Arbor and have been playing music together for years. With their upbeat groovepop style, they’ve quickly gained a loyal local following, and are expected to release an EP in the upcoming months.
Before coming to Ann Arbor Friday night, Vulfpeck had been touring around the country, and they were welcomed home with a sold out show at the Blind Pig. The line grew longer and longer outside the entrance, with everyone impatiently waiting to get in and claim a good spot in front of the stage. The Euphorics took the stage at 9:45, kicking off their set with one of their new songs, titled “All I See,” and following it up with a few more originals. The crowd listened intently, with fans dancing along and new listeners warming up to the catchy beats and melodies. The band then went into a rendition of the jazz standard “Body and Soul,” catching the attention of Vulfpeck fans and giving a hint of what was to come. They later went into what they jokingly termed “the Shrek portion of the concert” with covers of Smash Mouth’s “All Star” and the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” getting everyone in the crowd dancing and singing along. Oren Levin sang lead vocals for most of the songs, handing the mic over to his older brother Erez for a rousing rendition of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So,” during which Erez got the rest of the band and the entire crowd hyped up as he stood on the drum set belting out the lyrics. They ended the set by slowing things down with their newest single, “Hungover Pixie Dream Girl,” a slow burning jam that is sure to be an instant hit. Their setlist was catchy and impossible not to dance to, combining the perfect blend of Euphorics originals and well-known covers. The experience was made even better by the accompanying lights, designed by Ben Factor, which alternated between an array of colors and set the mood for the whole set.
As the Euphorics left the stage to loud applause, setup for Vulfpeck began, and the crowd packed in tighter towards the front, excitedly waiting for the band to appear. A while later Vulfpeck emerged, welcomed to the stage by a roar of applause and cheers from the ecstatic audience. The band started right into a stream of instrumental songs, highlighting their pure talent on their respective instruments. Anyone not familiar with Vulfpeck’s music may be taken aback by the lack of lyrics in most of their songs, but this did not stop the crowd from dancing along the entire time and cheering each time a new song would start. Joe Dart stood out particularly, with impressively difficult bass solos in multiple songs showing his full range of capabilities. Even while the band performed these difficult instrumentals, the members’ personas were laid back and casual, and it was clear that they felt comfortable being back at the Blind Pig in their hometown. They cracked jokes and told rambling stories as they played, with Theo Katzman doing a character while playing guitar that Jack Stratton described as, “The guy who emotes more than he plays.”
After a long set of instrumentals, the band brought their frequent collaborator, Antwuan Stanley, up onto the stage to sing on a few tracks. The crowd erupted in cheers as Stanley took the stage, and they only grew louder as Vulfpeck started to play the first few notes of one of their most popular songs, “1612.” Stanley, who recently performed with Common at Hill Auditorium, lives in Ann Arbor and only performs with the band when they’re back in town. This guest appearance was a special treat just for Ann Arborites, and the whole crowd knew it. His voice was soulful and his exuberance was infectious as he encouraged the audience to sing along with him. He followed “1612” with “Wait for the Moment,” a mellower song that was still enough to get the crowd singing and dancing along. They then performed a cover of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good,” with Theo Katzman using a talkbox to modify his voice, repeating verses and jokingly trying out different voice effects. After a couple more songs, Stanley took his exit, and Vulfpeck played a few more instrumentals. The show was not over though when Vulfpeck exited the stage, as the audience called them back on for not one, but two encores.
At the very end, Katzman gave a shoutout to the Euphorics, explaining how he had taught all of the members music lessons years ago and calling them out as one of his favorite bands. The members of the Euphorics had been sitting off to the side watching the whole set from the audience, and as Vulfpeck left the stage they dispersed into the crowd to mingle with friends and fans before making their way to the merchandise table at the back to sign vinyls. This was truly a local show in every sense of the word, and by the end of the concert the entire crowd in the small venue felt a connection through the shared experience of the music, amplified by the fact that it all originated right here in Ann Arbor.