REVIEW: Cory Wong

On his latest tour, Cory Wong returned to Vulfpeck’s Ann Arbor home, playing to a sold-out crowd at The Blind Pig.

Emily C. Browning opened the stage. From New Zealand, her Spotify page says her music is intended as “an electric experience that you won’t know you were looking for until you hear it,” and that is exactly what we got. With a unique mix of jazz, soul, and funk, Emily’s style was refreshing and entertaining, and her own guitar skills were something of marvel. Starting her set with a couple covers and original songs that set the vibe for Cory Wong, his band came out and joined her for a couple more rocking songs before Cory Wong himself came onstage. The chemistry between Cory and Emily resulted in a phenomenal soundscape that had everyone swaying and jamming.

After a little break, Cory Wong and his band came back out, rocking some team athletic gear. Along with many, unbelievable guitar riffs, Cory put on a performance in between songs with a number of jokes that required crazy setups. He also emphasized his need to sell merch, playing several clips throughout the show. As the “millennial ambassador to smooth jazz,” he certainly infused an appreciation for smooth jazz and funk with his incredible songs and technique. Watching his extraordinary right hand picking technique in person was surreal, an impressive skill unrivaled by any other guitarist.

For a wonderful surprise, Vulfpeck’s singing guitarist, drummer, and syncopation master Theo Katzman joined Cory onstage for a funky collaboration. As Emily C. Browning came onstage again to close out the set with Cory, probably the best people that joined Cory’s performance were the two green inflatable tube men that summed up Cory’s personality, music, and stage presence.

The crowd was jamming the entire night, getting excited at the immense talent that Cory Wong and everyone in his band, particularly the drummer, brought to the stage. The excitement surrounding Cory Wong and his reputation as a guitarist is not one to be understated, and the electric funk energy that he brings is certainly contagious in the best of ways.

PREVIEW: Cory Wong

Vulfpeck is one of Ann Arbor’s greatest phenomena, and now, their funkiest guitarist is finding success with his solo project, the Cory Wong Band. Following the release of his latest solo album, The Optimist, Cory Wong is spreading his unique multi-instrumental rhythmic music across the country with his tour, which includes a stop at the Blind Pig on Saturday, January 19 at 9pm. Tickets are $20 and can be bought online at

REVIEW: Brett Dennen at the Blind Pig

Seeing any show at the Blind Pig, known for bringing relatively famous acts to Ann Arbor, is bound to be an experience.

Even before the opening act took the stage, the place was filled with people ranging from the minors on one side of me to the thirty/forty something couple on the other side. There were no fans running and little ventilation, so people were shedding outer layers like crazy as we waited.

Then Lily & Madeleine took the stage. As the couple next to me put it so well:

“Are they sisters?”

“I don’t know, but they’re cute as pie”


A quick Google search for this blog confirmed that they are in fact sisters hailing from Indiana, and they are definitely Midwestern–from “almost went to U of M” to writing a song about the city of Chicago.

The announcer mistakenly announced the venue as the Ark, and Lily & Madeleine’s music would have been a much better fit for that more relaxed atmosphere. I enjoyed listening to their music–I’m downloading a couple albums Flume as I write this–but the acoustic and piano-heavy set was probably not the way to go opening for Brett Dennen at the Blind Pig.

The audience was one of rudest I’ve ever experienced. As you can probably hear in this video, it was hard to hear the music over the sound of everything talking and making noise. Most people weren’t paying attention to Lily & Madeleine, and one woman next to me kept texting in a phone that was on full brightness. It would have been one thing if the music was bad, but Lily & Madeleine proved themselves to be talented artists that didn’t deserve such a treatment.

Luckily the crowd calmed down by the time Brett took the stage.

Somehow Brett Dennen turned 36 the day of the concert, even though he looks like he stopped aging after 25. Brett’s boyish looks and figure make his music all the more endearing. Switching between two acoustic guitars, his crooned slower favorites like “Ain’t No Reason” and “Where We Left Off.” For the faster numbers, he brought out the electric guitar and shredded the heck out of it.


The crowd sang along to hits like “Wild Child,” “Comeback Kid,” and my personal favorite “Make You Crazy.” Singers like Brett Dennen make it impossible to stand in the crowd and not shake your head or shake your hips along to the music. Performers like Brett know when to point the microphone out to the audience, when to stand at the very front of the stage and jam with his tongue out, and when to take a break and ask the audience for their birthdays.

I freely admit that I am only a casual Brett Dennen fan, but I could easily become of the devoted fans that sang along to every one of his songs at the concert if I let myself. If you get a chance to see Brett in concert, I highly recommend it.

Review: FlatbushZOMBies @ The Blind Pig

This Tuesday I listened to Flatbush Zombies perform at The Blind Pig. I believe attending a concert at The Blind Pig is a bucket-list item for students here—gotta once before you graduate or you’re missing out. It’s not the biggest or most glamorous venue. Neither of those words should ever be used to describe The Pig—sweaty and crowded are more appropriate adjectives. Nevertheless, this venue is a great spot to see talented groups on the cusp of stardom for reasonable prices (tickets usually $15 before fees).
Flatbush Zombies are a Brooklyn based group formed in 2010, consisting of MC’s Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice, and Erick Arc Elliott. New to the rap scene, Flatbush Zombies follow in the tradition of legendary New York rap group Wu-Tang Clan— minimalistic yet expressive production style, dissonant harmonies, and each MC embodies a unique persona on every track. Listeners can also appreciate the many references to hip-hop culture: frequent references to famous MC’s, particularly 2pac and Wu-Tang Clan, as well as plays on iconic lines from classic songs.
Flatbush Zombies, like many other hip-hop groups, fixate on drug use in their lyrics. It would be a mistake, however, to consider this group another run-of-the-mill group drawing on controversial subjects to gain popularity. Their lyrical content is distinctly existential, openly questioning the value of conventional morality and religion, opting instead for a morality derived from real life experience. Unlike mainstream hip-hop artists who advocate decadent, illicit drug use according to a purely hedonistic worldview, Flatbush Zombies depict drug use as an inevitable consequence of socioeconomic exclusion. Rather than glamorize drug use, they problematize the activity, prompting listeners to consider why drug use is prevalent, and how the activity is a conscious act of self-destructive escapism.
So how are the Flatbush Zombies live? They kill it. The venue was perfect for their musical style—informal setting mixed with ear-splitting acoustics complemented the minimalistic production style and the raw energy of the group. In my experience, hip-hop concerts rarely recreate the sound quality of studio recordings live, but this loss of sound quality is more than made up for when a performer brings enthusiasm and panache to the stage. Panache, pizzazz, x-factor, swag, whatever you want to call it—The Flatbush Zombies came packing heat, they lit up the stage with energy, adding a personal depth to their music which cannot be captured in the studio.
Fans of Wu-Tang Clan, Joey Bada$$, and Odd Future should definitely check out Flatbush Zombies—I think this group has a lot of potential to produce quality hip-hop music over the coming years. Fan or rap or not, definitely check out The Blind Pig, a venue that is integral to the Ann Arbor experience. The Blind Pig setting is ideal for discovering new music on an intimate level.

Listen to some Flatbush Zombies for free here (I recommend No Religion and Thug Waffle):

Watch the Music Video that helped them gain popularity–you may notice inspiration from some of Tyler the Creator’s music videos

Flatbush Zombies–Thug Waffle

Review: El Ten Eleven – they did infact begin at Eleven

While many people were cheering on the Victorious Wolverines on Saturday night (Go Blue!) a crowd of music enthusiasts traipsed across Ann Arbor to flail and bounce to El Ten Eleven’s masterful instrumental compositions.

El Ten Eleven have been creating music since 2002. An LA based “indi or post – rock” group with Kristian Dunn on a fretless bass or 1977 Carvin guitar/bass doubleneck with loop pedals and various methods of sound modulation and Tim Fogarty keeping the beat on electric drums, acoustic drums and drum pads.

This duo are, in my personal opinion, some of the most talented musicians and composers working in music today. Their songs are heavily layered with contrasting melody, harmony and rhythm. singular pieces can range from 5-15 minutes in length and time seems to slide right on by as Dunn and Fogarty weave their way from melody to melody.

The Blind Pig is a perfect venue for this group. The small space, intimate proximity to the artist and one’s fellow audience members, creates a relaxing yet thrilling experience of the brilliance these musicians bring to the stage. El Ten Eleven performed at the Pig last fall as well. There were many returning fans as well as some who had only explored BandCamp and SoundCloud ( to experience a taste of what these musicians are capable. Each walked away from this event in awe of the talent, dedication and musicianship of El Ten Eleven.

Video: El Ten Eleven \"Living on Credit Blues\"