(April 16, 2016, NEW YORK, NY) – Baltimore-based four-piece Pigeons Playing Ping Pong brought their high-intensity jam-funk prowess to a packed Gramercy Theatre on Saturday night, continuing a nationwide spring tour in support of their new release, Pleasure.
The band opened the show with the driving funk of “Time to Ride,” off their 2014 album Psychology, starting the musical antics early by slipping into a Star Wars “Cantina Song” jam to the delight of the crowd. Next up, the sonic ooze of “Sunny Day” lead off a run of tunes including fast-paced instrumental “The Hop” and the infectiously funky sing-along “F.U.”
After taking their newest original “Henrietta” for a spin (more on that later), the band tore into live staple “Upfunk.” This version of the tune was one for the record books, as the jam flowed seamlessly into a “Hyrule Castle” interlude (from classic video game The Legend of Zelda) as well as a Grateful Dead-esque “Drums” segment that saw drummer Alex Petropulos take the reins while the rest of the band sat back and admired his handiwork. The remainder of the set was an all-out dance party, including both new tunes (“Fade Fast,” “Slipjack,” “Burning Up My Time,” “High as Five”) and old (“Horizon”). After a short break, Pigeons returned for a well-earned encore pairing of fan-favorite “Melting Lights” and a rowdy cover of Red Hot Chili Peppers banger, “Suck My Kiss.”
I got a chance to catch up with lead singer/rhythm guitarist “Scrambled” Greg Ormont after the show to chat about their insanely productive year, playing up against Ween, and how live shows shape the band’s songs:
Andrew: I’ve seen you guys a few times in the last year. The first was a small CT show with fewer than 100 people in attendance. Next was during your Halloween run at the Cutting Room (NYC). Tonight, you packed out the Gramercy Theatre. Each show has gotten progressively bigger, and your fan base seems more energized and devoted than ever. How do you feel about this current trajectory, and what do you see as the next step on that climb?
Greg Ormont: Well, I gotta leave that to the imagination, but we’re super stoked about how New York is going, because it’s a really competitive town, you know? Just tonight there was Ween, the New Mastersounds, all this stuff, and we still packed it out which is really exciting for us. And I’m from Long Island, so this means a lot to me—we wanted tonight to go well, I think we played well, the attendance was great…So, bigger and better in New York—we want to be able to compete with all these bands. We want to be one of those bands where [other acts] are like ‘shit, we’re playing here but Pigeons are in town’ [laughs], so hopefully we can be the Ween to the future Pigeons.
Andrew: You played a new song tonight, “Henrietta,” which you mentioned is even newer than the songs on Pleasure. What’s the story with that song, and what are your plans for new music going forward?
GO: Yea, we’ve only played “Henrietta” a couple of times, and it’s really starting to come along. The song structure is set, but the jam takes time to kind of take shape, and that really is the crowd giving us that inspiration. So we really need that one crowd that gets really into it to show us how to jam “Henrietta.” I remember, I think it was our song “Upfunk” that we played tonight, years ago there was this one crowd that was so high-energy that it literally morphed the peaks and valleys of the jam that we still mimic to this day. So hopefully there’s that one “Henrietta” crowd that just takes us into a direction. But I’m really happy with it. For a new song, we’re playing it confidently. The lyrics are up for interpretation, they’re very powerful. And there are a couple little hints in there as to what I was thinking about when I was writing the vocals, but I’ll leave that to you guys to figure out [laughs]. There’s like one word in there that I never use, it’s my favorite word in the whole song, and it’s an homage to Henrietta, so we’ll see if you guys can figure it out…
Andrew: You always need some good words!
Greg: Exactly! [laughs] As long as you’ve got one good word to keep the song moving, you’re good. Hopefully my next song will have an even better word! And we have a lot more stuff. We could produce an album this week, and we could probably put together a second one in a month. We’re always writing, even when we’re touring. Even if we have enough songs for an album, we’re gonna sit down and write another one tomorrow anyway. We’re just excited to get these songs out there and play them. Our next one that we’re working on, it’s almost done, and I can’t wait to play that.
Andrew: Can you tell me what it’s called?
Greg: No [laughs]. But it’s fun. I can tell you that it’s fun.
“Fun” is, without a doubt, a common thread in the world of Pigeons, from their up-beat, light-hearted melodies, to their quirky attire (tonight, Ormont stylishly rocked smiley face-print pajama pants), to their lively stage antics, to the smiles plastered on all four of their faces throughout each show. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong are taking flight, and it sounds like the fun is just beginning.
Pleasure is available for stream and/or purchase via the band’s website.
For information on more upcoming concerts in NYC, visit www.cegpresents.com
SETLIST (via Pigeons Playing Ping Pong Facebook)
April 16, 2016 @ Gramercy Theatre (New York, NY)
Time to Ride>Cantina Song>Time to Ride
Sunny Day>The Hop>F.U.
Burning Up My Time>
High As Five
Suck My Kiss (Red Hot Chili Peppers Cover)