PIGEONS PLAYING PING PONG
Hot August Music Festival • August 15, 2015
Oregon Ridge Park – Cockeysville, MD.
By Barry Brandow
When I saw the lineup for the Hot August Music Festival, a one day music festival taking place at the beautiful Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville Marylan, just NW of Baltimore, I knew it’d be the perfect way to spend a Saturday in mid-August. With several awesome bands, 3 stages, 90 minute sets, and lots of overlap, one had to do plenty of strategic planning to see the bands they wanted to see most. There was plenty of good music for everyone no matter what your taste might be. After catching most of Shakey Graves on the main stage my friends and I focused our attention on the second stage where Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and The Revivalists rocked the park from 2:00 to 5:30 in the sweltering 92 degree heat.
With a name like Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, it’s hard not to be noticed and remembered. Bookended by Shakey Graves, who has been gaining deserved popularity with every festival and event he plays, and The Revivalists riding the momentum of an extremely successful album release as well as a triumphant debut the week before at the infamous Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong knew they were going to have to take things up to the highest level if they wanted their performance to be noticed and remembered. The kind of performance that would take a special effort on this extremely hot and humid afternoon. Not an easy task by any means.
Already having a solid local following, the area around the stage filled in quickly as the band was announced. The highly energetic, charismatic, and talented quartet is made up of Greg Ormont on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Ben Carrey on bass, Alex Petropulos on Drums, and the impressive lead guitar work of Jeremy Schon. I had never seen PPPP before, but I had watched many of their YouTube videos and knew what to expect: energy, fun, and amazing musicianship. Along with The Revivalists, it was the set I was looking forward to the most. The impression I got from what I had seen in videos was they were strongly influenced by the jam band juggernaut Phish. When guitarist Schon commented about the “Let Trey Sing” shirt I was wearing just prior to their set, my impressions were somewhat confirmed.
Billed as a “High energy psychedelic funk,” these guys rocked and jammed right from the opening song “Fox N Toad” and never let up throughout their 90 minute set in spite of showing signs of exhaustion from the excessive heat. Several times during their set you could see Ormont glance over at bass player Ben Carrey with a silent look as if to say “Dude, it’s pretty fuckin’ hot!” It never compromised their playing, but it might have hindered the animated energy Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is known for during their shows just a little. Who could blame them? The heat index must’ve been close to 100 degrees.
After original tunes like “Fade Fast” and “DOC” the band did an original funky reggae arrangement of the Beatles song “Get Back,” with guitarist Schon taking the lead on vocals. I enjoy seeing a band take a popular classic and put their own musical twist on it. Front man Greg Ormont continued to show his dynamic showmanship interacting with the crowd, jumping around the stage and trading off rhythms and leads on guitar with bandmate Jeremy Schon. Schon often displayed his phenomenal musicianship with ambitiously fierce face-melting solos during the afternoon. I was also impressed with the tight chemistry of Carrey and drummer Alex Petropulos. They blew me away with their energy and awe-inspiring precision. I love seeing a band having fun and brandishing their charisma while they perform. Even though I was hearing most of their music for the first time, I enjoyed each song as if they were songs I had been hoping to hear them play all day. Most of the songs in their setlist were original tunes, each having their own personality and allure, giving room for each of the band members to shine.
Other songs in their set included “Melting Lights,” “Poseidon,” “Landing,” “The Liquid,” and “Time To Ride,” which bookended the upbeat and popular songs “Penguins>Funki Jam.” They also surprised me and I’m sure many others by playing a unique cover of the Deee lite song “Groove Is In The Heart” before ending their set with “Ocean Flows” and “Julia.” Guitarist Schon continued to impress me throughout the set, proving to be one of the better guitar players I’ve had the pleasure of seeing up close. I guess it’s safe to say the same about each member of PPPP. A truly talented foursome, that make the kind of music I love. Their energy, tightness, and abilities to extend their improvisational jams puts them in the same league as any of the top headlining bands in that genre. I highly recommend any fan of great musicianship and highly energetic jams to add Pigeons Playing Ping Pong to their “MUST SEE” list. If they are playing nearby…GO!! If they are on the lineup of a festival you’re attending, make sure you catch their set! I cannot wait to see this gem of a band again and will be checking their tour schedule to see when they are nearby!
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have a very ambitious and extensive tour schedule and will most likely be playing in your town or a town nearby sometime soon. For information about the band and their tour schedule go to their website pigeonsplayingpingpong.com .