Domefest 2015 Review
Written by Laura Beth Miller
Photos by J William Taylor Hott
The Pigeons Playing Ping Pong Flock congregated in the wild and wonderful hills of West Virginia May 28-30 for the Flocking of the summer – the band’s annual Domefest celebration. The festival is both an incredibly funky and chill time put together by the Baltimore-based band. Pigeons truly loves and appreciates its fans, and the band works really hard to make the weekend party an incredible time for everyone.
Domefest is an intimate festival full of a lot of love. One of the best things about it is seeing band members Greg Ormont, Jeremy Schon, Benn Carrey, and Alex Petropulos flying around the festival grounds on golf carts, walking through and talking with the crowd, spreading their good vibes through even more than just their usual dose of funky music. These young, ambitious and incredibly hard-working men brought the festy scene another great time in northern West Virginia.
The beautiful Tripp’s Farm (formerly Sunshine Daydream Memorial Park) in Terra Alta, W.Va., home to Domefest, was buzzing all weekend long. To find it, you’ll drive and drive and think you probably missed a turn somewhere, until eventually you see it — Jerry Garcia Way — and know you’ve come Dome. GPS devices will get you there, but some cell phone providers won’t work, so it was an off-the-grid kind of weekend for many Flockers. Parking was a cinch and close to camping sites both in the woods and in the fields. A nice hill provided a picturesque view of the stages, the barn, ponds, and the rolling hills of West Virginia, as well as a long, but not-too-long, trek to the top. A dog-friendly festival, it was nice to see heady four-legged friends about the grounds.
Dark clouds and thunder rumbled in the distance for much of the weekend, but blue skies and the bright sun welcomed the heady festival-goers in between the dancing clouds. Storms threatened, but did not pass directly overhead – that is until Saturday evening, right before the final acts were to perform, when Mother Nature decided to rage a little harder than everyone else. The nights were chilly and mysterious when the bright moon emerged and the crawling fog crept in.
This year’s festival had three stages, with no overlapping performances. Most acts, weather permitting, played on the Main Stage. Smaller acts performed on a tiny Side Stage directly beside the main one, ensuring the music continued in between set changes. The Barn Stage – yes, inside a barn, complete with a large dance floor and wrap-around balcony – provided more intimate late night performances.
It was the first-ever Thursday night for Domefest, giving Flockers three solid nights of funky music. The crowd, going really hard for a Thursday night, filled the barn with really good vibes to start the festival. Despite an abundance of overalls, animals won out in the evening’s Animals vs. Farmers costume party. Star City Disco played soul/funk/indie/disco house music in between sets. Musical power trio Sweet Earth opened with their prog rock explosion, followed by Appalachian jam rock band Fletcher’s Grove. The barn was packed for Pigeons’ funkalicious Thursday night set, one of three during the festival. The performance included a beautiful guitar solo of Phish’s The Lizards by the incredibly talented Jeremy Schon in the middle of a Flock favorite, Julia. Imperial Blend played a mellow late night trance set to close out Domefest day one really late Thursday night/early Friday morning.
The party continued when the Flock finally emerged from their rapidly-warming tents on Friday morning. An array of fun workshops were hosted in the Dome area, including a yoga party, hooping geometry, aerial silks 101, multi-media mandala making, “Let It Flow” poem tell, and fire safety. The music kicked off with an afternoon of Main Stage jams from Litz, Moogatu, and the McLovins. Bats Dynamic String Band, Mateo Monk, and the Hornitz shared their songs with the groovy crowd from the Side Stage. BIG Something brought their big fun to Domefest that evening, and Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band entertained with their nonsense and a fun Friday night dance party. The Flock danced and sang their asses off along with the band as Pigeons played a super fun “Undercover Set,” putting their own spin on too many favorites to name (some of favs were: Down with Disease, Magic Carpet Ride, Boogie on Reggae Woman, Dancin’ in the Streets, and Suck My Kiss) and giving the Flock a first time performance of a Tribute/Stairway to Heaven mash up. Things got even funkier when the Hornitz joined in for several songs. The Heavy Pets and Broccoli Samurai lit up the Barn Stage for their late night performances, jamming well into the wee hours of the morning.
The Flock was slower to emerge from their tents and RVs on Saturday, and some didn’t even bother with sleep. Saturday afternoon brought more solid workshops for attendees, including another yoga party, dreamcatcher making, a poi party and juggling jamboree. The music started at noon with The Jauntee, whose set was interrupted with a good rain shower. While the crowd took shelter in vendors’ booths and the sound area, The Jauntee continued their groovy jams, with one fan continuing to rage particularly hard despite the rain. Jordan August and Mateo Monk took the Side Stage in between the afternoon’s sets, which included Jahman Brahman’s “shred ‘n’ flow,” a fun performance from Mister F, and Supatight’s seriously super tight jams. Scrambled Greg shared his entertaining solo performance on the Side Stage.
I was most excited for the Saturday night lineup. So was everyone else, including Mother Nature apparently, who delivered her own raging performance just before Aqueous was to take the Main Stage. An eerie West Virginia mountain storm delayed the show, forcing the remaining night’s performances to be moved into the Barn Stage. Once the storm passed, festival goers emerged, refreshed, but many a tent was wet from her performance. Once the Barn was all set up, the hot, sweaty (probably really stinky, but who noticed?!) dance party began. Aqueous shredded some faces with their unique blend of hard rock intensity and funky groove beats. The Mantras then took the barn on a wild ride with their intense, face-melting rock. It was my first time seeing them and all I wrote in my notebook of them: “Fucking amazing.” The night peaked with a funky and fun set by the boys that brought the festival. The barn was hot and packed with stinky hippies; many were tired from having so much fun all weekend. But it was a magical night of celebrating, filled with so much love! Love for music. Love for the Flock. Love for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. The Hornitz added their funk to the set and my favorite part was the F.U.>Could You Be Loved>F.U. jam. Viral Sound played the late night set, followed by the festival’s culmination with a wicked sunrise set by ShwizZ on Sunday morning, ending roughly at 7am to a healthy crowd of smilers – Domefest co-producers and co-Flockmasters Greg Ormont and Jeremy Schon included.
After the festival, Ormont, Pigeons guitarist and lead vocalist, told Appalachian Jamwich: “Domefest 2015 was simply incredible. All the bands annihilated. I’m blown away every year. You’d think after six years I’d anticipate that wonderfully familiar Domefest energy, but each year takes me by surprise.” He expressed his appreciation for the festival’s staff: “This year’s staff took Domefest to the next level and Jeremy and I couldn’t be more proud of their contribution to the festival and our music community. Other key Domefest staff members and volunteers are some of the hardest working and fun-loving people we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. It goes without saying that Jeremy and I couldn’t physically run the festival alone, and we were truly taken aback by our team’s efforts this year.”
Flockers came from Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and all over the place to experience another amazing Domefest. Pigeons expressed their gratitude to all the Flockers who joined this year’s festivities. A note on their website reads: “We can still feel your endless energy and we’re ready to spread that love all summer long. Domefest will see you next year!” Flocking right you will.