Home at the Domes: Domefest 2013

Sunshine Daydream Memorial Park

Terra Alta, WV

Written by Becca Boo Cranwell

Pictures by Roger Gupta & Richele Cole


Winding through a tight-knit family of mountains in West Virginia, it’s easy to assume you’re incredibly lost, until Jerry Garcia Way pops into view. As we follow the dirt road leading to the entrance of SunshineDaydreamMemorial Park, a small SUV breezes over a small hill in front of us. With the sun shining behind the vehicle, it’s difficult to see inside it as it rolls towards us, but judging DSC_0281by the enormous afro silhouetted by the sun—it’s easy to tell the vehicle is carrying Greg Ormont, lead vocalist for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.

“You’re here!” he exclaims as he points us toward the gate. Excitement radiates through his smile and creates a bubble of joyful enthusiasm that extends about 3 feet beyond his car. Greg’s mood is contagious.

SunshineDaydreamMemorial Park is as big as it is beautiful. Comfortably nestled in the mountains of Terra Alta, WV, the park features rolling hills, a small glassy pond, and the best part: a big, old barn which will house the weekend’s entertainment.

Jeremy Schon, lead guitarist for PPPP, politely welcomes us and points to the camping grounds. DSC_0730While setting up camp in the grassy field, the skritchity-scratch of instruments being tuned can be heard floating from the barn. Beyond the barn, vendors set up tents and prepare display items on Shakedown Street. Healing gems from NewFunkCity gleam in the sunlight. Delightfully psychedelic paintings created by Allie Gardner capture attention without even trying. And hula hoopers, poi slingers and other flow artists show their stuff while actively waiting for music to start.

The vibe here is good. Very good. There are no strangers at Domefest 2013. The Baltimore flock flew to West Virginia—without question—to see their beloved Pigeons. This is where the flock and Pigeon’s fans from all over the region accumulate and celebrate.

The day starts off with Sophistafunk, from SyracuseNew York. This band brings booty bouncing bass and hip-hopish funk. If your hips weren’t shakin’ after this set (and face it, they were), then Jimkata of Ithaca, NY finished the job. Or started the job—whatever—your hips were moving and that’s what matters!

Resting your feet by the fire, you will hear many musical discussions. It seems the show DSC_0439creating the most hype for the evening is Big Something. Both Big Something beginners and Big Something veterans are building energy before the show even starts. The North Carolina group gets on stage to bless the barn with streaming golden grooves and the room is already packed with hungry listeners.

Big Something’s sound may be difficult to describe, but the feeling you get while listening to the group isn’t. The feeling is ecstasy; the feeling you’ve been longing for all winter, or perhaps all your life. Simple joy, gratitude, and the desire to share those emotions with everyone around you are the symptoms of a Big Something show. Close your eyes and sit—or dance—in that serene and uplifting found only in your mind. Bring that place to the forefront of your mind and get lost there. If the music isn’t enough to lift your spirit to the highest vibration, just watch lead singer Nick MacDaniels and bask in the warm glow his smile generates. MacDaniels has, without doubt, the purest and most genuine smile you will ever experience.

Steady bass gets the root chakra swirling and moving to a constant and reliable beat.042 Technical guitar and keyboard solos bounce and sing off your 3rd eye as your lift your head and lean closer to the music. The only thing that could possibly make this moment better are horns. And guess what!? Horns there shall be. Casey Cranford kisses his saxophone creating deep, sexy grooves that have you touching yourself in all the right places; however, you never quite get to 3rd base as you are interrupted by the angelically golden reverberations of Josh Kagel’s trumpet.

If you live in the Baltimore area, be sure and catch Big Something at the 8 x 10 May 22nd and every Wednesday this coming October. The barn vibrates with joy as dancers, listeners, talkers, goofers, hoopers, huggers and laughers take a collective breath at the end of the Big Something set. All we did was dance, but for some reason it feels like so much more.

As Big Something packs up, the Pigeons prepare for their sunrise set. The Pigeons keep things swingin’ from 2 a.m. until sunrise, playing favorites like “Julia” and “Dome People.” The energy Pigeons Playing Ping Pong brings to a show is phenomenal. It’s extremely difficult to frown while listening to their funk-jams, not to mention Greg Ormont’s facial expressions DSC_0789will have you geeking your ass off.

One of the most difficult decisions one had to make at Domefest is when to get sleep. The only time you wouldn’t be missing incredible music was between 5 a.m. and noontime. Therefore, unfortunately, the bands that played during the day didn’t quite get the recognition they deserved from the crowd. We were listening—but from our tents.

However, one band managed to get serious props—even from a distance. Tauk, from New York, played a beautiful cover of “I want you (she’s so heavy), which roused ragers from their tents and pushed them up the hill towards the music.

As the day turns to evening, festivarians are treated to music by Consider the Source, whose guitarist, Gabriel Marin, impresses the crowd by shredding on his double neck guitar. As usual, The Shack Band improves the grooves with jazzy rock ballads. Shack Band’s newest member, Josh Crowley really raises the jazzy vibe with smooth saxophone solos—excellent addition Shack Band!

The Mantras never fail to bring mental and spiritual release to the audience. DSC_0312The Mantras are one of the few groups that melt dancing insecurities. There is no judgment during a Mantras show. The North Carolina 5-piece played all our favorites: Before my time, Linus and Lucy and Dr. Ssanasinod, with the help of Kenn Mogel (formerly of Psychedelphia) on guitar.

The music never stops, as The Hornitz fill the music-less void that exists only while bands switch out. The Hornitz, fromBoston, features two artists on bass trombone and tenor sax who also beatbox and do live loops to create high energy, funky, electronic and totally danceable tunes.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong complete their 2nd set of the festival and are finally able to let loose a little and mingle through the crowd as The Heavy Pets take the stage. It is obvious that not only are the festival patrons having a good time, but the band members are also having a blast. Keith Allen of The Mantras sits in on a Heavy Pets song to read the book “Towns Down Underground,” which had been passed around the campfire the previous evening. The audience eats the goofiness up like Sunday dinner.

Having just spent all day grooving to insanely good music, many festie-goers were fairlDSC_1073y exhausted by the 2 a.m. show: Segway. Luckily, Segway incorporates a good mix of high energy tunes and slow motion grooves. You may be bouncing up and down, ready to take off while listening to extra-terrestrial-esque keyboarding, but a few moments later you’re on the ground writhing sensually to grungy guitar riffs.

The final show of Domefest 2013 is an encore show by Tauk. Their day-time show created such a stir, Jeremy Schon (Domefest coordinator) asks Tauk to fill in an empty slot for the sunrise set. Accepting the request with enthusiasm and gratitude, the 4-piece group lays down a whirlwind of sound. Chocolaty bass notes accompany a steady, yet delightfully unpredictable drum beat, while keyboards send cleansing ribbons of futuristic funk and jazz through the crevices of your mind. If you are currently stuck in an “I need new music” phase, check out Tauk’s newest album “Homunculus” which is releasing this spring. Or catch them at Summer Camp music festival and Floydfest this summer.

It’s easy to say Domefest 2013 was a huge success. In a short interview with Jeremy Schon, he shares:

“Domefest is my favorite time of year. I love doing it; it’s the essence of the058 music community. We have artists from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and even New York. I love coming to Domefest because I feel like all my family is here. We have our flock from Baltimore, and family we have met in other surrounding cities. Everyone is here and everyone is having a blast and being incredibly respectful. Even the band members here are all friends.” 

When told it had been whispered around the campfire that this year’s Domefest feels like the first Allgood felt, Jeremy responds that he is “honored to hear that” and hopes this festival “continues to grow in all the best ways.” 

“I want Domefest to continue to expand with friends and family. I don’t want it to be like Allgood in the sense that it gets huge overnight—but I definitely want us to grow by inviting and accepting new, like-minded people . . . I love how nice and respectful everyone has been so far. Trash pick-up has been a breeze so far because everyone is being incredibly considerate. We really appreciate that.”

The Pigeons would like to thank every person who helped bring Domefest 2013 DSC_0459to fruition with enthusiasm and kindness. A special thanks to event staff, sound, lighting, hospitality, all the volunteers and coordinators. And from the patrons, we would like to thank the Pigeons for allowing us to be a part of your vision. And the biggest thanks of all goes to Jeremy Schon and Groovehouse Productions for losing sleep and hair to bring us Domefest 2013.


Friday & Saturday Gallery by Richele Cole

Saturday Gallery by Roger Gupta