Pigeons Playing Ping Pong Review

10/11/15, Sycamore Deli, Blacksburg, VA

written by Jonny Walker

(photo above taken at Mad Tea Party by Roger Gupta)

Sundays in the south are reserved primarily for two things: Church and football. Depending on the company you keep the lines between the two can easily become blurred. However, on this particular Sunday in Blacksburg, VA a third option presented itself into the fold. You can devote your day to the preacher, the pigskin, or the Pigeons…Playing Ping Pong that is. On this glorious Sunday I was able to change up my normal ritual of football, football, and football to football, football, and a wild night of music.

            My day had been going just swimmingly. I made a solid purchase of some classic vinyls early in the morning, the Atlanta Falcons pulled off a victory in overtime, and to cap the day off I was on my way to see a funky ass concert when I would normally be doing nothing more than religiously checking my fantasy football stats. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have been making stops in Blacksburg for years and for as long as I can remember they have always drawn a crowd. I remember one of my first shows I ever went to while studying at Virginia Tech was to see Pigeons, but this is the first time I ever saw them on a Sunday. As Spark Arrester, a local dj that in an era of digital and electronic music stays true to the origins of the disc jockey with a vinyl funk set, began to get the people moving I had worries that the day of the week would deter a sizeable crowd. By the time the Pigeons picked up their paddles to play, those worries were gone. For the second time this week (Big Something being the first show) I watched the dance floor of Sycamore Deli fill up with people ready to groove into the early hours of the morning.

            With a packed house, they opened up with their smooth moving song Live Life that makes you think for a second that you are sitting on a beach in Jamaica with a reggae band playing in the background while you sip on a Pina Colada and enjoy the local herbs and spices. Then they remind you that it’s time to get up and get funky with Upfunk. Pigeons has a great way of keeping the crowd moving in classic jam fashion and transition between songs before you even notice a new song is being played and using one song as the bookends to another song in a fashion similar to The Grateful Dead if James Brown were the leader of the band. It became Time to Ride and boy did they take us on one crazy, hazy ride. With a smooth transition into a song I had never heard from them before called Kiwi they brought it full circle back into Time to Ride as Greg a.k.a. Scrambled Greg looked over to me with a wild look in his eyes, stuck his tongue out, and shook his head from side to side. Not knowing how to respond to that gesture, I simply mirrored his gesture and raged along with the band. They ended their first set with my personal favorite; a good ol’ F.U…….NK.

            During the set break I struck up a conversation with a guy at the bar on the sole basis of the Atlanta Falcons sweatshirt he was wearing. After a brief conversation on the game, he told me that this was his first Pigeons show. I asked him how he was enjoying it and he simply replied, “This is the funkiest show I’ve ever been to. Before this I’ve only been to country concerts.” I chuckled at first, because obviously a Pigeons show has far more funk packed into it than just about any country concert out there. After a moment of thought on the matter I realized that this kid was on to something. I’ve seen hundreds of shows in every genre of music under the sun and Pigeons really does have a way of meshing together so many styles of music with the funk being the glue that holds it all together.

            With that said, The Ocean Flows right into a Walk Outside to begin the second set. With another smooth transition they move into their song Lightning that sounds like something they wrote while aboard a spaceship. The so appropriately named Birds of a Feather followed and once again, I was so caught up in the boogie down that was taking place that before I realized it they had already played through another song and were on to The Liquid. It’s been over a year since I have seen these guys perform and I have to say that I was overly pleased with the new music that has been in the works since that time. I have no idea of whether or not a new album is on the way, but if it is I can assure you it will please the masses of Pigeonheads out there. Just as the evening went, they ended their second set with Fade Fast. To send the crowd off with a fond farewell they took us back to our childhood with a Rugrats melody meshed into Julia for the encore.

            Years after my first time seeing Pigeons they still bring the house down. Blacksburg is a small town, but I’m so proud of the place that I live to see us showing continued support over the years for a band as such as they have grown in popularity over the years. I don’t know whether or not I’ll still be living here years down the road but I hope they keep coming back for as long as I’m here. If life happens to take me elsewhere in the country I’ll be waiting for them to play in a city near me with paddle in hand ready for a game of ping pong.