Written by Jennifer Seifert
Fresh off the party bus from touring the west to midwest, Baltimore’s beloved band – Pigeons Playing Ping Pong – kept up the momentum and made their triumphant return to the legendary 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. for two nights overflowing with high-energy funk. Pigeons have played 9:30 before, but this was the first time the animated quartet double booked the venue and completely sold out both nights.
On night one, much of “the flock” gathered early for a pajama party pregame at the Satellite Room adjacent to the 9:30 Club. The venue was already filling up as the Asheville-based band, The Fritz, opened the night performing a range of music from funk to classic rock covers to psychedelia.
Pigeons took the stage soon after, kicking off their first set with the trippy, swirling “Porcupine” which showcases the band’s uninhibited nature. Pigeons is a band that automatically manifests and effortlessly transmits a resounding energy, sending it reverberating through the crowd, and that energy was immediately apparent throughout the venue as the flock sang along – sometimes louder than lead singer Greg Ormont – during their songs “Melting Lights,” “Live It Up,” Somethin’ For Ya,” “Burning Up My Time,” “Julia” and “F.U.”
The Fritz’s percussionist, Mike Evans, was invited on stage to sit-in with the band during “Fortress” and again during their second set for the song “Henrietta,” which grew out of one of Jeremy Schon’s soundcheck guitar loops. Pigeons concluded their first set with the seldom-played “Kiwi” and the horn-fueled “Doc” which is a tribute to a Baltimore man who used to hang around The 8×10 during the band’s early days.
“There’s a homeless man named Doc who would always spend his time outside of The 8×10 in Federal Hill, where we learned to push our limits as a band. Doc always supported us. Even though he was sleeping under a bridge, he’d always ask you how you were doing. We really wanted to commemorate his toughness and positivity.”
Pigeons carried the energy from the first set into their second set of the evening, kicking it off with “Whoopie,” during which, Ben Carrey’s distinct bass lines propelled the song forward, preparing the crowd for the climax of the show. “Hakuna Matata” was a special treat as Pigeons performed this Disney classic infused with their own fun, psychedelic style of funk.
The Best Segue of the Night award went to “Sunny Day” > “Su Casa” > “Sunny Day.” This was a perfect example of what the epitome of a jam band really is and how dialed in the boys actually are with one another. “Sunny Day” was segued so seamlessly into “Su Casa” that many people declared they had no idea what song the band was playing until they segued back into “Sunny Day.” Effortless transitions and improvisation jam is the signature of a great jamtronica band, and it is just one of the many strong suits of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.
The second night began with Consider the Source, a sci-fi Middle Eastern fusion band who took the crowd on a mind-bending roller coaster of what could only be described as psychedelic metal.
Afterwards, Pigeons took the stage to close out their two-night run with a bang. Ormont first spoke to the crowd about how meaningful this particular run meant to the band as a whole, after which, they hit the ground running with “Time to Ride.” They then delved into “Fox and Toad,” a song with island vibes that was originally written in the car one day after a band practice.
Their second set was undoubtedly the highlight of the night. Once again, the band took the stage and Ormont reiterated how important and meaningful it was to perform at the 9:30 Club having grown up in the area, and told the crowd that “they want to do something special,” hinting at recreating their Dead Zeppelin set from Halloween 2015 at the same venue.
Little did the crowd know, it was just after midnight before the second set began, which officially made it April Fools’ Day. Pigeons performed a “War Pigs” fake out, abruptly transitioning into “Bare Necessities” and then entering back into “Horizon” to complete the segue. The finale of their two-night run was one more juicy segue sandwich of “Upfunk” > “Bad For You” > “Upfunk,” leading into a fan favorite, “Julia” and finally encoring with “Fun in Funk.”
“Funk is very fun, upbeat, happy music to begin with. It’s our mission to put that fun into everything we do.”
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong will continue their Pizazz Tour through the remainder of April. They will also perform for three consecutive nights at the Brooklyn Bowl in New York during the first weekend of May prior to their biggest celebration of the year, Domefest.
Check out our image slideshow from the event below, courtesy of Brady Cooling Photography.