By Kyley Jones | April 22, 2023
📸: shot by Tori McGraw

The psychedelic funk jam quartet that is Pigeons Playing Ping Pong came together in 2007 and released their debut album, Funk E P, in 2010. The band–Greg Ormont (vocals, guitar), Jeremy Schon (guitar, vocals), Ben (bass, vocals), and Alex Petropulos (drums, vocals)–has since gone on to release a total of six studio albums including their most recent project, Perspective (2022). With over fifteen years of experience under their belts and more than two-thousand shows played across the United States, they have amassed a cult-like following known as “The Flock.” At each show, their loyal fanbase ecstatically engages in the journey of musical exploration that is built into each setlist. 

As Saturday night began, an eclectic mix of devoted superfans and newbies to the jam band scene flocked to Williamsburg for a night with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. The evening marked the final show in their three-night run at Brooklyn Bowl, and they brought down the house with a show that was nothing short of hypnotic. One Time Weekend, an emerging shred-funk band hailing from Connecticut, warmed the crowd up with an opening set that showcased stellar vocals and otherworldly musicianship. Their mantra, “We Groove, You Move,” is one that struck a chord with us. When it came time for our headliner to take the stage, the zealousness of the crowd had been cemented into the room.

The sold out show featured two high-energy sets and nearly three hours of stage time from Pigeons. They opened their first set with “Porcupine” from their 2017 album, Pizazz. Launching into a setlist that featured a medley of songs from their expansive discography, the band played tracks such as “Elephante,” “Julia,” and “Lightning.” As they played “Lightning,” Nir Felder joined them on stage to give Jeremy Schon a run for his money on the guitar. Later in the set, a mashup of Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” and The Revivalists’ “Wish I Knew You” had the audience swinging. They closed the first half of their show with “Moonwalk,” an instrumental track that transitioned perfectly into a short break before the second set. 

The momentum of an electric first set propelled both the band and the audience into the second half of the show. We jammed along with them to “Somethin’ For Ya,” “Miyagi,” and “Sail On.” Another special guest, Tim Palmieri of Lotus, accompanied the quartet on the guitar as they played “Godzilla.” Perhaps the most notable moment of the set was when the band played “Horizon,” a dance-y song that gets off to a mellow start but soars into an intricate guitar riff that will have your world beating. Having not played this crowd favorite throughout their three nights at Brooklyn Bowl, it was clear that this was a much anticipated moment. They closed the final set with “King Kong,” then indulged listeners with an encore performance of “Avalanche” before making their final departure from the stage. 

When watching Pigeons Playing Ping Pong perform, it’s obvious that this is a band who thrives on stage. They absorb the energy that the audience radiates and feed it back to them with whirling improvisations of songs layered with funky basslines, cosmic guitar grooves, and killer drum beats. Their extensive portfolio of live performance experience, combined with the intimate bond that they share with their fans, gives them the ability to read the crowd and tailor each performance to an individual audience. More than anything, though, it’s abundantly clear that Pigeons likes to have fun. You can see it on their faces, in the chemistry between each band member, and in the way they move about the stage. While it was bittersweet to see their three nights at Brooklyn Bowl come to a close, we know it won’t be long before Flock members are soaring into the city to see Pigeons Playing Ping Pong play again. 

We caught up with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s lead-singer, Greg Ormont, in a digital interview before the show at Brooklyn Bowl, where he answered a few questions for the groovement.

What was the first concert you went to?
Matchbox 20 in Las Vegas. Unless you count Raffi. I was alllll about Raffi.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Port Washington, NY, but the band lives in Baltimore, MD.

How did you first get started as a band?
I went to the University of Maryland and didn’t know anyone there, so I grabbed my acoustic guitar on move-in day and walked down the dorm hallway hoping to make friends. I met our guitarist Jeremy Schon, and we started jamming and goofing off within minutes of knowing each other.

What was the first concert you performed?
We started as an acoustic duo, which was half humor, half “fun funky jazz rock.” Our first gig was likely an open mic night, but our first show as a full band was probably at our college radio station, WTMD, for about 20 friends sitting on the floor. I personally had played in a Battle of the Bands in high school prior to this, but “Manifest Destiny” didn’t really pan out to say the least.

What is the origin of your name?
Look up images of “Pigeons Playing Ping Pong” and prepare to have your mind blown.

How would you describe your music – either by genre or general vibe?
We call it “high-energy psychedelic funk,” but it’s really fluid and all about that live energy. No matter what genre we morph into, there’s always a great dance beat flowing and smiles beaming across the stage. We have so much fun playing live, and it seems to be contagious in the crowd.

What is your pre-show routine (anything you need to do, eat or drink)?
I don’t have too many pre-show rituals, but I’ve learned the hard way to avoid overeating or eating too close to showtime. My perfect pre-show meal is salmon, veggies and rice about three hours before the show, so I’m free to go nuts without a pit in my stomach.

Who/what do you draw inspiration from?
As cheesy as it sounds, everything! I’m open to anything that gets the creative juices flowing, whether it’s another band’s song or lyric, a quote from a book, a new experience, anything to kickstart the engine.

Do you have anything you want people to take away from your music?
We feel so fortunate to be able to do what we love, so if we can inspire a smile or a positive feeling in someone else, then that’s just icing on the cake. I always hope someone takes that warm and fuzzy feeling experienced at our live shows and goes out into the world and does something positive with it. Just pay it forward and I’m a happy camper.

You have a loyal fanbase, “The Flock.” Many of your fans see you perform multiple times per year, and come from far and wide to do so. What is it like having this community of superfans backing you?
We’re so grateful to have such passionate fans who vibe with what we’re doing. When we see the same faces in the crowd, it inspires us to continue to write new music, work on new transitions and keep them on their toes. We always want to keep the crowd guessing and make it worth their while. Plus, it’s extra exciting for us to try something new, a feeling we’ll continue to chase.

How did Domefest come to be, and what was the motivation behind hosting your own festival?
Jeremy stumbled upon an awesome property with dome-shaped houses in our senior year of college. He and a friend ran with it and threw down an epic one-day, one-night music and camping festival aptly called Domefest. I started helping him produce the event around year four or five and it’s truly been the labor of love. Watching The Flock unite at Domefest each year has been so special and seeing it grow has been amazing to watch. We’ve seen people get engaged at Domefest, married at Domefest–it’s been a wild ride and it’s still going strong. Stoked for this May!

What’s your dream venue to perform at? 
We’ve been fortunate to play at some incredible venues including Red Rocks, Madison Square Garden, Spirit of Suwannee Music Park and many more. I’d love to play at The Gorge in Washington some day and would love to tour internationally before it’s all said and done.

What’s next for you?
We’re always writing new music and working on exciting things behind the scenes. We’re fifteen years in and still feel like we’re just getting started!

Connect with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong on Instagram, Spotify, TikTok, and their website.

📸: shot by Tori McGraw

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