Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Orlando, FL April 4, 2014
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Now there is a silly name for a band. Brittany and I walked by The Social a few times before venturing inside. The music didn't start until 10pm: plenty of time for the multi-venue pre-game; plenty of time to get right. When we walked up for the last time, a man by the front door told us about the show to convince us to come inside. His pitch was honest. I would have been more impressed by an elaborate ruse to convince passersby that there were actual pigeons inside, and that they'd beat the best ringer in a game of beer pong. Still, we didn't need any convincing, and he welcomed us to the show with some free stickers. Cool!
I first heard Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at the Aura music festival earlier in 2014. Cope, the Tampa, FL headliner of The Social's event, played there, too. At Aura, the Pigeon's performance was recognizably unique; they were wearing matching pants, and they were vibrant, funky, and musically adept. We briefly met their frontman, Greg Ormont, and he was all smiles, much like he is on stage. It's hard not to like these guys, and as soon as I heard about them coming to Orlando I was vested.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong started the show, and a handful of hippie girls danced in front of the stage. One of them had a fancy hula hoop with flashing, sequenced, colored lights that made kaleidoscopes. It was mesmerizing. About 40 other patrons lined the bar and surrounding tables; attention shifted from conversations to the jam on stage. As the music bounced along, the crowd grew and the dance floor filled up. The girl next to me exclaimed "It's so cool!" People mingled. Brittany and I danced. The music was infectiously fun and accessible. The guitars swirled. Between verses Greg was grinning like a first-grader on picture day. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong sound much bigger than a four piece rock ensemble. I found myself looking for a fifth band member a few times, just wondering where all that sound was coming from. Was there a secret keyboardist adding lush layers to all that guitar strumming? Were they - *gasp* - playing with a background track? No, probably not. I was probably just impressed.
Jeremy Schon and Greg were on guitars, with Jeremy leading. They layered a wide variety of traditional guitar effects, wah pedals, chorus, delay, reverb, etc., producing sounds ranging from staccato funk to full-on hippie soup. Greg's vocals were comparatively dry, without conspicuous effects or processing. Dan Schwartz drove the rhythm at the drum kit, and Ben Carrey's bass meshed well with the rest. The sum of the four was much larger than them. The crowd at least doubled in size and was really into it. Pigeons played a solid set and drew applause several times. During one song something was briefly amiss: it sounded like a delay wasn't lined up with the tempo of the song, but the band grooved past it quickly with professional style. They played the same hook during a couple different jams, which I found to be a little patronizing. Replaying a hook or song-part isn't uncommon in the jam band world, but considering the length of their set I wanted more!
Cope played next. At Aura I had pegged them as a capable but ubiquitous jam band. At The Social they demonstrated a lot of versatility, playing reggae and funk to the ripe crowd. Their musicianship was excellent and I enjoyed what we heard of them, but (for us at least) the main attraction was Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Brittany and I danced for a few songs and we called it a night.