Funk-rock fans will be flocking to Washington, D.C.’s 9:30 Club Friday night to be engrossed in the groovy musical stylings of Baltimore’s own, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.
Combining the talents of University of Maryland students Greg Ormont, Jeremy Schon, Ben Carrey and Alex Petropulos, seven years ago, Pigeons has since grown significantly in popularity, attracting a fan-base from the east coast to Colorado, touring across the country and playing nearly 200 shows a year.
This October has been their busiest month yet, with the group playing a total of 22 shows.
9:30 Club’s website describes Pigeons as having “danceable electro-funk grooves and infectious ability to bring positive energy to any environment.”
Pigeons boasts a unique sound, and according to their website, is known for their “energy packed set[s] at every show, whether it be a major festival or in your local rock club,” promising to “show you a good time.”
The group has released two albums thus far – Funk E P in 2010 and Psychology in 2014. However, Friday’s set will adhere to the Halloween theme of Dead Zeppelin: a mashup of songs from the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin along with Pigeons’ original works
Pigeons will be performing alongside Talking Heads tribute band Psycho Killers and the funk, reggae, soul group Litz. Tickets are $15 for this epic Halloween weekend show.
We spoke to lead singer Greg Ormont, 27, about the roots, inspirations and popularity of Pigeons, in addition to what fans can expect from Friday’s show.
Q: How did the group start?
We actually met at the University of Maryland.
Our first day of college, my guitarist and I were in Cumberland Hall because we were both College Park Scholars in the media program.
On our first day of school I didn’t know anyone, so I walked down the hall with my guitar and there were a couple people playing as well and I jammed with one person, which was fun, and then I walked across the hall to another person, Jeremy Schon, who happens to be our lead guitarist.
We met day one and started playing campus events. We played a lot of covers and a few originals straight out of Cumberland Hall. One of our favorite cover mashups was “No Woman, No Farmhouse,” which is a mash of Bob Marley and Phish. We’ve kind of been doing this mashing of covers since day one, and seven years later here we are doing Dead Zeppelin at the 9:30 Club, which is pretty surreal.
Q: You obviously have fond memories of the University of Maryland. How does it feel to be playing so close to UMD?
To call 9:30 Club our hometown venue is insane.
We’re super honored to be there because we’ve taken that metro ride to 9:30 Club many times while we were in school to see our favorite bands. To be on Halloween weekend is another “majestical” aspect of things. It’s a pleasure.
It is surreal and we’re taking it seriously and we’re going to keep doing it. It’s nice to be so close to UMD and Baltimore, where we ended up moving and living. This is the whole “hometown get-down” of the century.
Q: This is usually a pretty generic question, but with a name like Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, I think it is more than relevant. Where does the band’s name comes from?
Professor Murnane’s class.
If anyone’s had that guy, they know how eccentric he is.
I was spacing out into my textbook on the wrong page — don’t tell professor Murnane — and I happened to see the phrase in a random paragraph.
I so very casual pointed it out, I was sitting next to our guitarist, and I pointed to the phrase and said, “Dude that’s our band name.”
We were still an acoustic duo in coffee shops so it was a very low-key decision. I just saw the phrase, pointed to it and that was that.
Q: Can you tell us more about Friday’s set?
We mashed up Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong music.
It’s going to be great.
Really groovy, but also flashes of debut covers and things that people might not have heard ever before.
Q: What can your fans expect from it? How could you describe it in a few words?
“What the bleep just happened? That was awesome,” is what we’re looking for.
Q: What has been your favorite venue to play in so far?
9:30 Club in D.C.
I’ll be honest. It means so much to us. We have a song that is called “Horizon” and it’s about an experience we had at the 9:30 Club.
It really is just, like, such an amazing venue to be at, to see fun shows, and fortunately we’ve performed there already and it’s a surreal experience.
However, there is a festival site in Florida called Suwannee Music Park and that is the most magical place we’ve visited.
Q: How many times have you come to 9:30?
I have a bad memory. It’s been at least two times. We got to headline July 3 for our CD release party, which was a huge success, and a really surreal night for us.
Q: Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
As a band, when we are asked that question, we say that our music most resembles a combination of Phish, Lotus, Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Talking Heads. However, music inspires us everyday. We’re music fiends.
We find new music through friends, recommendations and Spotify every day. And we show each other, and share on each other’s walls. And we’re really hungry for new music, new fusion and soaking in those ideas and creating our own spin on what we’re feeling.
I find that our music has gotten more and more diverse over the years, and what helps us with that is the amount of great music that surrounds us everyday.
Q: I guess it would make sense that the Psycho Killers are also performing with you guys on Friday because you’re inspired by the Talking Heads.
That’s no mistake. The Psycho Killers are a tremendous band out of Baltimore that will blow everyone’s mind.
Q: What would you consider your biggest or proudest group accomplishment or achievement?
Well, not to be a broken record, but headlining the 9:30 Club for our CD release party was a huge milestone for us.
But you know, as far as milestones go, it boils down to the hometown. That’s what kind of gets you started, and what gets you into music in the first place. I’d say that our proudest moment was playing the All Good Music Festival last summer.
All Good is an amazing east coast festival, and it is the Mecca of festivals in the mid-Atlantic region, and it was my first big festival experience that opened my eyes to the jam scene, showed me how cool everyone is, and how much great music there is out there that I had never heard of before. We had an amazingly supportive crowd, and we just lived the dream.
Q: Where would you like to see the group go in the future?
Up. We love to play music. This is about fun. We met in school to have fun, to play guitar in the dorm, and the dorm turned in to the Cambridge Community Center and that turned into Sante Fe when it existed, and we even came back and played at the Thirsty Turtle.
I don’t even know if that’s there anymore … I don’t think it is … and now we play at the 9:30 Club.
We never lost touch with the reason we started, which is to have fun, to play music, meet people, to socialize after the show and the fact that it has now become our profession is something we never take lightly.
We’re not going to mess it up.
We’re going to continue to strive to write better music, inspire those around us and be inspired by the same people.
We’re just going to keep playing, and obviously hope for bigger crowds as time goes on, but we have as much fun playing in front of 50 people as we do 500 as long as the energy is in the room.
Featured Photo Credit: Given by Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. (Courtesy of Roger Gupta)
Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at email@example.com.
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