By Allie McGlone
Fête Music Hall in Providence, RI is a small club with a wide bar, upstairs seating and an elevated stage. On Thursday night, the stage was set for a show, snaked with cords and lit in dim blue. A large drum face displayed the cover art for the album “Pizazz.” The floor was crowded with people, young and old, awaiting a performance by a wildly fun jam band.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is a psychedelic funk group whose members have been described as “passionate,” “refreshing,” and even “a little nuts.” Lead singer and guitarist “Scrambled” Greg Ormont is known for his crazy-eyed performances and funny facial expressions. The whole band has a signature wild, ragged hippie style, both in their clothing and attitudes. The band’s motto claims that they “put the ‘fun’ in funk.”
The opening band came on after a short wait, in which people in the club greeted each other and grabbed drinks. Swimmer’s social media describes them as “an experimental rock-fusion quintet based out of Burlington, VT.” Burlington is known for its jam bands, and the Lake Champlain bordering town did not disappoint this time. The band played several fun songs – high energy jams that the assembled crowd enjoyed thoroughly judging by their dancing, cheers, and a few good natured exchanges of shouts with the band members. Swimmer left the bandstand to clapping and hollering.
Beer cans and plastic cups lined the edge of the stage by the time Pigeons Playing Ping Pong came on. Greg Ormont sported red plaid pajama pants, and tossed his wild afro as he performed. The band greeted the crowd before launching into an exciting set. They opened with “Too Long,” off their latest album, Pizazz. The rendition was on point – well executed yet original, wandering deep into its jams but returning steadily to the equally compelling lyrics. The band transitioned into “Live it Up” off their album “Pleasure,” then “Burning Up My Time” from the same album. Everyone in the crowd sang along to the band’s biggest hit, “F.U.,” which came out on their first album, Psychology.
Their second set included songs like “Lightning” and “Fade Fast.” They also played the popular “Horizon” – an awesome blend of diverse vocals and epic instrumental. Singer Ormont and guitarist Jeremy Schon could be seen nodding to one another and communicating as they played. Ben Carrey on bass and Alex Petropulos on drums gave extremely skilled performances as well, fitting easily into the heavy instrumental of the songs.
It’s clear how these guys got their wacky reputation. Besides their funky outfits, the band’s quirks were apparent through their odd actions. At one point, the members simply froze for several seconds, while the crowd roared in confusion and appreciation. They then continued playing as if nothing had happened.
Pigeons also have a reputation for being amazing live, and they certainly live up to it. After such an lively, bizarre, entertaining show, there is no doubt that Pigeons Playing Ping Pong are still “putting the ‘fun’ in funk”!