Pigeons Playing Ping Pong & Cycles 10.19.18

Boulder Theater
Boulder, CO

Words by Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)
Photos by Doug Fondriest Photography

Sure I caught the last gasps of Phish 1.0 and loads of shows from bands that don’t currently exist, but I was in the minority at the Boulder Theater during the latest Pigeons Playing Ping Pong run. I’m old. I’m one of those gray-haired heads still searching and trying to keep abreast of the next wave of musical whatnots and masterful wingdings. It wasn’t that long ago that I was asking musicians outright if Jam was dead.

Since the emergence of Twiddle the world of Jam has seen an influx of young progressive rockers from bands like Spafford, Aqueous, Mungion, and more. Beyond that, this new crop of fans seems wholly uninterested in the jam that came before. They are knee deep in a new world of their own creation and they don’t want to be bogged down by the likes of moe. and The String Cheese Incident… or maybe some do. Everything is cyclical these days. Recently, I found myself smack dab in the middle of two nights of Pigeons in B. Town working as a camera operator for a live nug.tv stream. The first of which featured an energized performance from Andy Frasco and The UN I can’t go into to details here because I’m writing about night two, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you to drop everything you are doing right this second and go see Andy Frasco live. It’s that important. This band is amazing in every sense of the word.

For night two they invited local jammers Cycles to start the show. Cycles are a power trio hailing from Denver, Colorado with a wide range of styles and a heavy approach. They have been making waves up and down The Front Range since their debut back in 2015. Musically they are incredibly tight with an eclectic sound that spans multiple genres. They came to the stage with a humble hello before busting into the sample-driven “Party Boy.”

Set One: Party Boy, Game Show, It’s About That Time, Get Out Of Your Head, Figure It Out, A Toe Parade, Be Yourself, Missy

Their set lasted about an hour, which gave the band time to stretch out a bit. Patrick Harvey was solid on guitar, but Tucker McClung’s bass stole the show. Michael Wood’s drums can be credited with keeping the other two in the pocket. At times blasting out funk and at others taking us all on an intense psychedelic ride, it’s easy to see why the Cycles put on such a stellar show. “Get Out Of Your Head” was a prog rock journey that showcased the incredible abilities of all three members of the band. They closed with the bouncy original “Missy.”

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have quickly become a dominant force in the jam band world with a dedicated following known as “The Flock.” Their show on Friday was completely sold out and by the time Scrambled Greg made his way to the stage the room was absolutely packed. Greg, mentioned easing into the show with a fun jam and that’s just what they did.

Set One: Jam> Penguins> Somthin’ For Ya> Time To Ride, Totally, Doc, Skipjack> Hakuna Matata> Moonwalk, Julia> Beanstalk> Julia

Set Two: Too Long, Poseidon> King Kong (Drums)> Horizon, Overrun, Sunny Day, Walk Outside, Fun In Funk

Encore: Live It Up

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have a dynamic, buttery sound anchored by the smooth vocals of the aforementioned Scrambled Greg Ormont. Night two felt like a series of fan favorites interspersed with long and at times incredibly funky jams. “Penguins” was a fine example of the pop jam style that has become a hallmark of PX4. Jeremy Schon was a monster on guitar including on the funked out “Somethin’ For Ya.” The funk was also showing on “Time To Ride” but “Doc” was the heavy hitter during set one. Their cover of the Lion King classic “Hakuna Matata” was definitely well received. And this crowd was on point, jumping in on lyrics and callbacks throughout the show. Their energy was palpable everywhere the room and even this lowly camera operator caught the vapors from time to time. They closed with the island ode to “Julia” busted up by a “Beanstalk.”

The Pigeons’ second set at the Boulder Theater was equal in both energy and intensity as all three that came before. They opened with the space rock tune “Too Long” that featured some innovative light design from Manny Newman. (He’s like the fifth member of the band…) “Poseidon”was a soaring rock tune that felt almost anthemic, while “King Kong” is a much darker affair. Alex Petropulos took a huge solo behind the kit before the band rejoined him on “Horizon.” “Overrun” is a new song featuring a riff heavy sound and the soaring vocals of Ormont. The band got their funk back on to close the set with “Walk Outside” into “Fun In Funk.” They encored with an enthusiastic thank you to their “Flock” and a quick “Live It Up.”

During the show Pigeons Playing Ping Pong announced a co-headlining gig at Red Rocks with their buddies Twiddle with support from the Kitchen Dwellers on May 2nd 2019. The Pigeons are a band on the rise, riding this new wave of jam that is washing across the country. At times playing two hundred shows a year, they are relentless in their drive to spread their music. The members of PPPP are obviously dedicated to their fans and they’ve been rewarded with enthusiastic, sold out crowds in Colorado over 1,600 miles from their hometown.

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