In the past two years alone, psych-funk trailblazers Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have co-billed at Red Rocks, played halftime at Madison Square Garden, performed on Adult Swim’s FishCenter Live, celebrated the tenth anniversary of their beloved Domefest, and even earned their first headline arena show. What’s the secret to their success? Let’s just call it “bird of mouth.”
“Our fans call themselves The Flock,” says guitarist/vocalist Greg Ormont, “and they’ve created one of the biggest, most active fan communities on the internet. Everything we do is for them, so it’s been unbelievably rewarding to watch them grow with us on this amazing journey.”
Hailed as “musical explorers” by Rolling Stone, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong first took flight roughly a decade ago at the University of Maryland, and the band has since gone on to play more than a thousand shows across 44 states. Fueled by a relentless work ethic and an ecstatic sound, the fun-loving four-piece built their reputation on epic, blissed-out concerts blending infectious funk grooves with psychedelic jams and intoxicating energy. Glide called them “a band that melts faces and pulls no punches,” while Relix praised the group as “joyous” and “dance-worthy,” and Jambase described them simply as a “powerhouse.” Acting as their own independent label, the Baltimore-based quartet has released four studio albums (including their widely-acclaimed 2017 record, Pizazz) and racked up more than twenty million streams on Spotify. They’ve quickly become festival favorites, too, performing everywhere from Bonnaroo to Electric Forest to Jazz Fest and welcoming top-tier sit-ins along the way from Marcus King and Karl Denson along with members of Vulfpeck, The Revivalists, Umphrey’s McGee and The String Cheese Incident among others. This fall, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong—Ormont, fellow guitarist Jeremy Schon, bassist Ben Carrey, and drummer Alex “Gator” Petropulos—will return to the road for some of their biggest headline shows yet in the run-up to their New Year’s Eve extravaganza at ExploreAsheville.com Arena in North Carolina.
“I think everything boils down to the live show for us,” says Ormont. “We really don’t hold back when it comes to sharing how happy and excited we are to be onstage, and that lets the audience know that it’s okay to show how much fun they’re having, too. We embrace the excitement and enthusiasm of our live concert experience with hopes of generating the kind of positivity we wish to see in the world all the time.”
When they’re not on the road, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong can almost always be found in their practice space or in the studio, writing and recording a near-constant flow of fresh material. The band’s explosive new single, “King Kong,” offers a sneak peek of what they’ve been up to lately, with lightspeed guitar work and funky horns anchored by a rock-solid rhythm section and wry, playful lyrics. It’s a big, bold sound for a band going big, bold places.
“We started doing this for fun in a college dorm room,” reflects Ormont. “Now we get to do it for fun in theaters and arenas across the country!”
Who knows where the fun will lead next? For Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and their Flock, the sky’s the limit.
lespecial carve their own sonic path in modern music, creating their signature blend of “heavy future groove”. The power trio’s fresh synthesis of varied and divergent influences doesn’t underestimate the listener, reflecting a post-modern cultural climate in which fans have space on their aural palette for J Dilla, Radiohead, King Crimson and Fela Kuti. Veering from hip-hop to metal, prog to house, pensive indie-rock to apocalyptic dub, leaving room for head banging and hip swaying alike, while still presenting a unified sound and vision.
“…[lespecial’s] sound owes as much to Radiohead and The Mars Voltaas it does Medeski Martin & Wood and Umphrey’s McGee. – Relix
“That lespecial shit is crazy.” — Akil the MC (Jurassic 5)
“Trap-metal.” — Nikki Glaspie (Beyonce / Nth Power)
“One of the best bands I’ve ever seen live.” — Ott
“My favorite band.” — Space Jesus
These three childhood friends from Connecticut play off of a lifetime of shared experience in their writing and performance. In a power trio, it’s essential that each of the players can utterly captivate you at any given time. Each individual has a lot of weight to carry and is only as strong as the weakest link. In the studio, as on stage, it seems at first blush that Jon Grusauskas—delivering lyrics that call for your attention and seamlessly moving from guitar to keys to samples—is handling the entire upper end of the spectrum… until you consider how broad the melodic embrace of rhythmatist Rory Dolan and low end wizard Luke Bemand: injecting splashes of color and wicked chops into their heavy groove foundations or driving assaults, this dynamic battery simultaneously eases and propels lespecial through fractious changes of mood and tempo. Additionally, whether at the forefront or scattered throughout the mix, all of them use live looping or triggered samples that contribute to a sound that is far greater than that generally created by three people as they seek to tap into a primitive past, distorted through the lens of contemporary technology.
The band’s fearless pursuit of a synthesis of the musical idioms that inspire them has, thus far, culminated with the release of their second album, cheen, on October 31, 2017. Pole vaulting over traditional genres, cheen is a snapshot of a band flexing their remarkable creative muscles. In a traditional sense, cheen is a risky album: it asks the listener to suspend a categorical approach and dig into their own eclectic unconsciousness, to adapt a phrase, and appreciate the flow of the record from start to finish, as it moves guided by an unseen plan. If there is an underlying thematic structure, it is one that is anchored—musically and lyrically—by horror flicks, 1980s video games and lespecial’s indictment of the current cultural state of affairs. Not overtly political, angry or morose, cheen seems to observe the zeitgeist and respond to it. lespecial’s willingness to take this risk of presenting an album full of flavors and feels is a reflection of the respect they have for their fans, present and future: they simply don’t underestimate the listener, and that itself is refreshing.
Never willing to sit back and settle into a groove, lespecial pivoted quickly from touring in support of the release of cheen into a whole new format: collaborating with and supporting the iconic Bay Area hip-hop emcee and producer, Zion I, on tour dates and a forthcoming album. There are also plans to release remixes of cheen tracks from some of their producer friends who hold lespecial in the highest esteem.