Words & Photos by Anthony Abu-Hanna
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong bounced their way to Port Chester’s famed Capitol Theatre for a sold out night of zany stage theatrics, extended jams, and their unique blend of psychedelic funk that has captivated their devoted Flock of fans. Lead singer and guitarist Greg Ormont teased the night as being a night of old songs, covers, and songs from their upcoming album Day In Time.
There’s one defining feature of jam band fans – they’ll show up. Not just for the headliner but for the opener, too. Usually fans trickle in for opening acts at a concert, but not last night. The Theatre was packed for bassist Karina Rykman’s opening set. Her bubbly, infectious, and bouncy personality shined on stage. Karina’s band dove right in with the title track of her first album, Joyride dotted with its fuzzed out bass line, spacey guitars riffs, and structured drum groove. Whether it was her and her guitarist, Adam November, shredding together, drummer Chris Corsico laying down tight grooves, or covering pop classics such as No Doubt’s Boyfriend, Karina put on a spectacle on stage.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong took the stage to a raucous crowd, riled up from Karina Rykman’s frenetic stage presence. The band wasted no time getting this audience moving, opening with fan favorite Melting Lights, which set the tone with their zany stage antics. Greg and, bassist, Ben played trading places by having their lighting director quickly drop the out and then just as abruptly bring them back up with the bandmates in different places on stage. From just this, it was easy to see that tonight’s Pigeons performance was going to be a little weird, a little fun, and definitely an experience.
Nearly instantaneously, the band made good on their word of new songs starting with Day In Time, a bubbly song that opens with a four-on-the-floor drum groove and revving guitars before dropping back into a reggae-ska inspired verse structure and upbeat chorus. Followed up near immediately with Feet on the Ground, another new song that was played for the first time live tonight. The band took off after that, launching into their jam-tronica heavy tune Avalanche – which featured some pretty extensive jams and solos and a segue into an extraordinary cover of John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme.
Rounding out the first set Pigeons Playing Ping Pong brought out their friend, and guitar maestro, Tomo Fujita for crowd-pleasers Indiglo and an absolute monster F.U. Tomo, a Berklee professor and incredibly funky guitarist, brought finesse, composure, and incredible expression to an uplifting wave of an F.U., giving us all something more to look forward to in the second half of the evening.
The lights came back up, and danced through the venue’s historic halls on Mine – launching the dance party back into full swing with a roaring rendition of Mine before jumping head first into fan favorite Horizon. The bouncing jam, which – for some reason – always reminds this writer of The Little Mermaid took a delightful turn in amping up this crowd for the funk-fest that was about to come.
Tomo Fujita came back on stage to join the band for two more songs: Overtime and Zydeko. The band, along with Tomo, elevated these songs to an ethereal plane of existence. Up next, after Tomo Fujita left the stage for the evening, the band dug into a sweeping cover of The Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps. As this evening started to come to a close, the band showed no signs of letting up. The lights were firing on all cylinders, the band was tight, and the crowd was moving. It wasn’t until the encore of Ocean Flows that fans came to terms with this evening ending.
The Capitol Theatre is a magical place to see live music. Bands bring their all when playing this hallowed hall. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Karina Rykman both honored that tradition in true form this Saturday night.
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