Baltimore psychedelic rockers Pigeons Playing Ping Pong rocked Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, West Virginia last weekend for their annual Domefest. Over 2,000 Flockers flew in from around the country to take part in the band’s celebration of the festival’s 10th birthday, making it the biggest and best Domefest yet.
Nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, Marvin’s Mountaintop was a new location for the festival this year, giving the Flock gorgeous views of the foggy mountains over the horizon each dawn and dusk. Arriving on-site, attendees were greeted with colorful signs reading, “Celebrate, Celebrate, Celebrate the People You Love,” and “Dome is Home,” noting that we’d be right at home for the next three days. Attendees got the chance to spread their feathers around the huge property that formerly hosted All Good Music Festival, giving everyone ample space in the field and woods to enjoy their weekend festivities and play games at the Innova disc golf course.
Pittsburgh artist Chalk Dinosaur sparked the first set of live music on the weekend on Thursday at 5 p.m. on the Gallery Society Stage as the festival grounds were starting to fill in. Denver trio Cycles took the stage at 6:45 p.m. to dose the Flock up for the night with a rollin’ psychedelic rock fusion set, armed with their “The Aloe Parade” jam. Asheville five-piece The Fritz opened up the Bamboo Eater Stage for the weekend just as the sun was setting behind West Virginia’s mountains with an epic 30-minute set, equipped with tasteful covers of Michael Jackson‘s “Don’t Stop Til’ You Get Enough” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Domefest veterans and friends of the Flock Magic Beans started their first set of the weekend at 8:45 p.m. and kept it classy onstage with their lyrical “Do Your Thing” before going on a great 20-minute “Mission Jam” as the base of their first night’s set. Frontman Scott Hachey rang out the lyrics, “This is the part where you feel good,” in their rendition of “Off Leash”, getting the crowd loosey-goosey for the night ahead. The Fritz returned onstage for a refreshing 30-minute set noting their love of Nirvana and Elton John with “Lithium” and “Bennie and the Jets” covers to gear the Flock up for a wild first night at Domefest.
Adorned in sparkly gold-sequined blazers and matching white pants, Greg Ormont, Jeremy Schon, Ben Carrey and Alex Petropulos strode onstage ready to kick off Thursday night with the first Pigeons set of the weekend—a true “Domecoming” to welcome the Flock. Kicking things off with “Too Long”, the guys jammed into a fun “Sports Theme” with rock flares of “The Final Countdown” before sending the crowd into a sing-along of “Somethin’ For Ya.” A “Wireless” sandwich appeared dosed with “You Sexy Thing” and “My Girl” covers before switching gears and rendering their classic “Melting Lights”.
Petropulos took the main vocals for Pigeons’ debut of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” for some hard rock jams, sending fans into a cheer of “let Gator sing!” The band kept the Domecoming celebration going with the party anthem “Live it Up” before inviting the Magic Beans’ Casey Russell up onstage to lay down some dimensional keyboard grooves in “Whoopie”. The hip-hop jam “Couldn’t We All” broke out among the festival to spread the friendly vibes, leading the band to debut the brand-new lyrical song “Paperboy”. A hard and heavy “Schwanthem” closed out the first night’s set as cheers roared over the mountains.
The band ran back onstage for an encore celebrating Domecoming king Schon’s birthday and 10th year as a festival with a birthday song and cake before closing out the night with an unexpected blissful “Su Casa” sequence. Nestled in West Virginia, the band surprised everyone with a rock rendition of John Denver’s “Country Roads,” as the crowd joined along with the lyrics, “country roads, take me dome” before segueing back into a “Su Casa” to crown the victorious first night.
Setlist: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | Domefest Night 1 | Marvin’s Mountaintop | 5/16/19
Set: Too Long, Sports Theme, Somethin’ For Ya > Wireless > You Sexy Thing > My Girl > Wireless, Melting Lights > Enter Sandman^ > Live It Up, Whoopie%, Couldn’t We All, Paperboy*, Schwanthem
Encore: Su Casa > Country Roads^ > Su Casa
Domefest Night 1 – “Domecoming Weekend”
^ First time played
% w/ Casey Russell (Magic Beans) on keys
* Original debut
Maryland jammers Litz kept the festival up on their toes with a classic funky “Strawberry Letter 23” opener for their hour-and-45-minute late-night set. Their electro-funk groove “Use Me” made an appearance on their 16-song set, and Domies who stayed up to groove were treated with a “No Sleep” equipped with jazzy saxophone harmonies. The band finished off their set with a rocked-out extended “Whosawhatsa” instrumental jam to close out the first night.
With a little bit of an overcast, Domies woke up Friday morning with a perfect cool temperature to start off their second day. The festival grounds were graced with Mateo Monk’s groovy guitar and flute tunes at 12:45 p.m. to launch the second day’s music as the Flock gathered at the workshop dome with Pigeons’ Ben Carrey to share some poetic inspiration. Baltimore psychedelic trio Deaf Scene dosed attendees up with 45 minutes of deep instrumental rock before the Dirty Grass Players laid down some boot-stompin’ jams as the sun was trying to peek out.
A big gathering of Flockers cooped up at the workshop dome at 3 p.m. as Deemster Porn founder Nick Heller belted out the words, “Figure out what you believe.” Heller’s “Appreciate Life” workshop inspired us all with his encouraging words, “I am a creature of love,” as he professed that we all have a purpose of passion that we can all discover. Heller preached, “the source of all of our energy is perfect and we must radiate acceptance to allow others to awaken. Self-honesty is key and everything happens for us, not to us.” Flockers from around the country cheered as Heller left us with the question, “What will you become?” as everyone hugged and joined in for the Flock family photo.
Friday mid-afternoon was favored with Erica T. Bryan’s soulful voice in the eight-piece West End Blend, setting the soul-funk vibe throughout the festival. Carrey took to the Bamboo Eater Stage at 5:15 p.m. with his cosmic funk duo with Owen Murphy, looping synthesizers and live bass instrumentation producing danceable beats with flares of insane background voices to trip up attendees. As the sun was setting, Chicago fusion rockers Mungion got groovy as the festival saw Disney characters of Princess Jasmine and Aladdin, Jack Skellington, Pocahontas, Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan and his shadow for the festival’s Disney theme night.
Fletcher’s Grove spiced up the festival with the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street” before Buffalo boys Aqueous took the stage at 8 p.m. sharp. Opening up with “Origami,” Aqueous jammed into their “Mosquito Valley, pt. 1” and slipped straight into the mid-song jam of “The Median”. The crowd rocked out to their cover of Cake’s “Short Skirt / Long Jacket” bringing out Mungion’s Justin Reckamp for added guitar flares and West End Blend’s Michael Bafundo on trumpet. Bafundo was joined by fellow band member John Mundy on accompanying horns in the band’s funky “Weight of the Word” before closing off with a high-energy “Don’t Do It”. A frenzied “Saints Come Marching In” cover by Fletcher’s Grove during their second 30-minute set got the crowd amped right before the Pigeons guys stepped onstage at 10:15 p.m. to bestow two sets of funk on the Disnified festival audience.
Wearing matching red and black “Mickey Mouse” costumes—with Jeremy dressed as the king of Domefest—Pigeons Playing Ping Pong wasted no time opening up Friday’s “Magic Kingdome” with The Lion King’s “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”, Ormont and Carrey alternating the sing-along parts of Simba, Zazu and Nala. The band spiced things up with a “Burning Up My Time” unfinished jam and continued the jungle grooves with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. Ormont finished the sequence with the lyrics “til we find the Mickey” as a gentle, refreshing mist fell onto the crowd.
A wild “Offshoot” came next, followed by a rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “King Solomon’s Marbles” that kicked off an exciting sequence featuring West End Blend horns onstage for an “F.U.” sandwich that was loaded up with Pocahontas’ “Colors of the Wind”. The horns stayed onstage for the love tune “Fortress” and “King Kong” before the band paid tribute to the festival with “Dome People” that slipped into their silly “Time to Ride” jam. The set ended with a homage to Baltimore’s 8×10 king “Doc” for a funky ending right before midnight.
Fletcher’s Grove brought out Austin Litz on keys for their third, 30-minute intermission set for a cover of Gorillaz‘ “Clint Eastwood” for an edgy alternative jam break before the Pigeons guys returned to the stage at 12:15 a.m. Not very often do the guys open with “Henrietta” backed by “Porcupine”, so the Flock knew they were in for a treat. The return of “Fade Fast” arrived with a Disney Jungle Book medley of “The Bear Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You” that got the Flock jumping up like wild pigeons. A dark “Sunny Day” rose out among the crowd with the band’s debut of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” to fit the magic mountain theme before returning to the eerie echos of “Sunny Day”.
The band peaked the night with an Aladdin-infused “Poseidon” that touched on “A Whole New World”, a sprinkle of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride”, and Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” before returning to the astounding climax of “Poseidon” that sent the crowd into a loud roar with the lyrics, “need a dome to return to.” Even after going 15 minutes over their set time, the band strode back onstage for an encore debut of a brand new song titled “Water”, a 7-minute funky hydration anthem with deep waves of psychedelic jams and a fierce drumming outro by Gator.
Setlist: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | Domefest Night 2 | Marvin’s Mountaintop | 5/16/19
Set One: I Just Can’t Wait To Be King^ > Burning Up My Time^ > I Just Can’t Wait To Be King > Burning Up My Time& > Offshoot, King Solomon’s Marbles > F.U.* > Colors Of The Wind* > F.U.*, Fortress*, King Kong*, Dome People^ > Time To Ride, Doc**
Set Two: Henrietta, Porcupine, Fade Fast > Jungle Book Medley > Fade Fast, Sunny Day > In The Hall Of The Mountain King% > Sunny Day, Poseidon > A Whole New World > Magic Carpet Ride > Abracadabra > Poseidon
Encore: Water #
Domefest Night 2 – “Magic Kingdome”
& w/ Lion Sleeps Tonight jam
* w/ West End Blend horns
% First time played
# Original debut
The Magic Beans carried the magic through the night with their late-night set at 1:30 a.m., playing their “Here On Out” jam to party with the Domies before attendees were evacuated to their campsites due to some mountain lightning. Festival patrons were welcomed back to the stage about 30 minutes later, giving the band freedom to play past 4 a.m. with a Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” cover and a closing “Blackout” jam.
Attendees woke up to the heat of the West Virginia sun on Saturday morning, making it the best-weathered Domefest ever. The Flock had to shed some feathered layers to stay cool in the heat all day as some attendees joined the festival’s visual artists for an inspiring art panel and Virginia jammers Kendall Street Company played a heated set at 12:30 p.m. Vermont four-piece Swimmer cooled the crowd down with some wavy electronica jams at 2:15 p.m. before Pigeons drummer Alex Petropulos’ band Puremotion took the stage for their second, 30-minute set consisting of a reggae jam on Bob Marley & The Wailers‘ “I Shot the Sherriff” and Living Colour’s hard rock classic “Cult of Personality.” “Fifth Pigeons member” Manny Newman showed off his creative lighting techniques to the Flock at his workshop as Georgia progressive funk band Funk You took over the festival’s music at 4 p.m., treating the crowd to some passionate funk before ending their set with Flashdance’s “She’s a Maniac”.
Ormont’s Scrambled Greg set highlighted his versatile music taste, starting with Rick James’ “Give It To Me Baby”. The scene was set with some playful bubbles by Ormont’s wife as he got the crowd jamming to a sensual “shiiiiiiiitttttt” guitar tune, toning off the start of Phish’s “You Enjoy Myself.” Ormont professed that he loved the crowd, cats and dogs and broke out into his famous “Say Cheese” as a plate of gourmet cheese was passed around the crowd and Grateful Pandemic hosted a cheese and wine getdown. A crowd member got to play “hold the phone” with Ormont before he ended his spirited set with a new Tom Misch cover.
Michigan groovers Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers broke out their fun, colorful set at 5:45 p.m. just as Saturday’s sun was setting. The crowd danced to their bright tunes including a Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under The Bridge” cover that was decorated with an array of flowers throughout the crowd. Goose began their first of three 30-minute sets in the holiday spirit with The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping”, playing on the lyrics with “Merry Domefest”. The Connecticut four-piece debuted a new song titled “Drive”, leaving the crowd excited for the next two sets.
Returning to the stage from the day before, Aqueous charmed the crowd with a cover-heavy set, including a Nickelodeon tribute of “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Rugrats”. The band treated everyone with the Empire Of The Sun chorus of “Walking On A Dream” that saw guitarists Mike Gantzer and Dave Loss harmonizing on vocals before closing out with AC/DC’s “Back in Black”. Goose popped back onstage to pay tribute to The Who with a cover “Eminence Front” as well as a rendition of fan-favorite, “Tumble.”
Returning to the stage for their final night, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong joined their flock consisting of multiple Santas, Mardi Gras partiers, Halloween spookers and a banana man for their “Dome For The Holidays”-themed set. Petropulos dressed as a Christmas elf, Carrey as a 4th of July patriot, Ormont in a Mazel Tov sweater and Schon in a Christmas and Hanukkah sweater. The guys got right into the holiday spirit and set the night off with their popular “Pop Off” before going into their celebrating the jews on the mountain with Hebrew celebration anthem “Hava Nagila”.
The Domies liked “the dome between their toes” in a “Julia” sandwich with their extraordinary “Beanstalk” right in the middle, as the Flock drank up “French Cafe” on the mountain. The energized “Funk In Funk” got attendees “high”-flying before the band tore down the mountain with their heavy psychedelic instrumental, “Avalanche”. Some Flockers threw fruit roll-ups onstage as the guys started into one of their newest tunes, “Distant Times”, before breaking out in a “Lightning” jam flavored with Tom Misch’s light, jazzy song “It Runs Through Me”. Extending from “Lightning,” the band transitioned into their funky party song “Moonwalk” before ending the first set with edgy bass grooves in “E-Funk”.
Goose kept the Flock dancing with Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” and Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless” before Pigeons Playing Ping Pong marched onstage for their final set of the weekend as the full moon rose to its highest peak. Ormont warned the crowd “who knows what will unfold” right before the band started into their electrified “Whirled”, bringing back the memory of last year’s hour-long “Whirled” to trip up the crowd. The Flock was served up some chicken parmesan in “Landing” that jammed into a magnificent “Zydeko” that transitioned into the trance-like “Sir Real”. The Flock reached the mountains of their mind on Marvin’s Mountaintop as flashing lights and psychedelic sounds transitioned into a holiday mashup of “Jingle Bells” and “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel”. The raging continued with a return to “Zydeko” sprinkled with the Peanuts Christmas tune “Linus and Lucy” and Flogging Molly’s “Drunken Lullabies” teases.
Ormont began his banter to the crowd, congratulating all the bands and the Flock for being a part of the 10th annual Domefest history. He led over 2,000 Flockers in a huge howl to the full moon to release all negative energy and refresh everyone’s spirits with a new beginning, leading the band into an intense “Horizon” to “celebrate the people we love.”
“The Liquid” revived the crowd with Ormont’s crazy stage antics before newly added cryptic laughing in “Upfunk” made an appearance to spook the Flock. Petropulos pounded on his Christmas stocking-decorated drums to finish off “Upfunk” as a cheerful “Dawn A New Day” closed out the final night’s set. With the loudest cheers all weekend, the band was brought back onstage for an “Ocean Flows” countdown that led the crowd into a cheer of “Happy Domefest” and an “Auld Lang Syne” completion under the full moon that revived our spirits and celebrated the festival’s history.
Setlist: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | Domefest Night 3 | Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV | 5/18/19
Set One: Pop Off, Hava Nagila > Julia > Beanstalk > Julia, French Café, Fun In Funk, Avalanche, Distant Times, Lightning^ > Moonwalk > E-Funk
Set Two: Whirled, Landing > Jam > Zydeko > Sir Real > Dreidel Bells* > Zydeko”, Horizon >>, The Liquid, Upfunk > Drums > Upfunk, Dawn A New Day
Encore: Ocean Flows > Auld Lang Syne
Domefest Night 3 – “Dome For The Holidays”
^ unfinished; It Runs Through Me tease [Tom Misch]
* Jingle Bells / Dreidel Song mashup
” w/ Peanuts and Drunken Lullabies teases
Mungion continued the nightly celebrations with their 1:30 a.m. set, playing their “One Night Stan” jam and Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” before the Domefest All-Stars took the stage at 3 a.m. Members of Pigeons, Aqueous, Funk You, Litz, Mungion, Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers, Goose and ShwizZ played until the sun rose for all the late-night Domies. Playing groovy covers of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Aeroplane”, The Beatles’ “Get Back,” a 20-minute “Sports Theme”, Prince’s “1999″, and more, the Flock was dazzled with funky tunes with varying vocalists and talented musicians throughout the night. The early-morning set was greeted with a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Eyes of the World” with Ormont and Austin Litz alternating verses before slipping into Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle”. The sun was rising above the horizon as the Domefest All-Star musicians ended their set at 6:30 a.m. and closed off the 10th annual Domefest with a victorious ending.
With the sun shining brightly down on Marvin’s Mountaintop, the Flock woke up only a couple hours after the Domefest All-Stars set to pack up their nests and head back home. Leaving the site, the sign “Dome is Home” read out of the exit, reminding attendees that wherever good music and people lead you, you’re home. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong should be immensely proud of evolving their one-day college music event into the 10th annual three-day celebration of music and art that their friends and family can join in on. The band works, organizes, and produces the festival themselves, wanting the Flock to enjoy themselves all weekend long. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong should be an inspiration to other bands in the music scene. Staying humble and connecting with your fans on a personal level is where true success comes from. Nonetheless, we’re stoked for the 11th Domefest and can’t wait to see what the guys have in store for next year. DOME IS HOME!
Below, you can check out a full gallery of photos from Domefest 2019 courtesy of photographer Matt Shotwell (@StrawberryIsland.Dweller).