For the past two months, Dopapod and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong have been slaying East Coast cities left and right on their mega-tour together. From Florida to Massachusetts, this rather ideal pairing has been melting minds and bending the rules of jam for sold-out crowds all over the country. The brilliance of the tour is not only in the well-balanced music, as these two bands happen to complement each other very nicely, but also in the fan crossover, as fans of Dopapod may not think to check out Pigeons and vice versa. With these shows, twice as many music fans have walked away beaming. Saturday night at The Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh, NC, was no exception.

The two-floor venue was packed to the brim with fans buzzing about and anxious to start dancing. Unlike pretty much every other concert in the history of jam bands, people have been arriving on time and in droves to catch Pigeons’ opening sets. On this Saturday, the band started their 90-minutes with one of their earliest and more relaxed compositions, “Stay”, as flockers flooded onto the dance floor. Next, they funked it up with fan-favorite “Upfunk,” followed by a newer, incredibly catchy tune called “Henrietta,” and then back to the classics with “Pop Off” and “Zydecko.”

Anyone who has heard PPPP before can understand their infectious musical energy, but seeing them live is a whole other experience. It’s near impossible not to smile while watching front man Greg Ormont’s unabashed stage presence, or Jeremy Schon’s fingers dance over the frets of his guitar like sparks crackling over a bonfire. The second half of their set was made up by segue after segue, powered significantly by the precise work of drummer Alex Petropulos and funky, dancey, popping bass lines of Ben Carrey. “Melting Lights” flowed flawlessly into another new song with hard-hitting energy, “King Kong,” that sandwiched an unreal “War Pigs” cover – one that has thankfully worked its way into several sets since its debut this past Halloween and will hopefully continue as a staple. They closed the show with a well-loved “Julia” that featured a (frankly underappreciated) “Rugrats” theme interlude, but not before wishing Carrey a most happy birthday to roaring applause from the crowd.

Like clockwork, Dopapod started right at 11:30 with instantly raucous jams that kept the venue bumping and the fans freaking. Kicking it off with the Jam On favorite “Trapper Keeper,” the guys were obviously locked in from jump and seemed to be having as much fun as the fans. This was especially apparent during their cover of the 90’s band Toadies seminal hit “Possum Kingdom,” which had keyboardist Eli Winderman and guitarist Rob Compa cheesing back and forth uncontrollably. Original tracks “November” and “Turnin’ Knobs” were well received by the devoted crowd, who played off every change in tone and direction as the rhythm section kept it on lock for them. Next, they debuted a new song called, jokingly but seriously, “Please Halp,” in which drummer Neal “Fro” Evans’ reintroduced influence is obvious. Since rejoining the band, there has been a clear shift back into the unique and organic jams the band used to be known for, which has revitalized their live shows in many ways. (Not to say that Scotty Zwang’s absence goes unnoticed- if there was an option for the band to have both drummers, they would be unstoppable.)

Groove Fetish guitarist Andy Blair then joined the band for a shreddy rendition of “Bats in a Cave,” followed by “Present Ghosts,” and “Weird Charlie > Dracula’s Monk”, in which bassist Chuck Jones really soared. They ended the set with crowd pleasing collaboration on “Nerds”; rather perfectly, Pigeons’ Ormont took over for Jones on the goofy banter intro known as “Tequila Girl” before birthday boy (or man, at 29) Carrey scooted up to the stage (literally, on a Razor scooter) for his slide whistle solo debut (a teaser of which came out during “Julia”). The band went into a blues section for his whistle to slide over and the solo was surprisingly very cool and interesting, interspersed with jokes from all the guys, shout outs to the crew, some vocal improvisation, and a quick birthday crowd surf for the Pigeons’ bassist.  “That was some real art,” Winderman said when the band came back out to encore with a raging “STADA -> PLSS  -> STADA.”

Check out video of the birthday celebration below, courtesy of Brandon Leishman.

As they enter the third and final leg of the tour and head out to the mid-west, they bid farewell to the east with a party that has become typical of these shows. You can catch them together at any of the mid-west cities on the tour, or see either band’s website for what’s sure to be an epic New Year’s Eve throw down from both of them, albeit not with one another.