Pigeons Playing Ping Pong hit New York City’s PlayStation Theater on Friday night to continue their “Stop Making Cake” Halloween run with help from Andy Frasco & The U.N. After introducing their 2019 “Stop Making Cake” Halloween theme—which combines the band’s original music with covers of both Cake and Talking Heads—on Thursday night in Boston, fans were eager to see how the Baltimore-based quartet would expand upon the concept in the Big Apple.
Before PPPP took the stage for the sold-out performance, musical circus ringleader Andy Frasco and his motley posse of party-starting players, The U.N., got the audience riled up with a characteristically frenzied opening set. Dressed as pro wrestling superstars, Frasco and company worked through a set of road-tested staples like “Struggle” and “Pay to See You Smile” as well as a number of songs of his latest record, Change of Pace. Getting further into the Halloween spirit, the set was also infused with a number of crowd-pleasing cover teases ranging from Eddie Money‘s “2 Tickets to Paradise” to a raucous “Fight For Your Right” (Beastie Boys)/”Bulls On Parade” (Rage Against The Machine) combo.
Andy Frasco & The U.N. – “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!)” [Beastie Boys cover] > “Bulls On Parade” [Rage Against The Machine cover] – 11/1/19
Towards the end of his set, Frasco took a sincere moment to talk about a topic close to his heart, mental health and wellness. While he may be best known for his onstage antics, serving as a guru for self-care, love, and togetherness has become another calling card for the charismatic performer. From the themes explored on Change of Pace to his contributions to Gary Gulman‘s recent HBO film, The Great Depresh, Frasco has taken to using his platform to spread positivity and encouragement.
Of course, he didn’t stray too far from his main lane. After his mental health speech, Andy and saxophonist Ernie Chang embarked into the crowd on inflatable mattresses to stage a high-stakes “Wall of Death” crowd-surfing (crowd-rafting?) pillow fight.
Andy Frasco “Wall of Death” Inflatable Mattress Pillow Fight – 11/1/19
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong took the stage just after 10:30 dressed in the same white chef costumes they wore on Thursday in Boston. Whereas Thursday’s show featured brass assistance by the Shake n’ Bake Horns, Friday’s performance—much like the band’s sold-out debut at The Capitol Theatre earlier this year—featured significant contributions from the West End Blend horns (John Mundy – Trombone; Mike Bafundo – Trumpet), appropriately re-christened the West End Blender horns for this special concept show.
Beyond highlights like the guests, the Halloween cobwebs draping the band’s gear, and the chef costumes emblazoned with theme-appropriate nicknames (Greg: “Scrambled Byrne”; Jeremy: “Frank Sinatra”; Alex: “Chef Gator”; Ben: “The Baker”) this show felt like a special milestone in the band’s long history in the NYC market. Fans in the audience buzzed with nostalgia about old PPPP Halloween memories like their 2015 “Dead Zeppelin” set at the much-smaller Cutting Room. This band and their fanbase continue to grow by leaps and bounds with each passing year, and it’s shows like these that put in perspective just high the Pigeons have flown.
After getting things going with “Too Long”, the band—comprised of guitarist/vocalist Greg Ormont, lead guitarist Jeremy Schon, bassist Ben Carrey, and drummer Alex Petropulos—launched into a lengthy “Burning Up My Time” which eased into Cake’s “Love You Madly” with the West End Blend Horns before landing back in “Burning Up My Time”.
The haunting “Sunny Day” launched the next segment of the set, which wound through an instrumental rendition of Cake’s “The Distance” before building to a soaring peak bolstered by Manny Newman‘s technicolor lighting. From there, a funky, horn-assisted “The Liquid” kept the momentum high. After their final pause of the first set, the band touched on the intro to “Live Life” before diving into Talking Heads’ Remain In Light classic, “The Great Curve”.
An electrifying run through “Upfunk” was up next and saw Petropulos take a particularly entertaining drum solo, gradually swapping in various kitchen utensils for his drum sticks without breaking stride. After landing back in the conclusion of “Upfunk”, the band closed out their set with a rendition of “Julia” that took a detour through the Pigeons debut of Talking Heads’ “Nothing But Flowers”.
Following set break, Pigeons returned for their second set with fan-favorite “Henrietta”. The West End Blender horns once again added their brass tones to a cover of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” before continuing into their own “Porcupine”, which was infused with an explosive, sing-along rendition of another Talking Heads classic, “Burning Down The House”.
A “Stop Making Cake”-flavored combo was up next, as the band steered their Psychology original “Lightning” into a mashup of their humorous “Say Cheese” and Cake’s “Nugget” (cleverly dubbed “Cheese Nugget”) and, in turn, into a party-starting “Crosseyed and Painless” before returning to “Lightning”. From there, the band closed their set on a high note with a typically powerful “Horizon” featuring a detour through Cake’s “Sheep Go To Heaven”. An “Ocean Flows” encore finally sent the crowd back out into Times Square happy and ready for one more night of “Stop Making Cake.”
Below, you can watch a selection of fan-shot videos check out a gallery of photos from the performance via Zingari Photography.
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The “Stop Making Cake” Halloween run comes to a close tonight, Saturday, November 2nd, at New Haven, CT’s College Street Music Hall with support from Goose.
Setlist: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | PlayStation Theater | New York, NY | 11/1/19
Set One: Too Long, Burning Up My Time > Love You Madly*^ > Burning Up My Time* >> Sunny Day > The Distance*^~ > Sunny Day, The Liquid*, The Great Curve*^% > Upfunk > Drums+ > Upfunk, Julia > Nothing But Flowers*^ > Julia
Set Two: Henrietta, Naive Melody* > Porcupine > Burning Down The House* > Porcupine, Lightning* > Cheese Nugget*^# > Crosseyed And Painless* > Lightning*, Horizon > Sheep Go To Heaven*^ > Horizon
Encore: Ocean Flows
“Stop Making Cake” Halloween Night 2
* w/ West End Blend(er) horns
^ First time played
% Reggae style w/ Live Life intro and outro
+ Drum solo played with whisks, spatulas, spoons and mixing bowls
# Nugget / Say Cheese mashup
Setlist: Andy Frasco & The U.N. | PlayStation Theater | New York, NY | 11/1/19
Struggle, Love, Come Down, Pay to See You Smile^, Talk About It#, Waiting Game, What More Can I Say, Mental Health Speech/Wall of Death Pillow Fight, The Walk
* Baker Street, 2 Tickets To Paradise teases
^Bulls on Parade, Fight For Your Right teases