Pigeons Playing Ping Pong closed out their three-night “Stop Making Cake” Halloween run on Saturday night at College Street Music Hall in New Haven, Connecticut. The theme interwove covers of Talking Heads and Cake songs with their own signature high-energy funk originals that music enthusiasts across the country have come to know and love. The show featured support by fast-rising Connecticut indie groove quartet Goose, who made their College Street debut in front of a sold-out room. The “bird’s night out” in New Haven was made complete thanks to a sold-out Eggy late-night at Pacific Standard Tavern around the corner, which commenced as hordes of fans filtered out of the College Street venue.
As the clock struck 7:30 p.m., Goose took to the stage dressed as members of the “Flint Tropics” from the movie Semi-Pro, while chants of “goose” rang throughout the room. Pete Anspach (guitar/keys/vocals) started the party by leading the band into their first song, “Creatures,” a mid-tempo tune that showcased Rick Mitarotonda’s (guitar/vocals) vocal range as well as the band’s ability to formulate expansive jam sections. Following “Time to Flee”, Trevor Weeks (bass/vocals) and Ben Atkind (drums) controlled a tight rhythm section to lead the band into a lengthy improv session within a 15+ minute version of the up-tempo “Drive.” This contrasted artistically with the “Slow Ready” that followed. The synth-laden poetic gem is a slowed-down version of “So Ready”, which kept a constant flow of movement throughout the multi-level theater.
“Arcadia,” off their 2016 release, Moon Cabin, lit up the theater with the assistance of Lighting Designer Pete Spadaro, and shrouded the room in energy before their final song. Anspach graciously thanked the crowd and reminded them of their Goosemas VI holiday show taking place at the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk, Connecticut on December 21st. This served a preamble to their final song, “A Fifth of Beethoven”, the Walter Murphy cover that was debuted just two days earlier at Goose’s Mercury Lounge Halloween show in New York, New York. The set came full-circle—ending as it began, “goose” chants once again erupted and recharged the crowd in preparation for two sets of Pigeons.
Shortly after 9:00 p.m., PPPP Lighting Designer Manny Newman illuminated the stage. Pigeons began the first set with “Bad For You”, a song off their Pleasure album, and followed it up with a cover of Cake’s “Short Skirt Long Jacket”, which featured the same West End Blend horns (John Mundy – Trombone, and Mike Bafundo – Trumpet) that accompanied them the previous night at the PlayStation Theater in New York. Cups were then raised as the band moved into a hydrating segment comprised of “Water” and “Poseidon” > “And She Was” (Talking Heads) > “Poseidon”. The “Poseidon”/”And She Was” sandwich began with a symphonic guitar introduction led by Jeremy Schon (guitar/vocals), followed by uplifting and exhilarating vocals by Ben Carrey (bass/vocals) and Greg Ormont (guitar/vocals).
Ormont kept true to his promise of a weekend full of surprises as fans were treated to a “White Night” bust-out. The song—which had not been played in over six months—contained a rendition of “Making Flippy Floppy” from the 1983 Talking Heads album, Speaking in Tongues. After “Fortress”, Ben and Alex ‘Gator’ Petropulos (drums) kicked off the last portion of set one with “Avalanche” > “Hem of Your Garment” (Cake) > Avalanche. The house-shaking groove elevated the set to new heights thanks to a thumping rhythm section and piercing guitar solos.
After a short set break, Pigeons put the “Fun in Funk” to open set two. The West End Blend(er) horns joined in yet again for a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic “I Will Survive”, which Cake had previously reimagined on Fashion Nugget. Ormont had the room feeling loopy with the Psychology track “Time to Ride,” which set the tone for a monstrous non-stop segment of music. Horns rotated in and out as Pigeons segued to a cover of Talking Heads’ “Cities” followed by “The Hop” > “F.U.” > “Moon Rocks” (Talking Heads) > “F.U.” A riotous bassline provided by Ben guided them into a monumental “King Kong” that featured solos by both Ben and Gator.
As the 12:00 a.m. curfew neared, New Haven’s feathered friends had one more surprise for the thousands of fans who turned out for the final night of their three-city Halloween run. Goose’s Pete Anspach was called to the stage for a sit-in on Pigeon’s original “Zydeko”. Anspach personified the purpose of the song and show—raging with the band—as he aided in escorting them into an intoxicating and stylistic cover of the Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime”. Patrons sang along as they made their way back to “Zydeko” and cheered endlessly during the encore break.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong w/ Peter Anspach – “Once In A Lifetime” [Talking Heads cover] – 11/2/19
[Video: Charlie Jenkins]
After affectionately thanking the crowd, Pigeons dove headfirst into “Schwanthem”. Off their 2014 Psychology release, the instrumental provided fans with some of the highest peaks the band has to offer. The entire theater moved in unison to the ever-danceable track and matched the energy that the band had been exuding all weekend. Applause filled the room as the band took their final bow of the Halloween run, which put the icing on the proverbial cake of an unforgettable string of shows.
Below, you can check out a gallery of photos from the New Haven show courtesy of photographer Vic Brazen.
Setlist: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong | College Street Music Hall | New Haven, CT | 11/2/19
Set One: Bad For You, Short Skirt Long Jacket*!, Water, Poseidon > And She Was*^ > Poseidon, White Night* > Making Flippy Floppy^ > White Night, Fortress*, Avalanche > Hem of Your Garment*! > Avalanche
Set Two: Fun In Funk, I Will Survive*% > Time To Ride > Cities*^ > The Hop > F.U.* > Moon Rocks*^ > F.U.*, King Kong*, Zydeko& > Once in a Lifetime&* > Zydeko&
Notes: *w/West End Blend horns | !Cake | ^Talking Heads | %Gloria Gaynor (Cake version) | &w/Pete Anspach