Pigeons Playing Ping Pong Flock to Asheville for New Year’s Eve

by Sasha Savinov
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

What’s up 2020?! It’s crazy to think that we’re in a new decade now. What’s even crazier is that 2050 is just as far away as 1990. We hope this new decade is off to a great start for you. It sure is for us! We wound down the last one seeing a few of our favorite bands in one of our favorite cities – Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and TAUK in Asheville! Read on for a full recap of the 2-night run, which culminated in a massive arena show dubbed “The Electric Kool-Aid Asheville Test.”

Flocking to Asheville

If you know us, then you know we love going to concerts. We especially love shows on holidays like the 4th of July, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve. Hell, we even got engaged at Phish NYE a few years ago! In recent years, we’ve seen the Disco Biscuits in Atlanta and then Phish at MSG last year.

This year, we only had a short time to go back to the US for the holidays. Wanting to spend more time with family, we were hoping for a good NYE party near Rachel’s hometown. We sure lucked out when Pigeons announced a 2-night run in Asheville!

We <3 Asheville.

We love Asheville and always spend a lot of time there when we’re in Rachel’s neck of the woods. It’s got mountains, tons of craft beer, and an amazing live music scene. We love it so much we had our wedding and our (first) honeymoon there!

Our list of favorite bands is always growing, and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong made it on there after we saw them at Summer Camp. They’ve been back to SCamp several years in a row and are returning once again in 2020. This allowed me to snag a photo pass for the run to cover it for the festival. It was a no-brainer ringing in the New Year in Asheville with PPPP.

Night One – The Orange Peel

On December 30th, Pigeons fans flocked to downtown Asheville for the first night. We headed to town and hit up Bhramari Brewing Company. This heady Asheville joint has some amazing beers on tap and some innovative pub food. We met plenty of fellow Flockers there and shared a few drinks before heading into the venue.

Pre-show beers at Bhramari.

Before the big arena show, the band packed the Orange Peel to the brim. A staple of the Asheville music scene for many years, the Orange Peel has been a jump-off point for many of our favorite bands. Rachel has seen STS9, Umphrey’s McGee, and the Biscuits there. How fitting that we also got to see Pigeons there as they ascend to jamband stardom.

In fitting with the psychedelic theme of the run, the show started with some trippy banter from “Scrambled” Greg Ormont. From there, the band segued into a funky improv before settling on “Burning Up My Time.” There are so many Pigeons songs that just get stuck in your head immediately, and this is one of them.

Flockers riding the rail.

With my handy-dandy photo pass in hand, I got to take in the first few songs from the pit. There was a big crowd of shiny, happy Flockers on the rail.

We prefer taking in shows from the soundboard these days, and that’s exactly where we posted up as they busted into “Kiwi.” Leave it to Pigeons to write a love song with the lyrics “you shave my kiwi and babe I’ll squeeze your limes.”

Things really started to “Pop Off” with the next track. The rhythm section of Ben Carrey and Alex “Gator” Petropulos really shines on songs like this. These guys can hold a groove and launch the band into their trademark blend of jam and funk.

A few close-ups from the photo pit.

Next up was one of our absolute favorites – “Something For Ya.” Indeed, the band had something for us on this historic NYE run. These shows ended the first decade of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, who have come a long way in that time. They’ve been blowing up the past few years and it’s well-deserved!

During “Water,” the band wished a Happy Birthday to their sound guy Erich Miller. He’s also a trumpet player, and he got to join the band on his horn from the soundboard for a little jam. How cool is that?!

Trumpet jam!

The first set ended with “Porcupine,” which gave guitarist Jeremy Schon a chance to absolutely rip it up. This dude shreds it with soaring guitar solos that usually bring the house down. Looking around at set break, it was clear that people were having their minds blown.

One of the best things about a NYE run in Asheville as opposed to New York is that huge craft beers were only $7 in the show. Score! Don’t mind if I do… It was nice going to a NYE run and not having to break the bank to do so.

Love this bass drum!

Now back to the music! Set Two kicked off with a short “Paper Boy” before a massive “Sunny Day.” This one nearly hit 20 minutes and had brains spilling out all over the dance floor.

After “Havana,” they busted into one of my favorite Pigeons songs – “Julia.” It’s definitely a catchy, poppy tune, and one that you might think wouldn’t jam. Think again! They took this one on a psychedelic journey that nearly hit 15 minutes.

Those lights!

When the “Electric Kool-Aid Asheville Test” theme was announced, we all knew some Grateful Dead was on the way. “Help On the Way” served as the first cover of the run and it had the crowd going wild. This is a tough song to cover, but Pigeons nailed it.

The second set finished up with a massive “Schwanthem” that had the Flock screaming for more. A little bit more banter led into the show-closing “Su Casa.” All in all, this was an excellent show to kick off the band’s NYE run.

Meet the Flockers

Before this run, we both joined a Facebook group for fans of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Known as “The Flock,” this is a group that’s passionate about the band and will travel far and wide to see them. They crave the band’s music like a pigeon does bread crumbs.

In the lead-up to the shows, lots of people were asking about fan meet-ups in the Facebook group. Since we spend so much time in Asheville, we decided to go ahead and set one up. A new craft brewery called Dssolvr just opened a few blocks from the arena, so it seemed like the perfect choice.

Shiny happy Flockers!

On the last night of the decade, a colorful and sparkly group of Flockers descended upon the brewery to begin the revelry. We met people who had traveled from near (South Carolina) and far (upstate New York), as well as plenty of Ashevillians.

The meet-up was tons of fun and a great way to get to meet the Flockers. This is a group that’s only going to grow as the band gets bigger and bigger. We are now proud card-carrying members of The Flock and can’t wait for more amazing experiences with this group!

Heading into the arena for the show.

Can You Pass the Asheville Test?

Not only was it New Year’s Eve, but it was also the band’s first-ever arena show. That’s kind of a big deal for a band that’s only been around for a decade! The ExploreAsheville.Com Arena was home for the NYE blowout.

Merry Prankster decorations.

In following the evening’s theme, there were misinformation booths, live painters, and plenty of psychedelia. The Merry Pranksters themselves even attended to help us pass the Asheville test!

TAUK Kicks Things Off

To kick things off, TAUK took the stage for an hour-long set. The four-piece prog rock fusion band from New York was the perfect act to warm up the crowd for a big night.

TAUK

I headed into the pit for the first few songs to snap some pics and then found a nice spot on the bleachers in the back. While TAUK is usually all instrumental, they bust out some lyrics from time to time. It being NYE, they went with a cover of “Gin and Juice” that really got the party going.

It’s tough to catch the opening band before a 3-set marathon NYE show, but it was definitely worth it to head into the arena early for TAUK. These guys are super talented and always put on a good show. We’ve seen them at plenty of festivals and after parties, and hope to catch a full show sooner than later.

A great opener for the NYE show.

Pigeons Take Flight

Pigeons took the stage next, decked out in matching trippy pajama suits. They came out swinging with their high-energy “High as Five” to officially begin their first arena show.

It didn’t take long for the Acid Test theme to come into play, as they busted into Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” next. Although he rarely sings, Gator handled this difficult lyrical song masterfully. It’s always cool seeing a drummer crush the vocals!

Nice jammies, boys!

The set kept rolling with “Melting Lights,” keeping with the psychedelic theme. “Melting lights off the wall, I think I’m losing my mind ya’ll!” Speaking of lights, the band’s lighting director Manny Newman was on fire for all five sets. His light show complements the music very well and is a big part of the experience.

We all lost our minds with what came next – a run through “Avalanche” with the Jimi Hendrix classic “Crosstown Traffic” in the middle. After a fun rendition of “Fox & Toad,” the band brought out the horns from Here Come the Mummies to join them on “King Kong.” They shot a music video together for this song at Summer Camp last year, which you can check out here:

In the middle of “King Kong,” the Pigeons and Mummies busted into “Purple Haze” for some more Hendrix action. The band’s epic song “Poseidon” closed out the set with another tasty sandwich, this time with the Grateful Dead’s “Eyes of the World” serving as the meat.

This was no ordinary setbreak, as the Merry Pranksters had plenty of shenanigans in store. There was a giant game of ping pong between people dressed like pigeons on stage along with silly announcements about missing contacts, the MC’s ex-wife, and Kyle’s pizza and nachos.

Set break shenanigans.

Shortly before midnight, the band came back on stage to the sound of clocks ringing. Naturally, they kicked off the set with Pink Floyd’s “Time” – a fitting song to send us into the new decade. There were teases of “Another Brick in the Wall” as a wall was built on stage.

This segued into the original “The Hop” before the Mummies returned for a super funky “F.U.” Next up it was “Time to Ride” into 2020, as the tune brought us into the New Year with the Kool-Aid man smashing through the wall and exclaiming “Oh yeah!”

Happy New Year!

There was a little “Auld Lang Syne/Puff the Magic Dragon” mash-up to welcome in the New Year. Balloons rained down on the crowd and there was lots of love in the room with hugs and kisses all around.

The next half an hour or so was a big Kool & the Gang dance party. Members of TAUK and the Mummies filled the stage for a romp through “Get Down On It,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood Swinging” and “Celebration.” It was a bit surprising given the Acid Test theme, but it was well-executed and very well-received from the crowd.

Pigeons + Mummies = YES!

After another short break full of goofy antics, the band came out for a third and final set. We got yet another jamtastic sandwich with “Walk Outside” into “Sir Real” and then a mash-up of “All Along the Watchtower” and “Evil Woman” before a smooth return to “Walk Outside.”

The room was set on “Fire” next with another excellent Hendrix cover, this time featuring half of TAUK. Their epic original “Horizon” followed with the entire arena singing along to the line “celebrate with the people you love,” as that’s exactly what we were all doing!

Lots of awesome live painters were in attendance.

To wind down the final set, the band went with “Offshoot” before another mash-up called “Electric Avenue Slide.” It was the Electric Kool-Aid Asheville Test, after all! The set closed with “Dawn a New Day,” a track that is sure to be on their upcoming album.

For the encore, Pigeons went with the super fun and energetic “The Liquid.” This song caught our attention during their SCamp late night set this past year and it’s definitely one of our faves. Finally, “Ocean Flows” wrapped the marathon show up around 2AM.

We Passed!

In the end, I think we all passed the Asheville Test with flying colors. Pigeons played three amazing sets full of surprises. We all knew they would cover bands like the Dead and Jefferson Airplane, but few of us could have predicted a Kool & The Gang medley or “Electric Avenue.”

What a show!

They may not have sold out their first arena show, but it sure was packed on the floor. About 5,000 members of The Flock filled the place with good vibes and positive energy. It was a very peaceful and fun-loving crowd, and we didn’t meet one person who had a bad time.

The Electric Kool-Aid Asheville Test was the perfect way for this band to end a big decade. They’ve already got a huge 2020 on tap, from setting sail on Jam Cruise, to returning to Summer Camp, to hosting their annual Dome Fest. I know we’re both looking forward to grooving with Pigeons again sooner than later!

The band was nice enough to put the entire pro-shot video of the Electric Kool-Aid Asheville Test on YouTube. Pack a bowl, crack a brew, and get ready for an awesome couple of hours!

For more info on Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and tour dates, click here to check out their website.

Join us at the 20th anniversary of the Summer Camp Music Festival and groove to Pigeons with us. Click here to get your tickets at the early bird price.

See y’all at the next show 🙂

 

 

2 comments

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2 comments

John Gillis January 11, 2020 - 9:07 pm

Fantastic review ! What a great night.

Reply
Rachel Story January 20, 2020 - 4:31 pm

Thanks, John! A super fun night for sure. Hope to see you at another show soon!

Reply

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