Pigeons Playing Ping Pong rang in 2019 with their biggest headlining show to date at Pittsburgh’s Stage AE. As per tradition, the group used the celebration to incorporate a theme, “New Year’s stEve,” exploring the various Steves in music history. With Stevie Wonder as the centerpiece of the theme, the Pigeons also incorporated covers of Aerosmith, Traffic, Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, Steve Miller Band, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and more to play on the various musical “Steves."
After some pre-New Year’s Eve parties with Midnight North and Magic Beans in Nashville and Covington, the Baltimore psychedelic-funk group made sure the crowd of 2,400 people had a memorable last night of 2018.
Kicking off the night at 9 p.m. sharp was the funky Magic Beans, immediately starting into their “Jamboree” jam. The band’s 2018 album Casino Cabaret got some love for the last show of the year with “Mission," Casey Russell showing off those high “key” skills. After slipping into a heavy bass jam, the Talking Heads’ “Life After Wartime” became a dancey extended jam that made way to the final song, “Contraband," getting the crowd jumping up with teases of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache."
Striding onstage adorned in gold-sequined suits, Greg Ormont, Jeremy Schon, Alex Petropulos, and Ben Carrey started their last show of 2018 with their fun “Burning Up My Time,” switching up the ending lyrics for the crowd to find “the steve." A heavy bass “Offshoot” sandwich was made to order with Aerosmith’s (Steven Tyler) “Sweet Emotion” spread nice and smooth in the middle, making it the first “Steve” debut for the night. After a crowd sing-a-long of “Somethin’ For Ya," Traffic’s (Steve Winwood) “Medicated Goo” busted out for an old-school dose of funk for the Flockers.
The Magic Bean’s Casey Russell and West End Blend horns joined the band onstage for an extended double-decked “Whoopie," built up with the grooves of Stevie Wonders’ “I Wish” that teased Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West” and Wonders’ reggae jam ode to Bob Marley “Master Blaster." Briefly taking a break off stage for the sequined-Pigeons to turn up the party with their newest track “Yo Soy Fiesta," Russell and West End Blend horns joined onstage for Wonders’ featured funk jam “Boogie On Reggae Woman," wishing Stevie Wonder, Steven Tyler, and Steve Buscemi to all boogie on. Wonders’ “Superstition” came way next, giving the Flock some serious-70s funk that the band hasn’t busted out since 2015, mixing in some dark jams into the usual upbeat funk song. As Schon struck the opening chords to the crowd-pleasing “Poseidon” to finish the first set, a feeling of excitement washed over the crowd as the band took a quick set break to prepare us for the new year.
After Stage AE prepared themselves for the final hour of 2018, Pigeons came back onstage all sparkly and busted out their upbeat “Porcupine” that gave room to one of the night’s best renditions of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen." The crowd pulsed with energy as the band started into the edgy beat, taking it into a psychedelic jam that would be one of the key peaks of the night before washing “Porcupine” back over the crowd. The West End Blend horns joined onstage for Wonders’ “Sir Duke," Ormont showing off his powerful vocals with a tune that hasn’t seen the Pigeon stage since 2011. An incredible “Drunk People” sequence was next in line, topped with an instrumental Deep Purple’s (Steve Morse) “Smoke On The Water” jam that slipped into Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra” and Fleetwood Mac’s (Stevie Nicks) “The Chain," Ormont projecting the outro lyrics over the sold-out venue as “Drunk People” returned back as a final topping. At 11:50 p.m., “Ocean Flows” began the 10-minute countdown and full-jam mode was pulsing from the stage to the crowd. Ormont rang out a two-minute warning, and as the crowd belted out the lyrics “Nine to five!” balloons rang down over the 2,400 Flockers as an “Auld Lang Syne” instrumental mashup of Wonders’ “Isn’t She Lovely” jump-started the new year.
The Pigeon guys kicked 2019 into high-gear with a “King Kong” sequence, adorned with the West End Blend horns and Wonders’ “Signed, Sealed, Delivered." Ormont congratulated the crowd on having a happy new year before the band went into the lyrical “Fortress” and Wonders’ “Living For The City," when Carrey made the crowd cheer as he stomped a balloon onstage that was causing some shenanigans. The band closed out their first set of 2019 with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Lenny” as the opening to the magnificent “Horizon” to celebrate the people we love to welcome the beginnings of 2019. A wild cheer made up of the largest crowd in Pigeon Playing Ping Pong history returned the band back onstage for a hard, heavy, and hornful “Schwanthem” encore to complete the “New Year’s stEve” show.
After an incredible year of playing their first headlining show at Red Rocks Amphitheater, the halftime show at Madison Square Garden, meeting John Mayer and Bob Weir, and playing dozens of festivals and hundreds of shows, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong has concluded and celebrated a grand 2018. The Flock is at its highest and most energetic than ever before, and we’re excited to see what this year has in store for these groovy, psychedelic Pigeons.
Setlist: Pigeons Playing Ping Pong / Stage AE / Pittsburgh, PA / 12/31/18
Set 1: Burning Up My Time > Offshoot > Sweet Emotion^  > Offshoot, Somethin’ For Ya > Medicated Goo^ , Whoopie*~ > I Wish^*~#  > Master Blaster^*~  > Whoopie*~, Yo Soy Fiesta, Boogie On Reggae Woman*~”  > Superstition*~”  > Poseidon
Set II: Porcupine > Edge of Seventeen^  > Porcupine, Sir Duke*& , Drunk People > Smoke On The Water^@  > Abracadabra^  > The Chain^  > Drunk People, Ocean Flows% > Auld Lang Syne > Isn’t She Lovely^@  > Auld Lang Syne >, King Kong* > Signed, Sealed, Delivered*  > King Kong*, Fortress*, Living For The City^*  > Horizon > Lenny^  > Horizon
Notes: “New Year’s stEve” ^ First time played  Aerosmith (Steven Tyler)  Traffic (Steve Winwood) * w/ West End Blend horns ~ w/ Casey Russell (Magic Beans) on keys # w/ Wild Wild West tease  Stevie Wonder “ Last time played 9/05/2015  Stevie Nicks & Last time played 7/06/2011  Deep Purple (Steve Morse) @ Instrumental  Steve Miller Band  Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks), Outro only % w/ NYE countdown  Stevie Ray Vaughn
*Published Live for Live Music article here