Grateful Web Interview with Greg Ormont

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Submitted by -June Reedy Fri, 06/22/2018 - 11:42 am

After a colossal performance at Summer Camp, Grateful Web’s June Reedy Jameson got to sit down with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s Greg Ormont.  At Summer Camp they took the stage to a huge double rainbow that seemed to intensify as they played. Continuing the magical streak, they will play Red Rocks for their first time with Moe on July 12th.

GW: Hi Greg! This is June Jameson with Grateful Web. Where are you at right now?

Greg: I am home, I’m in Baltimore.  We have an off weekend, so I’m at home chilling.

GW: Yes, cool.  Thanks for taking some time to chat with us today.

Greg: Yeah, no problem!

GW: I see you have your big Red Rocks show coming up with Moe. on July 12th, yes?

Greg Ormont | photo by Melissa Bailey

Greg: Yeah, it's coming up fast, we are super stoked, less than a month out.

GW: Is this your first time playing Red Rocks?

Greg: Yeah, it’s gonna be our first time even seeing a show at Red Rocks let alone playing it. I’m excited to see what all the fuss is about.

GW: That was going to be my first question, what was the first show you saw there but this is it, huh? This is your first time being in the park?

Greg: Well, we went on a little day hike there not too long ago, but that doesn’t count ya know? We have not seen a show yet, not seen the lights on the rocks yet so… We are very stoked, and it’s a pretty wild way to get started at Red Rocks but we’re down, we’re excited.

GW: So where can I find more live shows of yours? I’m hooked.

Greg: We’ve been uploading a lot onto nugs.net, pretty regularly. I think our most recent Bonnaroo show is already live on nugs.net where we had the horns from the Revivalists sit in with us for most of our set. We had a blast in front of a huge crowd.  You can start at nugs.net for live stuff but there is also a few choice shows on Bandcamp, like our recent New Year’s Eve show where we did a whole Disney theme. That is on our Bandcamp. Originally, we used to put everything on archive.org, so there are probably hundreds of shows on there too.

GW: Cool.  A Disney themed New Year’s Eve? Tell me about that.

Greg: Well we love doing themes, just to push us outside of our comfort zones to make those big holidays like New Year’s or Halloween even more special and you know, there is no wrong way about going with Disney. Their music is timeless, and it can relate to people who are younger or older than us and play some really good songs. We don’t take on themes by just playing covers. We like to mash them up into sandwiches, have the Disney songs going in & out of our original music and make it a whole musical journey. That was a fun one.

GW: Like when you jam the Cantina Song from Star Wars in between songs?

Greg Ormont | Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

Greg: Yes! Exactly! The teases pop up randomly. Interject some covers, and you won’t always see them coming, which is what makes that exciting during those shows.

GW: So the last time Grateful Web caught up with you, you told our interviewer that you were a theatre kid back in the day! Did you do musicals?

Greg: Yeah, I did a lot of musicals and plays growing up. One of my best friends was very much into that. He kinda showed me the way. We were in a ton of musicals together.  It is helpful to be comfortable on stage from an early age which proved to be crucial for me since I am on stage all the time now. I’m used to feeding off the energy of the crowd and improvising and just being up there and surviving those moments that maybe aren’t great, but you come out the other side stronger. I loved being on stage whether it was being in musicals or playing on stage now.

GW: What is a musical that you were in high school?

Greg: I was in a lot! Some that the readers may know would be The Wiz, The Michael Jackson version of The Wizard of Oz.  I was the lion, the cowardly lion my junior year of high school with the full lion outfit and mane, everything.

GW: I’m surprised you’d have to wear the mane, your hair is pretty majestic already.

Greg Ormont | Bonnaroo | photo by L. Paul Mann

Greg: Yeah well, unfortunately, my hair was pretty short at the time.  In high school, yeah… If I got to back now tho, I would probably be all set!

GW: In the genre of show tunes, all that, obviously you spend a lot of time on the road right now but do you ever get a chance to watch the Tony’s, Emmys, Oscars, any of the awards shows like that?

Greg: I have never been to any awards shows, no but I did see the Book of Mormon when I came to Baltimore within this past year. That was hilarious, definitely lives up to the hype. Made me laugh. I don’t know if it made me cry, but it definitely made me cry while laughing. That was a great one. I was able to catch that. Whenever we have any days off in New York, I’ll try to see one but it is often too far and few in between. We hardly have any days off these days; we keep pretty busy.

GW: Absolutely. So, you had the Revivalists sit in with you at Bonnaroo; I've heard that set on Sirius XM’s Jam on, that was excellent.  Then I saw you at Summer Camp, and you had Al (Schier from Moe.) up with you playing Poseidon. Would you say Poseidon is a regular jam that you have people sit in with you on or are there other tunes from your catalog that you prefer to have guests sit in for?

Greg: That song fits really nicely for a guitar solo. We’ve had a few other people do that, sit in on guitar with us for Poseidon primarily because there is a lot of open space for the sit in to kinda, get used to the song and find his or her spot in the song. We like our sit-ins to be intentional. We want them to listen to the song and think about where they can make it better and add their element to it. I think Poseidon is a great one because even live there is so much repetition early on that it gives the person playing with us some time to digest the material and make a decision as opposed to some of our other songs where you don’t really have as much time to soak in the song, and you need to just full swing.  Take a few swings at it, and then the song is over. Poseidon is very patient, it’s very open, and I think it’s all about layers, that song. Since we already have two guitars, adding a third gives it that extra layer. We obviously can’t play everything that’s on the album version because there is a handful of parts on there. There is also a jam that’s wide open too. Once we get through the structure of the song, we go into the jam. Sometimes we’ll keep it in that key and that vibe and sort of float it out into this major sounding band celebration. Or we can dip it into a minor chord to give it some darkness and see if the sit-in wants to give it a little more edge involved and then eventually make our way back to the structure. It’s wide open, and I thought Al did a really good job not only creating parts, but building those parts across the song.  He really listened to what we were doing as opposed to just standing up there and playing. You could tell that he was listening quite heavily. Obviously, that comes as no surprise because he is such a pro and has been doing it for so long. He’s also done things like Everyone Orchestra where that is all about listening to each other. So, he did a top-notch job. I had such a good time playing with Al. I know Jeremy, our lead guitarist, did too. We have both looked up to him and Moe. for a long time. They are one of those bands that is pretty rare in the jam scene to not have a keyboardist or a primary keyboardist. We’ve always looked to Moe. in the way that they write songs and the way that they listen to each other. It was surreal to have him join us.

Greg Ormont | photo by Melissa Bailey

GW: Do you think there will be any sit-ins at Red Rocks on July 12th?

Greg: I hope so! It’s kind of up to them. We’re young, and we’re down to do whatever they want us to do.  If they want to join us, that’s cool! I know that bigger shows have a lot going on, so maybe it will just be kinda… we’ll play it by ear and figure it out. We’ve got to see what everyone’s schedule is.  A lot of people wonder how these sit-ins come to be and it’s a lot more casual than you may think. We’ll see the guys on July 12th when we’re at Red Rocks and casually ask if they have time if they’re interested in joining us. If they are, that’s great. If they want something from us too, that’s even cooler! We’re just stoked to be at Red Rocks, so if it happens, that would be awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised if something special happens at our set but either way we’re going…

GW: Like a massive double rainbow?

Greg: Right?! We got two rainbows at Summer Camp, and I can only imagine what the Red Rocks sky is gonna conjure up for us.

GW: It was intense! I have been to Red Rocks before and seen some beautiful rainbows but that one at Summer Camp across the flat field intensifying as you played was just...incredible!

Summer Camp Music Festival

Greg: Yeah, it’s really unbelievable. Those types of fleeting moments are what it’s all about.  Going to a festival, you can plan your set, you can try to plan for a sit-in, but you can’t plan for that little drizzle to turn into a double rainbow when you come out on stage!  It’s funny, we played there a few years ago, Summer Camp. We had some potential rain that was coming in that was going to threaten our set time. Before we started playing, it seemed that there was this big storm coming in and the staff told us that they were going to be lowering the sound equipment and covering it up and there is a chance that we might not get to play at all.  If we lose any time from the weather, we won’t be getting that time back. There was this big nervous energy happening within the band because we really wanted to play and we weren’t sure if we were going to. As a result, when we got on stage, the rain had not broke yet, it hadn’t happened. So we just played for our lives. We played as if every song was the last song we were gonna get to play there.  It was almost like a rain dance where we were just trying to have our funk hold off the storm. It never broke, and we got to play our entire set at Summer Camp that year and the sky was like, half dark like, the worst storm you could imagine is about to strike - and the other half was like this beautifully clear, twisted ray of sunshine and hope on the other side of this sky. Those types of natural elements really do feed into our playing and our energy.  It was so funny that of all the places to have this double rainbow happen, it’d be Summer Camp where we’ve already had these epic elements as offshoots of the show. I was happy that there were some really good photographers with us too. I knew that they were capturing it and we wouldn’t need to pull out our phones to capture this fleeting moment. Jay Blakesberg had our back, right behind us.

GW: I saw him there too! I was trying to take notes from what he was doing all weekend.  I was in the photo pit trying to capture all that beauty, whew!

Greg: Awesome! That was really cool. The crowd was enormous, a really big crowd, combined with the double rainbow - it was a sight to see.  It is kinda hard to forget that one.

Greg Ormont | Summer Camp Music Festival

GW: Speaking of fests, how long has Domefest been going on? That is your fest, correct?

Greg: Yeah! Domefest is Pigeons' festival, and it’s been going on for nine years now, believe it or not. It started as a very humble, one day - one-night event that our guitarist Jeremy Schoen put on back in 2010…. It was a dream of his to put on a festival having been to few already at that point in his life.  He was really inspired by the theme and how the event really brings people together and that year was such a huge success that he decided to do it again. Now, fast forward into our 9th year, we just had a few weeks ago. It was a smashing success. It was sold out in Bedford PA, and it was our 3rd year having it at this property and Pigeons played five sets. Some of us had side projects play so a total of 6 sets for some of us. It was really fun.  Other bands also killed it like Broccoli Samurai, The Magic Beans from Colorado, as well as West End Blend from CT. We had their horns sit in with us on a few songs. Actually, they wrote some horn parts on some songs where we’ve never had horns before which was really exciting for us. They just absolutely killed it. It was an incredible weekend. I’ll be honest, it was a little rainy and what was really exciting to see was the amount of people helping each other, get in and out of parking spots or making sure no one slipped on any inclines.  It was, again, something we can’t really plan for, is the energy and support that the fans brought to the festival. They made sure everyone had a good time, making sure everyone was happy and safe. We got everyone in and out even with it being a wet one. Everyone took that with full excitement and that so impressed us. All of the band noticed how helpful our fans were to each other. It was a really beautiful thing to see and be a part of.

GW: I checked out the website for Domefest.  One thing I have never seen that was very interesting is the way you charge for each car that get into the festival. You encourage carpooling by saying if there are 3 or more people in a car, the cost is FREE.99? That is amazing!

Greg is no doubt a badass | photo by Mike Moran

Greg: Yeah, well, we had a feeling this year was going to sell out at our current property and we uh… not only do we want to make sure that there is space for everybody, but we also want to reduce our carbon footprint and not have too many people driving.  It just wastes space and gas and everything. We wanted to make sure that no matter how big Domefest gets, there will always be dancing room. We’re never going to be the festival that packs you in like sardines just to squeeze in a few extra hundred people.  We prefer to cap it at a reasonable amount of people. We prefer that everyone have room to dance as well as camp and park. Given the site’s demands and the way that it’s laid out, we wanted to make sure that there were as few parked cars as possible. We just didn’t want to have more than what was needed on site, just so that everyone has a little more space.  Having been to a festival as an attendee and as a producer as well as an artist, it really is important to maintain the comfort of everybody. We didn’t like being at festivals where we felt crowded and things like that. We just want to put on our fest the way that we would want to attend one which is room to dance, a friendly atmosphere, and really great bands that are gonna become your new favorite bands including ones that you may have never heard of before.  One of the other things about Domefest that we focus on is booking bands that people don’t know already. Most of the time with festivals, people just go for bands that they like. They make their own schedule, and they don’t get to see new music. At Domefest, everyone sees the same show. There are no overlapping sets. There is a main stage and a side stage that goes back and forth so that everyone can see their favorite bands plus new ones!

GW: Like All Good Fest back in the day! It had just two stages so you could see everyone that played. You could claim a space for all day, and it was so much more relaxed than the big fests.

Greg: Yeah, actually we went to All Good as budding jammers, and it had a profound impact on us. I know, Jeremy as the visionary of Domefest, thinks about All Good a lot when he is planning Domefest, as well as some smaller fests that had the no overlapping sets thing, like Camp Barefoot, which was also in the SE, mid-Atlantic.  It is so cool that, even All Good, which was like 20,000 people or more in attendance, they all saw the same show and they all had the similar experiences. When you go back to your campsite, everyone can discuss the same thing - what they just saw as opposed to what they missed out on. We loved All Good, especially when it was all Marvin’s Mountain in WV.  That festival changed a number of our lives.

Greg Ormont | photo by Elliot Engebretson

GW: So Domefest has been around for nine years, when did you begin playing as a band?

Greg: Well the band started very naturally in college. I met Jeremy, our guitarist, on the first day of school, looking to make friends and we started jamming immediately in the dorm rooms. That was in the fall of 2006. We really started jamming as a four-piece essentially in 2008.  We started touring full time roughly for the past seven years. We quit our jobs in 2011.

GW: Did you ever play Colorado back then?

Greg: No, no we started playing Colorado 4 or 5 years ago.  I am convinced it was just because Jeremy wanted to go skiing. I’m fairly certain that is why we started playing out west. Fortunately, it’s great for us. Colorado is like a second home for us. But I know we got started initially just so Jeremy could ski the Rockies, which, in retrospect, was a really good decision. I was barely into snowboarding at the time, and now I love going out west getting opportunities to ride Colorado, Jackson Hole, Tahoe, Montana. It’s been a really cool part of touring.  It’s almost the most dangerous thing we do as far as touring ya know, as far as being a musician goes. Jeremy and I have rough wrists. We won’t even pick up an instrument with our left hand, but we WILL go skiing in Jackson Hole. Regardless of how steep it is, I may not type on my computer for a certain amount of hours a day, but I will go skiing in Tahoe. It is the one hypocritical thing we do with the safety of our body, (chuckles)

GW: Gotta get you guys up to Alaska! It’s just that I thought I saw you play out in Nederland CO maybe ten years ago.  I don’t know who I thought I saw… I’ve got a mystery on my hands.

Greg Ormont | photo by L. Paul Mann

Greg: We are all over the place, even when we’re not. We used to bring our stickers everywhere. In every venue bathroom, anywhere you could put a sticker up, we put it up, for like, five years. There is a chance that we may have gotten in your head that way.  For all you young bands out there, I would stress doing the same. It makes you seem like you’ve been around for longer.

GW: Absolutely! (chuckles) There is something so familiar about these guys...

Greg: And also, our manager lives in Colorado. I don’t think he was living there in 2008 though.  I think he was still in VA. Our manager now lives in Denver. Whoever put up that sticker, maybe it was a fan of ours, thank you for doing that because it warmed us up to the Grateful Web! I actually gave a pack of stickers to a friend of mine who ended up traveling all throughout Europe and Asia. Maybe I’ll be doing an interview in like five years, and some Asian reporter will be like, “weren’t you in… Shanghai in 2017?” Nope, but our name was!

GW: It’s like time travel! I have a couple last quick personal choice questions left for ya.  #1 Who is your current favorite slow jam?

Greg Ormont | Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

Greg: Wow, my favorite slow jam? That’s a really good question. It really depends on how you would define slow jam. The first thing that comes to mind is Booth Love by Umphrey’s McGee.

GW: Nice

Greg: But there is also Mile High Club. They are awesome. There is a song called Tesselation that I really like.  Then there is also a song called Lilly by a band called Toro y Moi, and that song is like..it’s kinda like trippy Beach Boy vibes, meets Flaming Lips, sink into the couch kind of feeling. That’s a good slow jam too. I work during the day on the computer checking emails and stuff to a really great slow jam YouTube video. It’s called "lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to. It’s an anime girl with a cat on her computer video that just goes for hours. It might be live.  But it’s like hip-hop beats but lo-fi, it’s really chill swaggy beat. That’s been my slow jam lately too. Between Umphreys, Mile High Club, Toro y Moi and the slow jams anime cat, I got it covered.

GW: Everyone loves your Ghostbusters (Who Ya Gonna Call?) cover and I was wondering if you would ever cover Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince?

Greg: Oh man! Wow! Anything is possible.

GW: And my last question for you Greg, how do you take your eggs?

Greg: How do I what? Prefer my eggs?

GW: Yep.

Greg: Well, if you have to ask! I usually go Scrambled, but right now I’m feeling Sunnyside Up.

GW: Thank You so much for taking some time with us today - We will see you at Red Rocks!

Greg: Well awesome! I appreciate you taking time out of your day. Thank you, June.