Pigeons Playing Ping Pong threw their 10th annual Domefest this year at its new location, Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, WV. Previously held in Bedford, PA, the fest moved to the new site to allow for an expansion in size and attendees. As people arrived Thursday afternoon, they knew they were in for a treat as Marvin’s scenic wide open views showcased West Virginia’s natural beauty.
Thursday kicked off with Chalk Dinosaur on the main stage, a fun, dancey, electronic group that provided an entertaining start to the music. Following the prehistoric groovers came Cycles, a jammy power rock trio from Denver, CO that knows how to explore new territory and shred the audience’s faces off in the same jam. Cycles crushed their set, gaining new fans and satisfying returning fans alike. Next came another Colorado group, The Magic Beans, who seem to be a favorite among Pigeons’ crowd, and for good reason, performing their first set of the weekend. The highlight of the Beans’ set was by far the segment of “Mission” segued into “Dr. Bubbleman,” featuring some exemplary type 2 jamming that was backed up by lighting designer Tim Farquhuar’s impressive work.
Closing out the main “Gallery Society” stage, came Pigeons Playing Ping Pong for their first set of the weekend. Thursday’s theme was “Domecoming Weekend,” so the band was dressed in matching sparkly gold jackets and snazzy white pants. The group played a number of their biggest songs including “Melting Lights,” “Scwanthem,” and “Something for Ya,” and debuted a cover of Metallica’s legendary “Enter Sandman,” led by drummer Alex Petropulos on vocals. For an encore, the band wished guitarist Jeremy Schon a happy birthday and performed their song “Su Casa” with John Denver’s “Country Roads” sandwiched in the middle of the tune, an homage to the festival’s new home in West Virginia.
In between all of these sets, Asheville-based funk band The Fritz performed tweener sets at the festival’s smaller stage, the “Bamboo Eater” stage, which was immediately to the right of the main stage, making it extremely easy for attendees to move between both. The Fritz absolutely killed it during all of the sets, bringing fun and funky covers of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” (dedicated to Ben Carrey from Pigeons) and Michael Jackson’s dance hit “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” to the ears of the ‘domies’ that stuck around for their sets. These guys are definitely a band to keep an eye on, every member just exudes talent and creativity, and frontman Jamar Woods has dance moves that are just as impressive as his keyboard skills.
There was a bit of rain from Thursday into Friday, but that didn’t break the domies’ spirits, as more and more people started embracing the mud and walking around barefoot. Friday was opened up by Mateo Monk (or White Wolf) on the main stage, performing a really spiritual solo looping set that ended with a song that repeated the line “music is my prayer.” Following Mateo came Deaf Scene, a heavy post rock band that seemed out of place at the festival, but absolutely crushed their set and had members of the Flock on the rail head banging by the end of their set. Bassist Eric Courtney performed the entire set in his boxers, and remained in that state for a good chunk of the day. West End Blend came next, an 8-piece funk band from Connecticut that bares a resemblance to Turkuaz. Lead singer and de facto front woman Erica T. Bryan soothed the souls of the crowd with her spectacular voice, backed up by a tight, get-shit-done rhythm section and horns.
Chicago prog rockers Mungion followed soon after, bringing the heat with spectacular versions of their songs “Quemaste tu Cabello,” “Nuthead,” and “Beneath the Shallows,” as well as a jammed out “Myrtle” that featured Aqueous’ Mike Gantzer on guitar. The group also performed Led Zeppelin’s “Fool in the Rain” with their original song “Return to Sender” sandwiched in the middle of it. Mungion’s first set of the weekend was fantastic and got the crowd rowdy and ready for Aqueous, the Buffalo-based groove rock band that has been steadily gaining popularity across the country over the past few years. The group opened their set with fan-favorite “Origami,” debuted a new song called “Be The Same,” which featured drummer Rob Houk on supporting vocals, and brought out West End Blend’s horn section for a performance of the album version of “Weight of the Word.” The set also contained a bustout of Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” featuring Justin Reckamp of Mungion on guitar and Michael Bafundo of West End Blend on trumpet, which made the crowd go wild and had nearly everyone singing along.
Closing out the main stage per usual was Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, this time with two sets and following the theme of “Magic Kingdome.” The band was dressed in matching Mickey Mouse outfits of red pants, suspenders and black t-shirts. Both sets were jam-packed with Disney tunes, from Pocahontas’ “Colors of the Wind,” Lion King’s “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” and a medley of tunes from The Jungle Book, including the classic “Bear Necessities.” The group also encored with an original debut of a song called “Water,” adding to an ongoing list of songs that frontman Greg Ormont has written about cups. Highlights of the sets include the back half of the first set, which featured the West End Blend horns, the “Henrietta” second set opener, and the sandwich of “Poseidon” > “A Whole New World” > “Magic Carpet Ride” > “Abracadabra” > “Poseidon.”
Friday’s “Bamboo Eater” stage lineup featured the Dirty Grass Players, who showcased an impressive version of “Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad,” a number famously covered by the Grateful Dead; Schwa, Pigeons bassist Ben Carrey’s electronic side project that featured live bass and guitar as well as looping jams; and Fletcher’s Grove, the only band from West Virginia on the lineup, who brought their Appalachian rock sound and turned a few heads with their cover of “Shakedown Street” before Aqueous’ set. The real treat of the smaller stage was the Magic Beans’ second set of the weekend, a late night set that was originally only supposed to last until 3:30, but due to a lightning-induced set break, lasted until 5 in the morning instead. The group performed a 2-part “Lazer Lady” (only because of the lightning) as well as stellar versions of a bunch of Casino Cabaret tunes, including “Here On Out,” “Hanky Panky,” and “Mr. Scientist.”
Saturday’s weather was sunny and hot, not harboring a single drop of rain the entire day and officially cementing the best weather in Domefest history. Virginia’s Kendall Street Company opened the main stage, offering a mix of folksy rock tunes, acoustic driven ballads, and a portion of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey!” Swimmer took the stage next, with the Burlington jam quartet landing their spaceship of funky electronic jams right smack in the middle of Marvin’s muddy, hay-covered concert bowl. The group then made way for Funk You, a progressive funk band from Georgia that’s led by soulful singer and frontman Gavin Hamilton who laid down melodies that made some people stop in their tracks and turn to the stage. Funk You was a really fun act to watch and listen to, staying true to the “progressive funk” genre they classify themselves as with driving, intricate funk grooves. Next up were Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, a band of musicians so in touch with their third eye that it made audience members want to give up everything and start following the rainbow. The Rainbow Seekers had one of the most entertaining stage presences, with members dancing around the stage while playing each song, bright colored outfits, a giant inflatable rainbow, and visibly having a good time being on stage together playing music. These guys are definitely a band to see live if you’ve never seen them before, their groovy, almost Motown-like sound, is sure to sooth whatever is ailing you.
Following Joe Hertler were Aqueous for their second headlining set of the weekend, a little earlier than their set the previous night which made perfect timing for the sun to set right as their music started. The group performed a slightly different set than usual, with the majority of the setlist broken up into 2 big segments of “Strange Times” > “Marty” > “Timmy’s Blades” > “Say It Again” and “Split the Difference” > “Rocko’s Modern Life Theme” > “Rugrats Theme” > “Random Company,” a truly career spanning setlist, as well as a reprisal of some covers from their Nickelodeon-themed Halloween show last October. Following those two segments, the group debuted a cover of “Walking on the Moon” by Empire of the Sun that featured drummer Rob Houk on lead vocals, which doesn’t happen very often. Houk crushed his vocals and was praised by the crowd with cheers of “Let Rob sing!” which fans have been asking for since the last time Houk led a cover. The group closed their set with their classic “Dave’s Song,” which featured a tease of AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” before playing the rare ending of “Dave’s” and closing out the set.
Pigeons came next, performing their last two sets of the weekend. Saturday’s theme was “Dome for the Holidays,” so the band was adorned in various holiday-themed outfits, including Ormont who wore a Hanukkah sweater and giant hat that said “Mazel Tov” across it. Both sets featured holiday songs of course, including the classic Bar Mitzvah song “Hava Nagila” and a mashup of the “Dreidel” song and “Jingle Bells,” as well as a show-closing “Auld Lang Syne.” Surrounding these covers were some stellar segments of “Julia” > “Beanstalk” > “Julia,” “Lightning” > “Moonwalk” > “E-Funk”, and “Zydeko” > “Sir Real” > “Dreidel Bells” > “Zydeko,” showcasing the group’s affinity and proclivity for long segued segments. Closing out the mainstage for the weekend was the much anticipated “Domefest All-Stars” set, featuring musicians from Aqueous, Mungion, Goose, Puremotion, Pigeons, Litz, and Funk You among others. The set mainly consisted of standards like Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” from his infamous synth funk Headhunters album, and a version of The Meters’ “Cissy Strut” that featured Justin Reckamp, Sean Carolan, and Matt Kellen of Mungion, Peter Anspach from Goose, Mike Gantzer from Aqueous, Jeremy Schon from Pigeons and the Funk You horns. The set also featured performances of classic songs such as the Grateful Dead’s “Eyes of the World,” featuring all of the Pigeons besides Petropulos as well as Litz’ own Austin Litz on keys and Aqueous’ Rob Houk on drums, and Prince’s party anthem “1999” with Ormont trading verses a la the original version with Funk You’s Gavin Hamilton (who breathed a whole new life into the song with his soulful voice) and their saxophone player. The All-Stars closed off around 6 in the morning, just as the sun and temperature started rising for the dawn of a new day.
Over on the “Bamboo Eater” stage, Connecticut-based folk rock band Goose performed 3 tweener sets and absolutely lit the small stage on fire. Opening their first set with The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping Paper” to fit the “Dome for the Holidays” theme, the group performed exemplary versions of “Time to Flee,” “Tumble,” “Jive Lee,” “Yeti,” and “Hot Tea,” as well as unique takes on The Who’s “Eminence Front” and the Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless.” Goose had the crowd moving and grooving during all 3 of their sets and definitely gained a lot of new fans throughout; check these guys out if you haven’t yet. The last band on the side stage was Mungion, back for their second set of the weekend. The group opened with a heavy hitting “Chatterbox” > “SteveO’s Waffle” > “Justice” by Jimmy Herring, followed by a version of “Herbert” that blew the minds of everyone in the audience with its complex composition and exploratory prog jam. The band closed out their set with a mashup of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and Primus’ “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” that worked so well it was almost like the original artists planned it.
The tenth annual Domefest was a shining example of what small festivals should be. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong know what their audience wants and they delivered beyond expectations. Hopefully the fest will return to Marvin’s Mountaintop next year, as the grounds provided the perfect setting for Domefest’s family vibes and tight-knit feeling. All of the bands that performed did so with energy and purpose and were met by love and respect from the Flock, which is a beautiful thing to experience at festivals. If you missed this year’s Dome, make it a point to make it out next year. You won’t regret it.
Check out our photographer Matt Shotwell’s photo gallery below for a look into how beautiful of an experience Dome really was.