There Is No Place Like DOME And HOME – Looking Back on Domefest 2018 And Previewing Homefest!

Domefest 2018

DC Music Review exists in a strange world right now - everyone exists in these surreal and challenging times and tries to navigate as best they can. We, like you, thrive in music experiences, especially music festivals. We find ourselves looking back on some of the best times that we experienced with gratitude and appreciation, and looking ahead with equal disappointment that we won’t get to enjoy those same experiences in the coming months. 

The festival that always reminds us of the massive efforts to put on a music festival is Domefest.  Each year for the past ten years, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong has organized Domefest and grown their festival into one of the most beloved in the DMV region. The amount of love, hard work, and personal touches that the band puts into this event has no match. We have seen how the band rolls up their sleeves to carefully assemble the best concert experience for their fans, and themselves. We have personally witnessed lead singer and frontman Greg Ormont work at the festival gate. We have heard how in 2018, guitarist Jeremy Schon was on the phone ordering another truckload of gravel so that cars could make it up a challenging hill. We saw bassist Ben Carrey lead a yoga class early in the mornings. And we saw drummer Alex Petropulos and his bandmates camping alongside their beloved Flock. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong did not make a music festival where artists roamed in secluded locations and ate in air-conditioned tents far away from fans. Domefest has always been about community and a beautiful coexistence for everyone attending.  We truly believe in Domefest's motto - "There Is No Place Like DOME!"

In an alternate timeline, we would be furiously writing an article and culling photos to bring you the best concert coverage as we tried to report on this year’s festival, held atop Marvin's Mountaintop in Masontown, West Virginia, but on March 20th we heard the sad announcement of Domefest's cancellation. 

 

They say “the show must go on,” but they also say “safety first.” With that at heart, we’ve made the tough decision to cancel Domefest 2020 in order to prioritize the health and safety of our beloved festival family. This has been the most difficult moment in our eleven year history and we hope you understand how much it pains us to make this call. All purchases will be refunded automatically over the next week, please check your email for more information, including our 2021 loyalty program and option to donate your refund to Sweet Relief Musicians Fund to provide assistance to music industry professionals during this unprecedented time. Rest assured, we will get through these crazy times together, regroup as a family, and come back even stronger in 2021. Stay safe out there, we’ll see you next year!

But only a few short days ago, we were delighted to hear that the band will be putting on Homefest, A Virtual Flock Party!

 
 

We’re thrilled to announce Homefest, a three-night digital music festival taking place on June 11-13, 2020 featuring five sets by Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and more artists TBA! In addition to livestream performances, fans (aka “homies”) will have access to a full schedule of community-focused virtual events, workshops and exclusive content. Early bird streaming passes are on sale now at homefest.us. Fans also have the opportunity to purchase limited edition merchandise as well as High Flyer Packages for special VIP perks, including virtual happy hour with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, signed setlists from Homefest and more. For more information on Homefest, visit homefest.us and stay tuned to Domefest’s and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s social media pages for updates. You didn’t think a global pandemic would keep us from celebrating the people we love, did you?!

So this year, we will lovingly look back on past editions of Domefest, while at the same time, we’ll look forward to gathering the Flock virtually to keep the spirit of those amazing weekends alive. Normally we would greet one another at Domefest with the greeting of "Hello Domie!" but this summer, we look forward to greeting you with a "Hey Homie!"

Homefest Preliminary Lineup

Previous coverage of Domefest and more information on Homefest can be found below.

HOMEFEST

The Original Article was written by Matthew Bowers and published on May 23, 2018

A good music festival can be just as much about the patrons as it is the bands that are playing. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to find the perfect mix of the two. When that happens, it creates a truly harmonious feeling that every single attendee will take with them even after they leave the festival grounds. This pretty much sums up what Domefest is every year. 

There was nothing but love of Funk and all the bands at the 9th Domefest.

There was nothing but love of Funk and all the bands at the 9th Domefest.

This would be the 9th version of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s annual event, and it would prove to be the biggest and best one so far. With a sellout crowd of 1500 smiling faces ready to dance and have a good time, this flock would provide more than enough sunshine despite the rainy conditions that would persist throughout the fest.     

The opening Thursday night music would get the weekend started off with a bang The Magic Beans, Formula 5, and the Strange Machines warmed up the hungry crowd on the main stage while Shwizz took the set break duties on the side stage. Of course, this is the Pigeons’ festival, and they let everyone know who the headliners were when they took the stage Thursday night. Playing to the theme of “Throwback Thursday,” the band’s only one set show of the weekend would not disappoint. This was also lead guitarist Jeremy Schon’s actual birthday, so fittingly the band started off the set with some birthday wishes. Most notably in this set was the bustout of two songs, "Candy" and "Dutchmaster", both of which hadn’t been played since 2012, and 2011 respectively. Just to pull the curtain back on this moment for the readers a little, there’s a very good friend of mine (and the band’s) named Mike. He is quite probably Pigeons fan number 1, and "Dutchmaster" was his golden goose that he had basically resigned to the band never playing again. So when they called him out by name, and dedicated the song to him, it was one of those special band/fan moments that you just can’t help but smile and feel good about. After the Pigeons set, the Mantras would take the crowd deep on the late night stage well into the night. Needless to say, despite the wetness and mud, day 1 was a great indicator of what the rest of the weekend would entail.

The Magic Beans

The Magic Beans

Friday would bring more rain, and mud, but more importantly more great music and good vibes. I’ve never seen a festival crowd happier to be out in the rain and sloshing around in the mud. It seemed like a literal afterthought on everyone’s mind and that feeling was infectious. It was rainy in the campground, but sunny in our hearts.

The music on Friday afternoon would feature Flux Capacitor, Joe Hertler and the Rainbow Seekers, West End Blend, and Headless Robot. Mateo Monk and Cycles would take care of music during the setlist breaks, save for one setbreak featuring Schwa, which is the side project of Pigeons bassist Ben CarreyBroccoli Samurai would set the stage for the first two-set P4 show of the weekend. 

Night 2 of Domefest right as Greg's voice began to give out.

Night 2 of Domefest right as Greg's voice began to give out.

As the first Pigeons set started it started to become apparent that something wasn’t right with Greg Ormont's voice. He basically let the crowd sing the whole first verse of “Poseidon” before it was clear that he wouldn’t be able to keep singing without completely losing his voice for the weekend. Pushing through the rest of the first set with superb versions of “Schwanthem” and “King Kong,” and even a bustout of the Jefferson Airplane classic “White Rabbit” which would be sung by drummer Alex Petropulos (impressively nailed at that).

West End Blend's horns joined PPPP for some epic jams on Friday night.

West End Blend's horns joined PPPP for some epic jams on Friday night.

During setbreak we were all wondering how the second set would play out without a lead singer. Would they switch up vocals? Play a set of only instrumentals? Will Greg just keep trying to sing with a raspy voice? All those questions would be answered within about 10 minutes of the second set opening song “Whirled.” It became pretty clear once they started really getting deep in the jam what was going to happen, and it was pretty amazing to watch (and hear). They would take the song on a 60+ minute ride, making it the second time in their career that they’ve played a single song set (The first was on 4-15-18). This is a must listen for any fan of improvisational music; there really aren’t many bands that can keep a jam interesting for an hour. This one felt like something they had been working on for a while, which is the true measure of a great jam in my opinion. They would encore with one of my favorite of their instrumental tunes, “Avalanche.”

The Magic Beans would light up the late night stage on Friday, and they would not disappoint. Definitely a highlight of the weekend for me. This was only the second time I had seen them and now I know why so many people talk about them. They are a very promising band that everyone should keep an eye on.

Squaring the Circle

Squaring the Circle

After some much needed rest, the final day of the festival would begin bright and early with Baltimore’s own Squaring the Circle opening up the main stage. The funky dance party would continue all day with bands like Ernie Johnson from Detroit, Backup Planet, and the McLovins. Baltimore power trio Deaf Scene would take up most of the set break duties on Saturday, aside from a special setbreak set by Pigeons front man “Scrambled” Greg Ormont. 

All day people were wondering if Greg would try to sing at any point, the answer for this set at least, was that he would not. Using handwritten signs as props to speak to the crowd, he let them know that he had “lost his voice, so I’m just gonna jam.” And Jam he did, complete with a pretty impressive tap dance for good measure.

Mungion

Mungion

Mungion would set the stage for the Pigeons final show of the weekend. It was the first time I had seen these guys, and I can’t wait to see them again. One of the great things about Domefest is how careful the band is about picking their support. Every time I’ve been to a Domefest I’ve come away with at least one new band that makes me want to seek out their music and see them live when I can. Mungion was one of those this weekend.

After drinking an entire honey bear, Greg and his voice were ready to go on Night 3.

After drinking an entire honey bear, Greg and his voice were ready to go on Night 3.

As the crowd waited for the Pigeons’ weekend finale, there was much speculation about Greg’s voice and if he’d be able to handle two sets of vocal duties. Miraculously, after saying he drank an “entire honey bear” before the show, he was back to his old form. Belting out crowd favorites like “Melting Lights” and “Penguins" the band definitely seemed to feed off the energy of their newly rejuvenated front man. The second set was maybe my favorite set of music from the weekend. The section of “Dome People > Su Casa > Horizon” felt particularly poetic. Dome people is of course about the festival itself and has been in the band’s rotation since Domefest’s inception, followed by Su Casa with its chorus of “This is your home now” and then Horizon’s “Celebrate the people you love,” this seemed like a very intentional musical hug from the band to the crowd, thanking them for all of the love and support that made the event so special. Another great highlight from this set was the debut of a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” Complete with a 4 to the floor funky jam for good measure. I love when a band takes a cover and makes it their own, and that is exactly what they did with this one. Ending with a raucous version of “The Liquid” and encoring with an incredibly fun “Julia > Super Mario > Julia” sandwich, they would put their triumphant stamp of success on this set, and the whole weekend.

The final night of the festival would see a double dose of late night sets coming from The Fritz, and Vibe and Direct. Both bands were absolutely great, they took full advantage of being the last acts on the bill and seemed to give all of the weekend warriors a second wind all the way to sunrise.

To sum it up, Domefest is one of those very special small festivals. The hard work the band puts into this fest every year really shows in the product they put out. They are truly dedicated to making sure the Domefest experience is a great one for every single ticket holder. The band really cares about their fans, and the fans in turn show all of that love right back. Just to let everyone know, the band members literally work at the festival despite headlining it. When I arrived to the main gate, one of the first people I saw was Greg with a walkie talkie making sure everyone was getting in alright and things were running smoothly. This is something that people notice, and it goes without saying that all of us genuinely appreciate the effort. The flock is a great group of people too. Everyone all weekend was helping each other if they needed it, pushing cars out of the mud, helping people back to their campsites if they were struggling, offering dry clothes, spreading hay around to make it less slippery. It’s always really amazing to see a large group of people that genuinely cares about each other’s well-being and happiness. As the band grows, inevitably so will the festival. Hopefully all those same good loving vibes will continue to grow bigger every year too, and we can all continue to gather together each May to celebrate the people we love.

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Click on Image for Full Size

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery


Enjoy photos by our photographer Jason Herman of Jason Herman Photography.

Day 1: May 17th - Getting The Party Started

Day 2: May 18th - Something Lost. A Wet Day and Scrambled Greg Looses His Voice 

Day 3: May 19th - Something Shiny as Scrambled Greg Finds His Voice Again


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Click on any of the following links to purchase the soundboard recording from Domefest.

About the author
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Jason Herman

A 24x7 member and Photo Editor of DC Music Review. Jason has been passionate about music since his earliest days and is especially excited about the music scene around his adopted hometown, Washington DC. With over 35 Grateful Dead and 80+ Phish shows, and countless music festivals under his belt, you can find him at concerts around the country but especially in his adopted hometown of Washington, D.C. Before turning his lens to music, Jason followed professional cyclists around the U.S. Domestic Circuit to the tallest mountains in Europe.