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Hayley Jane and the Primates & Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at Brooklyn Bowl- Brooklyn, NY

pigeons playing ping pong at Brooklyn Bowl

You know when you wake up from a vivid dream and try to understand how what seemed normal there doesn’t quite make sense in the waking life? After piecing everything together you have what seems to be (in your own head at least) a cohesive narrative to share. The breakdown comes when you try to tell someone. All the profound, life-changing, and disturbing elements you felt, lose their power in speech. “Yeah, it was nuts! I was teaching my cat how to play chess but the pieces were all strange. Then I went to my kitchen but nothing was where it should be.” Words fail us. I helped develop a psychology study about why people don’t like abstract art with a friend for her doctoral thesis. The findings indicate that what’s present for many viewers of abstract art is a violation of key communication principles. Specifically, quality, quantity, meaning, and/or relation. The failure to communicate translates to “I don’t get it.” This happens when communicating dreams, art, and the experience of seeing Hayley Jane and the Primates live. So far the best way I’ve found to communicate the experience is a smile through my eyes and a deep hug.

Last night was my first time seeing this talented quintet this year. Previously I have seen them play a Bowie tribute as a Phish after party, at a restaurant as a Phish pre-party, on the beach at a yoga festival, and at many venues in between. Tracking the number of times I’ve seen an individual band seemed worthless as the most important is the next show. If I had to guess, this was number 10 or 15. I brought three friends who have heard my dreamlike explanations but before now hadn’t been experienced. I was confident they’d have a great time and the highlight of the night was them turning to me halfway through the set to say, “Thank you. I get it. Thank you!”

#52showsayear @hayleyjaneandtheprimates #telecaster #treebeard

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Attempts to describe Hayley Jane and the Primates fall back on genre stacking. From their website, “Their music blends genres to create a unique flavor with a foundation of Americana, soul and rock & roll.” This is like walking through a zoo and describing the creatures by their phylum; Working far above the species or even common name. That would limit octopuses to just mollusca. There is a world of life missed in that description. This is an issue for other bands as well. According to Allmusic.com, the Grateful Dead are a “Pop/Rock” group. Let’s use the Dead as a jumping off point to highlight my proposed solution.

Experiencing music as a genre only happens on one level. What that can’t communicate is the emotion, the passion, and that feeling which drips from your being after the experience of song. The Dead played some dark, sad, and depressing songs (Loser, Hey Little One, Stella Blue, Looks Like Rain, etc) and some happy, cheery, “yay life” songs (Eyes of the World, Ripple, Sugar Magnolia, etc). As a quick aside to another genre, Metallica has a song about respecting the environment and another about the Jewish holiday of Passover. If you say you “hate hippies” or “can’t listen to metal” you miss the experience. Back to the Dead, a full show will take you on a whirlwind of emotions and that is just the lyrics.

So. Hayley Jane and the Primates. Passion? Yes! Hayley Jane herself is the embodiment of embodiment. The songs evoke love, connection, the torment of unbridled experience, jealousy, and a sense that everything is going to be ok. Musically, these passions are met, charged, heightened, and evoked in equiprimordial bliss. Their originals are evolving (not to be read as changing) to wonderful new vistas through their musical synergy, technical fortitude, and road experience. The best I can say is to stay tuned for the new album due soon and see them live as soon as possible. I’ve got tickets for at least one more show this tour.

Whew.. Ok, on to Pigeons (thank you for reading this far, that was waiting a while to come out so forgive the purge/ exegesis). This was my second time seeing Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. The first was last fall when they opened for Dopapod (who we covered last week) at the amazing Sherman Theater in Pennsylvania.

Pigeons have a joy about them that seems to say, “We really get to do this?” They jam, they jam heavy, they jam deep, and they don’t let up. Their songs start with no foreplay and dive straight into the funk. Want to practice your 7, 9, or 13 chords but don’t like James Brown? This is the band for you (and by the way, how could you not like James Brown?!) Unsure if they were going to take a setbreak, I started to wander the venue to take a water break. As I turn my back they break into Down With Disease by Phish (which, I now realize, from the title alone sounds like a real intense song) and they wouldn’t stop for a long while. From there, they dove into the second half of Run Like an Antelope (also by Phish) and into their own song (Burning Up My Time) and back into Down With Disease. They were unstoppable, perhaps even by themselves and there wasn’t anyone complaining. Pigeons are on my schedule a few more times this year at summer festivals and I’ll be sure to see them again.

Set List:

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  3. Encore:
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