Hip-hop artist Pigeon John performs with a sense of energy that is hard to miss.
He works the stage in a spry fashion that could compel even those seated at the bar to move up to the front of the club and join him. In between songs, he peppers the banter with the sort of self-effacing humor that will remind you of the quiet but always funny kid you knew in school.
While Pigeon John concedes that his performance style has, in some respects, been formed by artists like Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest) and André 3000 (OutKast), he notes that one of his biggest influences was spending Sunday mornings teaching Bible stories to pre-schoolers.
“You have to be quick on your feet because they aren’t going to listen to you,” he says. “You have to be concise. You have to be loud. You have to turn off the lights, sometimes until the point when they’re almost about to cry, and then you have turn back on the lights.”
Pigeon John says that his Sunday school experience has particularly helped him when it comes to “volatile” crowds.
“I’ve opened up for a lot of bands since 2003,” he says before mentioning the names of artists ranging from reggae star Matisyahu to hip-hop artist Lyrics Born. “Those crowds are very different and they want to see the band that they paid for. So, unfortunately, I’ve learned to [control the crowd], well, keep them entertained and at the same time try to give them quality music and do something new, not boring them out of their minds, hopefully.”
A veteran of the LA hip-hop scene, Pigeon John began performing at the Good Life Cafe, a Leimert Park open mic venue that served as the launching pad for many of the artists who came to prominence in the ’90s. He later began working with bTwice under the name Brainwash Projects before the two went on to help form the acclaimed hip-hop crew LA Symphony. Although Pigeon John eventually left the fold and has since recorded four solo albums, he still includes past and present members of the group on various projects. As a solo artist with so many connections to the local music community, Pigeon John admits that choosing collaborators can sometimes be a difficult process, adding the partnership is something that must withstand the amount of time it will take to finish an album.
“It’s like choosing a wife,” he says. “You can’t have concubines.”
In the live arena, Pigeon John is joined by the Set Tripping Trio – Peter Daily on drums, Davey Rockit on turntables, and Peter King Hong on guitar and keyboards. He is hoping to continue with the band when he records his next album in 2008.
“I want that sort of crew feeling where people can take ownership and it’s not all me,” he says. “I try to use my friends’ talent.”
For his Winter Symphony Bash at the Temple Bar on December 15, Pigeon John has brought in a slew of friends to help start the party. His LA Symphony cohorts bTwice, Cookbook, and Uno Mas are all set to perform. Daily will provide a solo set, and the Weirdoz will be the night’s DJs.