If you grew up in the ’80s and had hip older siblings, chances are you had LPs or cassettes of Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall, the classic quartet of post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd albums, floating around your house. When you made your way through those, you may have toyed with owning a few others, like The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Atom Heart Mother, Ummagumma, Obscured by Clouds, Meddle and The Final Cut, the dour end to an epoch-making run.
But you were forced to only read about what the concerts were like: the famous short-lived Wall tour, with the band playing behind a facade of enormous blocks that tumbled inward at the end of the show, the flying pig (with added genitalia during the David Gilmour-led tours, to distinguish it legally from the classic, neutered Floyd design), the airplane soaring over the crowd before mock-exploding during “On the Run,” the grass-fueled transcendence of it all. You could watch Live at Pompeii and the now super-annoying Wall movie, and during the second half of the ’80s, without Roger Waters, Gilmour and Nick Mason led a mostly stand-in ensemble (Rick Wright participated) through the recording of A Momentary Lapse of Reason, The Division Bell and several tours. (A live album, Pulse, was released in 1995, along with a DVD; Waters toured behind a solo album, Radio K.A.O.S., in 1987 and has revived The Wall tour several times.) None of it seemed to do the trick, and you could only go to so many planetarium laser light shows before getting burned out.
Enter the Pink Floyd Experience, one of several high-profile, big-money Floyd tribute bands. (There are too many to list them all, but the Australian Pink Floyd and the Machine are two that deserve special mention.) Guitarist Tom Quinn founded the group in 1995 after catching the Division Bell tour in San Diego. After plugging away for a few years, they rose to the top of the tribute-band heap, winning numerous area awards between 1999 and 2003 and gaining the attention of a deep-pocketed Canadian production company (Annerin Productions, who also handle the Beatles tribute Rain and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience).
The PFX sets up for a two-night run at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs on Friday and Saturday. By phone from San Diego, Quinn told the Advocate the band was ready to go, but first had to hook up with Toronto-based lighting and video designers, whose job it is to mesh the set list (necessarily predetermined, Quinn said) with extensive visual effects.
“That’s why you have to be careful what songs you pick, because you are stuck with it for that tour,” Quinn said. “There are some places here and there where you can swap out a song, but pretty much what we hit the curb with in Thunder Bay, Ontario, is it.”
The theme of the current PFX tour, Quinn said, is the Wish You Were Here album, a fan favorite (the last tour was Animals). They’ll play the album in its entirety for the first set, followed by an assortment of hits and rarities, about two-and-a-half hours total. Alienation, missing Syd Barrett, wishful longing, bashing the record business: all part of a great album, but an uplifting live experience?
“It’s certainly my favorite album to listen to,” Quinn said. “It’s Pink Floyd at their most expansive. Of course, it’s all about Syd: the sadness, the genius. It was on the heels of Dark Side of the Moon. They were all millionaires at that point, lost in the studio, a lot of vacant stares... Their minds were elsewhere.”
Unlike another well-known tribute band, Dark Star Orchestra, who tackles the music of the Grateful Dead across several of the band’s many eras, Quinn said PFX doesn’t track down vintage gear to try to recreate the original Floyd sound-world. “It’s so much easier with today’s gear to match the keyboard sounds, the glass harps, the guitar tones and so on. Some bands specialize in vintage gear, but I’m a little cynical because there’s nothing that substitutes for heart. It really comes down to the player.”
Like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and arguably a handful of other bands that grew out of the 1960s, Pink Floyd’s music, Quinn believes, is timeless.
“It’s the sum total of all the melodies, the lyrics, the narrative going through it all, which is really the cement,” Quinn said. “It took the genius of all that coming together, all those intangibles, the way they were able to capture that in the recording process. It was right for the time, and it’s right for this time. 40 years later and people are still coming out.”
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PFX: The Pink Floyd Experience, Feb. 17-18, doors at 7 p.m., $10-$55, Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, 2132 Hillside Rd., Storrs, (860) 486-4226, jorgensen.uconn.edu
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