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Music

The Pink Floyd Experience

When pigs fly

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

For me, it all comes down to that flying pig. And I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one captivated by the idea of a giant pig winging its way through the venerated and very dignified Mount Baker Theatre. Although much discussion has been devoted to the subject of pigs and the circumstances under which they could potentially take flight, an airborne porcine event remains, if not utterly unprecedented, at the very least, a rarity worth a modicum of commentary.

But before we get to that flying pig, we must first talk about Pink Floyd.

My own introduction to Pink Floyd—because everyone has one—came during the semester I spent as a student at Arizona State University. On the first day of my first class there, I met a boy.

The details concerning this boy aren’t as important as the rules he revealed to me shortly after that first meeting—I wasn’t to try and change his behavior with regard to three things: 1. Monogamy (he wasn’t into it), 2. Marijuana use (he was pretty into that), and 3. Music (his house, his stereo, his choice). For many people, either of the first two items would be enough to doom a burgeoning relationship, but I know a few of you out there can relate to me when I say number three was the real dealbreaker on that list.

Except for the most part, his music was Pink Floyd, and I loved it.

This is the point at which I’m supposed to say that every time I hear David Gilmour sing about “two lost souls swimmin’ in a fish bowl,” I am swept away to that summer in Arizona, and a piece of me wonders what might’ve been if I hadn’t moved back to Bellingham. Not so much. Truth is, I can no longer recall said rule-making boy’s last name, and I’ve become a little hazy on what he looked like—but I did take with me an abiding affection for Pink Floyd when I departed the desert for cooler climes.

Known as much for their achingly sad personal history as they are for their brilliant blend of psychedelic and progressive music (with a whole lot of other indefinable magic mixed in), Pink Floyd is singular among bands. No one has ever sounded quite like them, before or since—although not for lack of trying. At its best, the band’s music is beautiful and visionary beyond measure; at its worst, the songs are sprawling and self-indulgent. But without fail—even when it fails—the music is distinctive and the scale is no less than epic. And with more than 200 million albums sold and such massive hits as the afore-quoted “Wish You Were Here,” “Money,” “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Hey You,” “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” and more to their credit, I think it’s safe to say Pink Floyd his succeeded far move often than they have failed. Dark Side of the Moon spent 741 weeks in the Billboard Top 200. That’s more than 14 years. That’s an achievement so unbelievably impressive, it’s almost impossible to parse.

However, much of this band’s story is steeped, first, in the tragedy that would inspire one of Pink Floyd’s most successful albums, and, later, in infighting that would eventually destroy the band.

The tragedy is, of course, the mental breakdown suffered by founding member and lead vocalist Syd Barrett. Credited with being one of the main drivers behind the distinctive sound that characterizes the band, and often referred to as a “genius,” Barrett would leave the band a mere three years after its inception after heavy LSD use caused his mental state to become damaged and his behavior erratic. Although Barrett and the remaining members of Pink Floyd were in limited contact for a short time after his departure, it wouldn’t be long before the break would be both total and permanent. Barrett’s breakdown had a profound effect upon Roger Waters, and from the experience came an album, Wish You Were Here, which was bookended by two songs about the former frontman, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Wish You Were Here.”

Pink Floyd sans Barrett continued to roll along, racking up hit after hit, and honing a stage show that, with its lights, pyrotechnics and various other effects, was as epic as their music. Behind the scenes, however, the relationship between band members was often fraught, and Pink Floyd would eventually dissolve amid acrimony and lawsuits.

Which brings us, finally, to the flying pig.

The airborne swine in question is the property of the Pink Floyd Experience, a tribute band unlike any other. First of all, it takes some serious moxie to try and emulate a band other bands have been unsuccessfully ripping off for years. Along with the sheer musical prowess that must be possessed—and not just general musical ability, but a particularly challenging skill set is required—is the element of those outsized and elaborate stage shows, which also cannot be overlooked.

But the folks behind the Pink Floyd Experience are up to the challenge. Realizing they could re-create the feel of a Pink Floyd show if they staged it inside theaters rather than arenas, they’ve employed lights, crazy props (like the now oft-mentioned flying pig that continues to compel me) and all other manner of over-the-top multimedia experience to augment the Pink Floyd songs six expert musicians are cranking out in “full quadraphonic sound.” As for song selection, the Pink Floyd Experience encompasses the classic hits we all know and love, as well as enough deep cuts to delight any Floyd-ophile.

When it makes its way to the Mount Baker Theatre on Fri., March 28, the Pink Floyd Experience promises a loud, all-senses-on-deck live music event. All I know is that, for one night only, a pig will fly. And that will be a grand sight indeed.

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