The DarkSide of the Wall
Saturday, January 23rd, 2010
The Brown Theater
Better Than: Going to the dentist...?
I have spent at least ten minutes trying to remember what music I listened to in middle school through freshmen year of high school, and the only thing that prominently comes to mind are the words Pink Floyd. This is when I realized that through that entire period of my life I listened to virtually nothing else. There may be a foggy memory of Dinosaur Jr's Green Mind, or a Mars Volta album somewhere in the mix, but as far back as I can remember (and that's not very far), I lost my entire middle school/9th grade years to Pink Floyd, and there's no regret there. I've benefited from the binge. From an exhausting knowledge of their catalog, to a growing affection that becomes stronger as the years go by, I find that having such a strong connection to a band is like having affection for a kitten: it's unconditional. Even if they may piss on your rug that really tied the room together (Momentary Lapse of Reason, ahem), or split up because one of the members is a little bitch, you find a way to overlook that flaw. The great thing about having this affection for such a high capacity band like Pink Floyd is that there are so many different albums, eras, and sounds to get into at once. You're never left bored or pining for more; it is emotionally, physically (and maybe a little sexually) satisfying. The downside to liking a band like Floyd, though, is that two very significant members are already dead. Syd Barrett may have been kicked out of the troupe earlier on, but it doesn't stop that part of Pink Floyd from being totally irreplaceable. And speaking of which, how are we supposed to expect a reunion now that Richard Wright is dead? This is where tribute bands come into the equation.
There's always been a sort of 50/50 love-hate affection I've had with tribute bands, but when your long time favorite band is slowly dying off, sometimes you have no other choice, especially when you long to hear that music amplified to a live capacity. I've seen The Pink Floyd Experience twice: four years ago in Huntington, West Virginia and roughly one year ago while residing in Louisville. Both sets where sensually satisfying, but not because they played "Wish You Were Here"- in fact, they didn't play it at all. They were satisfying because they took time to cover virtually every era of Floyd, cascading from the late Division Bell to the ancient jam tune known as "Astronomy Domine." No Floyd was left behind. So after seeing this band twice, I've had pretty high expectations when it comes to these kinds of concerts.
The DarkSide of the Wall is a Louisville-based band consisting of what the website claims as "some of the top music and production talent in the region." Unfortunately, there is a difference between being exceptional and genuine. I totally understand the concept of playing what the crowd may want to hear, but sometimes the crowd isn't all middle aged washups. Perhaps there are eager high school girls crammed between drunkards who simply wish to hear a song from Obscured by Clouds, or maybe just a couple tracks from Relics. It's hardly a selfish thing to ask for; after all, why would we want to hear songs we hear consistently on 107.7 anyway? No luck. It was all strictly Dark Side and The Wall as their name so fittingly proclaims. Although I have no complaints about hearing "Welcome to the Machine" or "Pigs," I just kind of wished there would be more variety. You would be considered naive to think this set list did any justice.
But the set list wasn't the only problem I noticed with the band. There were several instances during the show where specific guitar solos were omitted in replacement for vocal solos instead. Take the second acoustic solo in "Wish You Were Here," the glorious moment when David Gilmour scat vocals with his guitar: completely ignored here. It's almost like the guitar player was either too stupid or too lazy to learn the solo. Even I know how to play that solo. I also noticed a problem with the band's guitar tones, specifically on songs like "Run Like Hell" or "Pigs" where the initial guitar tone is absolutely key. I've listened to these songs enough to know a wrong tone when I hear one. As opposed to the hollow and twang-like tone used in these tracks, the band adapted a more heavy and almost metalesque sound that didn't work well with the music they were supposed to be playing. The lead guitarist was also prone to jumping around the stage as if in a slow motion mosh pit, something I've never seen David Gilmour do on stage before. His only job is to play and look cute!
I feel I could fill up another paragraph or so about how I was close to walking out mid-show or about the sloppy vocals on "The Great Gig in the Sky," but I guess I should have seen this coming. I can't expect less-than-perfect musicians to give me the absolutely perfect show that I want. That's not what a tribute band is about. They may know how to play all the notes and use all the right lights at the right time, but it all comes down to the fact that it's not Floyd. Not even close. These are merely people like me, committed in their fanship, just in a different way. I know I wasn't fortunate enough to be born in a time where a Pink Floyd tour was the norm, but I wish that I could at least have a taste. Just a little bite.