Dead Floyd | The State Theatre | Falls Church, VA | 7.18.03
Personally, I am a fan of group projects. I feel that they give the mind a chance to enhance its capabilities by the morphing of a collective. It is true, some projects succeed and some don't, but the measuring sticks are always subject to elucidation.
Hence, I bring you Dead Floyd, presented by premier Pink Floyd tributaries The Machine with the fusion of Jeff Pevar (Jazz Is Dead, CPR feat. David Crosby, Joe Cocker) on guitar, Johnny Neel (Blue Floyd, X2, Allman Brothers) on keyboards and Norbert Stachel (Roger Waters Band) on sax. On the surface it would come across as a pretty simple venture: talented musicians, a foundation of limitless music and a cornucopia genus to run with, but only as we carve through the layers do we see the real obstacle.
The outline would be two bands that are categorized similarly and often used in the same sentence, but literally from two opposite ends of the spectrum. You have a British-based psychedelic rock band that thrives and on the abstract and excels at the pinnacle by bewilderment rather that the apparent. On the other hand you have a San Francisco-based band with bluegrass and blues roots whose lyrical content focuses on life's offerings and things that are often taken for granted. The one similarity that binds these groups, and that this project grasped, was their potential for improvisation and room for interpretation. That and the fact they are two of the most unparalleled legacies in musical history.
From the first keystrokes of "Shine on you Crazy Diamond" there was an anticipation in the band and the fans, but also a patience for development as Johnny Neel's keystrokes cut through the stage lights. A union that was not going to rush momentum justified one of Floyd's most versatile songs. The apt title "Welcome to the Machine" followed with a very Gilmore-ish transition into "Chinacat Sunflower" that took a while to progress into the realm of Garcia, but really started flow as "I Know You Rider" scuttled into place and brought two guitarists into a melodious congregation at the front of the stage. What separated this group from just your run-of-the-mill cover project was its non-hesitant nature to experiment with material that was meant for exploration. This was emphasized by Pevar's dynamic slide work on the Dead's "Sugaree," making for a Southwestern feel to an up-tempo groove.
The sax work of Stachel illuminated during a diverse cover of Floyd’s "Money" before progressing into a 12-bar blues standard that gave the Allman alum and site-forsaken Johnny Nell a chance to really spiritualize and almost occupy the essence of Ron "Pigpen" McKernan before blasting off into the depths of "Help > Slipknot > Franklin's" and splicing the intangible fabric of American counterculture and accentuating the quintessence of jam.
And somehow through all this, these fellow travelers did not lose sight of the key elements of such a project: have fun and share joy. Like kids in candy stores, smiles were omnipresent and the occasional watery eye glimmered as a newly gelled faction found rapture. One would ask if I thought this project was a success. To this I would quote Oliver Holmes and say, "Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." So all of you out there in jam nation do me a favor expand your dimensions, find your rapture, and always Go See Live Music!
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