PIGS tribute gets Canadian fans as close as possible to seeing Pink Floyd In the Flesh

Five years a Floyd.

It was about that long ago that Victoria musician Geoff Howe got the call to join west coast-based band PIGS: Canada’s Most Authentic Pink Floyd Tribute act, which had already been a half-decade on the touring circuit.

A life-changer, it took the “journeyman” musician from his own songs — his 2012 album Hard Folk is an earthier, more subdued sound — into the psychedelic world of one of classic rock’s most celebrated and revered acts, and a steady gig that would get him and his talents in front of audiences across the country.

Howe and the rest of the seven-piece band hit town Wednesday, Oct. 2 show at the Bella Concert Hall as part of their In the Flesh Tour.

Prior to the show, he spoke with theYYSCENE. Here are excerpts from that interview.

Q: How did you get involved with the project?

A: I’d known a bunch of the guys in the band for about 10 years and we just kind of floated in and out of each others orbits as musicians do. And one day I just got the call, “Hey, we need another Roger Waters, do you want to come down and audition? We’re actually right around the corner from your house rehearsing right now.” And so I threw on some pants and was jamming on Comfortably Numb before I knew it — it was a bit surreal.

Q: How easy was it for you to step in and do these songs? How big of a Pink Floyd fan were you?

A: I would say that I was not quite a diehard but above a casual fan, for sure. I picked and choosed throughout the discography. I actually listened to a lot of the Syd Barrett era of stuff before I joined. I got more into the meat and potatoes, the mid period, as I started rehearsing the material. I’ve always been a big fan of The Wall since I was a kid, so it’s really cool to play those songs live.

Q: With this tour, is it all the hits? Although, with Pink Floyd “hits” is a relative term.

A: Yeah, because they only had a couple of legitimate hits but all of their songs are known on classic rock radio. But, yeah, we do the songs that you would expect, but we throw in some deep cuts for the fans. We’ve been doing a lot of The Wall stuff on this tour, we’ve been dipping into a favourite of ours, which is The Final Cut. We know that that’s not the most revered album in their discography, but the people who love it really love it, so we do a couple of tracks from there and people seem to really react.

Q: The visuals are a huge part of the show because you want it to be a pretty immersive experience don’t you?

A: It’s funny because all of the videos are going on as we’re onstage so I see flashing lights and go, “OK, something’s happening,” and then I’ll see footage afterwards and go, “Oh, my God, that’s really friggin’ cool.” (Laughs) We’ve got a guy doing visuals, VJ Photon, he’s from Victoria as well, and he’s just a master of visuals, so he’s directing all of the lasers and throwing up all of the visuals on the screen. We use some vintage Floyd visuals … but we also blend in stuff that we think that would give off that Floydian vibe. So it’s a bit of a trip for people visually, too.

Q: You brought up diehard fans and you not being what you would call a true, true diehard fan, but—

A: I guess I am now. (Laughs)

Q: But they know the catalogue and they know it inside out, so how tough is it to please them?

A: We all kind of go off and do our separate homework when we’re preparing during rehearsals, so we’re always cross-referencing different live cuts and different outtakes, and we kind of take a little bit from a bunch of different versions. So we’re just not locked into playing this exactly like they do in Pompeii or we’re not just playing it exactly like the ’77 In the Flesh Tour. We all immerse ourselves in the continuity of Pink Floyd so it almost becomes second nature. You hear them on the radio now and I go, “Is that us? I have to turn this off.”

Q: What’s your favourite song to play?

A: I really enjoy playing the stuff where I get to be a little bit more dynamic on the mic, because doing the Roger stuff there’s a lot of screaming and yelling, so you go from whisper quiet to just a raving lunatic like that. (Laughs) So there’s a track off The Final Cut called The Gunner’s Dream and that starts off very mellow, piano, nice vocal and it works up to this blood-curdling scream that I deliver as it goes into the sax solo. And that’s always a fun do-or-die moment onstage, where it’s like, “Alright, we’re going for the gusto, I’ve got to scream my lungs off here and hopefully it comes off.” It’s a little bit scary and fun to play that one, so that’s why I like it.

PIGS: Canada’s Pink Floyd Tribute perform Wednesday, Oct. 2 at the Bell Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts. For tickets please click here.