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Welcome to the Machine

By: Matthew WebberThe Machine
B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
New York
June 28

Pink Floyd released their seminal ode to lunar eclipses and lunatics, Dark Side of the Moon, 30 years ago. That’s about a decade before most fans at a recent show by the Machine, an East Coast-based Pink Floyd tribute band, were born. Most attendees didn’t appear old enough to have seen The Wall in theatres or to remember when former Floyd frontman Roger Waters and guitarist Dave Gilmour were on speaking terms. Some of the male members of the audience didn’t appear old enough to shave. But when the houselights went out and the shrill alarm clocks on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side classic “Time” rang out, adults and youngsters alike looked ready to party like it was 1979.

The Machine look nothing like Pink Floyd, but that doesn’t matter–they sound exactly like Pink Floyd, and that’s what counts. With his scruffy beard and his Technicolor stocking cap, the lead singer/guitarist looked a cross between Elliott Smith and Badly Drawn Boy, but his voice was completely Syd Barrett’s, Roger Waters’, or Dave Gilmour’s, depending on which former Floyd heavy he was channeling at the moment. The guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard pealed, pounded, and pinged like they do on the original recordings. The Machine–and Pink Floyd, probably more than you remember–could moonlight as a jam band, their songs stretching out to the horizon and back again, almost snapping at times with unresolved tension.

The Machine might know Pink Floyd’s catalog better than even Waters knows it nowadays, as they rocked Floyd’s non-singles as frequently as the hits. Every time it seemed the Machine had played what was surely the last song of the evening, they strummed another chord. Every time, the fans who lingered whooped in recognition. One woman even fainted–perhaps hearing forgotten Meddle nuggets like “One of These Days” and “Fearless” activated a latent reserve of particularly bubonic chronic.

For one kid in a tie-dyed Jerry Garcia jersey (complete with matching headband), the entire show was a call to arms; like a stoned conductor, he waved his arms in time with the rhythms. Surely not everyone in the audience was hitting their peace pipes, but enough of them were toking to confirm a certain stereotype. Some of the night’s loudest cheers followed the lead singer’s changing of seemingly benign lyrics to D.A.R.E-unfriendly mottos. (“It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire” became “It’s good to smoke a bowl beside the fire.”)