Most iconic rock bands from the 1970s, at least those that lasted long enough to still cast a visible shadow 30 or 40 years downstream, can usually be defined by neatly circumscribed periods, whether as a result of personnel changes, commercial ascendency or artistic evolution.
But Pink Floyd, one of the era’s most consistently compelling franchises, arguably confounds this model. Roiled by internal conflict and still reeling from the orgiastic twin successes of Dark Side of the Moon and the glumly existential Wish You Were Here, the British psych-blues quartet released Animals in the winter of 1977. Loosely inspired by Orwell’s Animal Farm, the long player snarled and smirked at 1970s British society across a menacing swath of moody synth beds laced with absurdly aggro guitar lines by an unleashed David Gilmour, who, it is said, was provoked by the band’s perception in the growing British punk underground that Floyd was an over-mannered relic band, lamely rehashing its psychedelic and dissociative indulgences for corporate riches.
Animals may not have done much to silence the contempt of the punk-club insurgency, and given the shattering success of The Wall a couple of years later they certainly weren’t finished with theatrics or their own (or more precisely, Roger Waters’) brand of indulgent flourishes. From a distance, in fact, Animals looks and sounds like the band’s redheaded stepchild, flanked by two inexhaustibly popular releases.
Atlanta-based guitarist Matt Weiss, who grew up in the decade after Animals was released, was and still is mesmerized by it.
“For some reason,” he told us last week, “I don’t know what it was, it struck a chord with me. When I was a kid, playing with my stereo, I’d play ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ or put on songs from The Wall, but it would never be that record for some reason. That was the record I put on when I wanted to listen to something.”
Weiss, who played for years in the now-defunct Atlanta-based band Collective Efforts and now does session work, eventually came to use Animals as the basis for a Floyd tribute side project, now called Pigs On The Wing, manned by a group of players (including bassist and childhood friend David Murphy from Sound Tribe Sector 9, as well as Coley Dennis from Maserati and Mike Albanese from Cinemechanica) with collective personal history. But the thing is really more of a punctuated serial project, rather than a full-time Floyd tribute band (not that there’s anything wrong with that). They’ll be staging the show Saturday, Jan. 12, at the Fox Theatre, following up on a gig they did there back in November 2009.
“It got together by accident,” Weiss says. “It was sort of an idea that Dave Murphy and I had and was also an excuse for us to actually play in a band together. And it just sort of happened.
“We did two shows in 2009, one in Atlanta and the other one at the Georgia Theater in Athens. And we did it with the idea that we were only going to do those two shows and that would be it. … And here we are in 2013, getting ready to do it again for a bunch of shows in Colorado.”
The beauty of projects like this, it seems, is that the musical content was a step removed from its players — no one guy in the group could claim ownership, no one player in the group was any more marginalized from the material than any other one player, everyone playing into a commonly held purpose.
“Without a doubt,” Weiss agrees. “This isn’t a career choice for any of us, everybody has their own projects, and everybody is successful at being able to put their own art out there and survive on it as it is. This is just a reason for us to get together and play music. And, we just so happen to play kickass versions of Pink Floyd songs.
“There are no delusions of grandeur here, like this is something that’s going to go out on the road and we’re going to become a tribute band and play that circuit. We’re taking a vacation out to Colorado and we’re going to play some music. That’s our motivation for it.”
Pigs on the Wing perform at the Fox Theatre Jan. 12. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Sunsquabi opens. Tickets are $15.50 in advance, $17 day of show.