Victoria band PIGS goes to great lengths in honour of Pink Floyd

IN CONCERT
What: PIGS
When: Friday and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.)
Where: Charlie White Theatre, 2243 Beacon Ave., Sidney
Tickets: $39 at Mary Winspear Centre box office, by phone at 250-656-0275, or online at marywinspear.ca.

Pink Floyd made its mark in the 1970s with a way of working that bordered on obsessive. A Victoria band is mirroring that approach so its tribute to the late, great British band will ring true.

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“We really, really have to make sure we do it right, and that takes a lot of effort,” said PIGS singer-guitarist Josh Szczepanowski. “There’s a lot of pressure. But without the attention to detail, we’d just be another hack band and nobody would care.”

Fans seem to like what PIGS (named after the Pink Floyd song) is doing, as the band sold out dates on its first coast-to-coast tour of Canada last month (the trek covered 52 days and 18,372 kilometres).

PIGS is averaging 100 shows a year; Szczepanowski couples those with 80 dates with his other band, Victoria cover act The Temps. “It can be a little bit overwhelming, absolutely. There’s a lot to juggle.”

Szczepanowski and his fellow PIGS members — bassist Geoff Howe, keyboardist Adam Basterfield, drummer Mike Quirke and multi-instrumentalist Jon Baglo — have been singing hits such as Money, Wish You Were Here and Comfortably Numb for almost nine years. The band realized early on that just delivering music from another Pink Floyd tribute would not be enough. Minutiae was paramount, Szczepanowski said.

For his guitars, he uses effects pedals that were made by the same person who makes pedals for Pink Floyd frontman David Gilmour. Szczepanowski also has the same patch cord and guitar strings as Gilmour, while Howe plays the same Fender bass model used by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. (“It was made the same week, I believe,” Szczepanowski said.)

“We’re pretty picky about that stuff, but it would be a lot easier to use modern gear. You could phone it in. But we don’t. We use the same amps, which are old and clunky and super-loud and difficult to use — but we use them anyway. People are often shocked by the lengths we go to.”

As its drawing power increased, PIGS began to add video screens and lasers — two staples of Pink Floyd shows during the 1970s. In recent years, the band has also added backup singer Amy Konowalyk and saxophonist Sharon Driver, who handle the contributions of Clare Torry and Dick Parry, guest musicians who contributed key elements to Pink Floyd’s catalogue.

“Our fans are demanding,” Szczepanowski said with a laugh. “They know the stuff pretty well, but they are also pretty accepting.”

PIGS is winding down 2017 with two shows at the Mary Winspear Centre this weekend, tickets to which have nearly disappeared (the band added a second show to meet demand). A tour of the U.S. is planned for next year.

The members are taking it in stride and are eager for the opportunity, according to Szczepanowski. An elementary school teacher, he didn’t take a work contract for 2017, choosing instead to work around his PIGS schedule.

He’s having a blast. “A lot of people try to play Pink Floyd songs because it seems like it would be weirdly straightforward, but there’s a lot of subtlety, a lot of nuance. If you don’t do it right, it doesn’t really work.”

The band’s setlist is heavy on Pink Floyd’s best albums — Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall — but they also throw some hidden gems into the mix. Szczepanowski said PIGS will be adding solo tunes from Gilmour and Waters to their setlist on the weekend, to give the diehard fans of deep cuts an opportunity to nerd out.

“When we’re putting the setlist together, the songs we have to play — Shine On You Crazy Diamond and Comfortably Numb — adds up to about 71 minutes of material. So whenever we pull out something like [1972’s] Wots … Uh The Deal or [1970’s] Fat Old Sun, people are impressed.”

Money, of course, also figures prominently into the set. Szczepanowski, who handles this and other Gilmour-sung hits for PIGS, said it wasn’t always an easy song to sing. “The first time we ever played that live, I was terrified of forgetting the lyrics because I knew everybody knew it. And lo and behold, I screwed it up. But that broke the ice.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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