I love Pink Floyd. I don’t name-check them nearly enough. They are one of the more important bands in my collection. Their influence cannot be overstated. When it comes to covering Pink Floyd tunes, musicians had best watch their step. Fans like me know what to listen for, and the imitator had better not mess it up!
Over the years, I’ve seen and heard my fair share of Pink Floyd tributes. Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade did a good job covering Animals. Gov’t Mule took on Dark Side of the Moon with relish. I also had the pleasure of seeing Australian Pink Floyd a decade or so ago. They did a fantastic job of replicating the Pulse concert from 1994.
El Monstero is a St. Louis-based Pink Floyd tribute band. They’ve been together in one form or another since 1999. Their shows have become legendary in the Midwest. I know three guys in the band. Yet I had never seen them live. Something always seemed to get in the way.
Lucky for me, that streak ended on December 23, when I caught El Monstero’s three-hour performance at The Pageant, where the band takes up residency for a couple of weekends annually during the Holiday season, selling out every show they play. I was aware of the band’s reputation. I knew I had talented friends. But … WOW! I wasn’t ready for what I saw and heard that evening.
Here’s the thing: other band’s doing Pink Floyd tributes treat the music with care and respect. Aussie Floyd even goes as far as replicating the original band’s stage sets and lighting, with minor changes. El Monstero not only faithfully reproduced Pink Floyd’s music, they took ownership of it! I knew I was hearing covers, but these guys were playing like they wrote the music themselves! And their stage show absolutely defies belief, taking what the originators and their imitators did and do to a whole new level. I would equate it to Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” The new version is so good, you almost forget about the original.
Furthermore, El Monstero did far more than grab hold of Pink Floyd’s crowd-pleasing greatest hits. They dug deep into Floyd’s back catalog, playing tunes from albums like A Saucerful of Secrets, which I don’t even own (some fan I am)! I like to think I have a Masters degree in Pink Floyd. El Monstero holds a PhD.
The band is co-fronted by vocalist/guitarist Mark Thomas Quinn (who handles the Roger Waters parts) and guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Griffin (who sings the David Gilmour lines). Neither does a spot-on impression, but they don’t have to. The two gave the songs authenticity by not being 100 percent authentic. In other words, they made the tunes their own.
The band came out swinging for the fences (and reached them) by diving into “Pigs on the Wing” and “Dogs” from Animals. No time was wasted in establishing that El Monstero was for real! Not that anyone doubted it. From there, it was a headlong flight into tracks from The Wall. The audience was now officially putty in the band’s hands.
This is where the stage production helped to elevate the band’s performance. Not only was the light/laser/video show on point, but the addition of acrobat/dancers made things that much more fun and exciting throughout the sets.
Griffin split the song’s guitar solos with Bryan Greene. The two seemed to relish digging into the parts Gilmour made famous, sometimes doubling the lead lines, or playing the lines in different octaves.
As I said, I give El Monstero all the credit in the world for exposing Floyd fans young and old (and there were a LOT of kids in the audience) to songs they may not have been as familiar with. Tunes like “Take it Back,” “Your Possible Pasts,” and “The Gold It’s in the …” seemed to come out of nowhere. It’s great to experience a tribute band that doesn’t rely on cliche.
The band brought the first set home with more familiar tunes “Run Like Hell,” “One of These Days” (a personal favorite), and “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” They could have ended the show there, and I would have gone home happy. But there was still another set to go!
After a brief intermission, the band dug deep again, playing tunes like “Stay” from Obscured by Clouds and “Two Suns in the Sunset” from The Final Cut. Audience participation time came in the form of “Wish You Were Here,” which is always a crowd pleaser. This time was no exception.
Things got more uptempo with “Have a Cigar,” sung and performed marvelously by Matt McInerny, who seemed to revel in the part he was playing.
No Pink Floyd tribute is complete without representation from Dark Side of the Moon. El Monstero took the challenge and played the entire album! Magnificent contributions from backup singers Ermine Cannon, Tandra Williams, and Coco Soul added a layer of authenticity to songs like “The Great Gig in the Sky.” The song wouldn’t have been the same without them. I’m sure the band has played this album a million times before, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
By the time the band wrapped with “Comfortably Numb” (seriously, what else would you end the show with?), I was positively giddy. I’ve seen enough bands and live performances to make me more than a little cynical. I don’t throw words like “amazing” around like an agent seeking a big payday for his client. With that in mind, I’ll say this: El Monstero was AMAZING.
Rather than waste time looking for the appropriate superlative to wrap things up, I’ll leave it to the two teenage girls standing behind me at the show, who no doubt weren’t even born when Pink Floyd broke up. They squealed with delight as El Monstero tore through “Another Brick in the Wall, part 2,” and I heard one teen scream to her friend, “These guys are so fuckin’ COOL!”
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.