Whitehorse musician Michael Millar is launching a British invasion, of sorts—in the form of his latest tribute band, Pigs on the Wing.
Solely covering works by the legendary U.K. group, Pink Floyd, Pigs on the Wing is a four-man project that will cover what Millar describes as “phase two Floyd”, that is, everything from the album Meddle through to The Wall, with a fond focus on the 1977 album Animals.
Featuring the talents of David Sutton on keyboards, Mike Smith on bass and Brit native Dominic Gibson on a double-necked Gibson guitar, Pigs on the Wing is another dream come true for Millar, whose Black Sabbath tribute band, A Bunch Of B.S. is temporarily on hiatus.
“They have such beloved albums,” Millar says of Pink Floyd’s continued appeal. “I think Dark Side of the Moon is still on the top 200 charts.”
Millar adds that he was surprised to find an unexpected depth to the music as they were learning it.
“It’s such refined music,” he says, “I found a little more room in the construction of Floyd than in Sabbath.”
Sutton also manages to find ample room for improvisation in the many solo breaks throughout the songs. As a university-trained jazz pianist, he finds that very much to his liking.
“For me, it was a really big motivator learning Animals because of the length of the songs,” he says.
Three of the songs on the album top nine minutes, with the longest track, “Dogs”, finishing off at a total of 17.
“In today’s music, trance and electronic music have taken over,” says Sutton, “[Pigs on the Wing] is going back to a real band. It’s a novel thing, something new to town.”
While the group began as an experiment among local musicians organized by Millar, it quickly became apparent that the group had potential.
Before getting them together, Millar “…thought about what I would want to see [in Whitehorse]. If I can’t see it, I’m just going to go do it!”
He ran the idea of a Pink Floyd cover band by the group, and it was greeted with enthusiasm. After just a few practices, the quartet played its first show at Foxy’s Cabaret in April, and has played a few gigs since at the Jarvis Street Saloon and other venues.
Initially, they weren’t sure how the act would be received, given its specific nature and era. Gibson in particular wasn’t fully sold on the act, having never been a Pink Floyd enthusiast in particular.
“I was worried about what people would think,” he says, “but at Foxy’s when people started dancing I was really surprised. It was worth it to see how people have responded. They’ve really seemed to like it.”
Gibson was in bands back in England, but hasn’t played live often since moving here. He found himself pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm shown at the group’s first few shows.
“I’ve never experienced the genuine appreciation that people showed for what we did,” he says. “It was very different in England. Here, they really seemed to like it… I was surprised that there was a market for other types of music in this town.”
All the band members agree that the best moments so far have been the occasions when they’ve been asked where they were from, and got to laughingly tell their enthusiastic crowd that they are all local musicians.
“I’m amazed I’ve got these guys on board,” says Millar.
“It’s like they’ve never had the chance to really rock out till now… they’re not the same old Whitehorse music crowd.”
Millar’s idea is to get some new faces up on stage, “… to get a new talent pool forming and inject some new life and blood into the music scene.”
“It’s nice to break out of the Whitehorse scene,” adds Sutton, who often plays with various groups around Whitehorse. “It’s good to see people getting up there that don’t usually.”
Smith, who is also Millar’s bandmate in the Black Sabbath group, has also found the reception very gratifying.
“It’s been great fun playing,” he says. “[Pink Floyd] is way more fun to play live than I thought it would be. People were up and dancing and singing along with the more iconic songs.”
While Pigs on the Wing delights in playing some of the more obscure Floyd pieces, the repertoire includes many old favourites to recreate the ’70s-era psychedelia, complete with lasers and smoke machines, which are essential to a Pink Floyd act, as any true fan will know.
“To a degree, we try to create that visual Floyd effect,” says Millar, adding that the band intended to put the smoke machine to good use for a show at “The Pit” in Dawson City last week, two nights after an evening Arts in the Park gig in Whitehorse.
For the Dawson show, Millar recruited local sax player Fred Bosson to do the solo honours on “Money”.
Millar plans to set up more shows over the course of the summer. He hopes that they will prove enjoyable for “…people that are hurting for psychedelic rock, as I’ve been!”
He also hopes—as Pink Floyd lyricist Roger Waters put it—Yukoners will keep “… watching for Pigs on the Wing”.