Signs of Life Pay Tribute to Music of Pink Floyd
By Kyle Melton
In the pantheon of rock n’ roll’s iconic acts, few cast a shadow as long as British psychedelic pioneers Pink Floyd. Under the direction of Cambridge schoolmates Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gimour, Pink Floyd charted a musical course that stands as one of the most artistically and commercially successful in the rock era. In 2008, Cincinnatian Jon Stankorb sought to present the essence of this seminal band’s music to audiences in the region with the formation of Signs of Life (SOL). Spanning the breadth of Floyd’s prodigious catalog, Stankorb meticulously assembled an ambitious stage show, complete with a state-of-the-art light show and 9-piece ensemble, and SOL delivers an exceptional recreation of the Pink Floyd experience. We spoke recently with Stankorb about his desire to showcase the music of Pink Floyd and what audiences can expect from the band’s live show.
How did this group come together to perform the music of Pink Floyd? How long has the group been together?
I had been performing in a few tribute bands since 2005 and Pink Floyd have always been my passion and motivation for playing music. It had always a fantasy to play this music on a grand theatrical scale and in the fall of 2008, I had an inexplicable and overwhelming “now or never” feeling that I needed to organize my own Pink Floyd tribute band. After months of research, a thorough audition process and 4 months of rehearsals, video production, set design etc … Signs of Life played to a standing room only crowd at our first show in April of 2009. The response was nothing short of life changing. [Jon Stankorb]
What drew you to attempt a recreation of such an ambitious rock band? How faithfully do you feel you recreate the experience?
Ambitious … is the key word here … there is no handbook or blog on setting out to create a full scale musical production of arguably the most extravagant theatrical stage show in all of rock. First and foremost, I feel that Signs of Life brings an authentic “British” reverence to the Pink Floyd material (slightly at odds with our decidedly Midwest location). Each SOL show features a unique one of a kind set list in which songs segue into another or feature spoken word passages, audio effects or dramatic lighting and video cues. There is conceptual continuity that runs through the concert posters, video footage, the set list and special effects. [JS]
In terms of song selection, from what eras of the band’s catalog do most songs come from? Are there any deeper cuts that audiences might be surprised to hear?
The Signs of Life set list draws from Piper at the Gates of Dawn through The Division Bell. Selections from The Final Cut and Piper at the Gates of Dawn seem to surprise and delight the more ardent Pink Floyd fans. “Astronomy Domine,” “Fearless,” “Fat Old Sun,” “Childhood’s End,” “Echoes” (from the late ‘60s early ‘70s era) and “When the Tigers Broke Free,” “Fletcher Memorial Home,” “Terminal Frost” and “High Hopes” (from the latter era) have surprised many SOL fans. [JS]
With such an easily identifiable sound and a meticulous attention to sonic detail, how faithfully do you attempt to recreate the sounds and equipment of PF?
SOL is extremely reverent and faithful to recreating the sound of PF by using a mix of original vintage equipment and modern technology. SOL has 130 + PF songs in the repertoire and each song has been selected from the various live and studio versions. This serves a specific mood and timbre among the songs in the set list. [JS]
Why do you feel people are so drawn to the music of PF? Why do you feel there is a need to present this music faithfully to audiences?
Pink Floyd draws the listener in emotionally and intellectually. There is a sublime, empathetic, humanitarian message in the lyrics that is supported by the music. Many PF songs take some time to unfurl and develop taking the listener on a much deeper journey than the typical three minute pop song. There is a need to present this music faithfully because many, many fans have the PF catalog deeply embedded in their DNA. Almost all PF fans don’t want stylistic recreations of the songs, or tribute musicians asserting their ego on the songs. For a brief moment they want to feel that they are truly embraced by the “essence” of a Pink Floyd concert. [JS]
What should people expect from a SOL performance?
SOL concerts feature a feast for the eyes, ears and mind. We do not try to lock in within a specific period such as recreating the ‘94 PULSE tour, The Wall show or the Syd Barrett era. Instead, we ask, “How would Roger, David, Rick, Nick and Syd present a PF show in an intimate 400-900 seat theatre today?” [JS]
Signs of Life is made up of 13 incredible musicians, vocalists and technical support that are committed, consummate professionals that happen to share a collective vision of excellence with an audience that love Pink Floyd.
Signs of Life will perform on Saturday, March 24 with a show at Gillys, 132 S. Jefferson St. Advance tickets are $16, DOS $18. Doors open at 7p.m., show starts at 8p.m. Admission is open to all ages. For more information, visit signsoffloyd.com.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at MusicEditor@DaytonCityPaper.com and read his blog at thebuddhaden/net.
[Photo: Sam A. Marshall]