Pink Talking Fish 1.18.14

Quixote's True Blue
Denver, CO

Words & Photos By Brad Yeakel (Opti Mystic Outlooks)
Video By Erik Thoms

For the second time in the last few months, I had the opportunity to watch one of the most entertaining cover bands ever conceptualized. Pink Floyd. Talking Heads. Phish. That's all, just three epic bands with vast catalogues, psychedelic undertones, and ravenous fans. Pink Talking Fish chose some phenomenal material, then they arranged the songs in interesting ways that made for mind blowing setlists. With members of Particle in the lineup, it was no doubt the guys could play. They maneuvered through compositional sections and improvisations with confidence, skill, and style. They really were a joy to watch. It was fun knowing that no matter what they played next, I was going to like it.

Every time I have seen Ben Combe, I've been more impressed. His skill has developed, and he has emerged as a chameleon of sorts, easily recreating the notes and styles of several legends. On the surface, he seemed to have the most challenging job in PTF, and he has risen to the occasion. His fretwork was clean through incredibly difficult passages like the ones in Phish's "Punch You In the Eye," yet he was able to easily glide into "Breathe" by Floyd. While his tone was adequate, maybe even impressive given the venue, it was a little underwhelming for the material. All three guitarists, particularly Gilmour and Anastasio, played arenas with truly mammoth tone. The small venue sound took away some of the power.

Bassist Eric Gould was impeccable, providing the momentum and direction for the group. He was also capable of filling the shoes of Roger Waters, Tina Weymuth, and Mike Gordon at random. His casual demeanor throughout made it look like he was taking a stroll through a park. I saw him at the bar during set break, and told him I was sorry to hear he wasn't touring with Particle full time for this upcoming tour, but Eric was excited all around. With a new baby at home, a new project like PTF that he was beyond stoked about, and his excitement that Steve Molitz was getting serious with Particle again, Eric's cup runneth over. And that was nice to see.

Drummer Zack Burwick was synced up with Eric all night as they provided the groundwork for a creative and adventurous musical journey. Burwick worked tirelessly, sewing together transitions like a pair of patchwork pants. While he wasn't flawless, he was close. I've long held the idea that Fishman's rhythms were subtle yet extraordinarily complex and perhaps the most critical element to what Phish does. Holding together the level of improv Phish uses has always seemed to be the most impressive aspect of their legendary jamming. Burwick may not have hit every nuance of Fishman's compositions, but he was consistent, and generally hit the notes I expected. Drumming in this group didn't appear to be easy, but he made it seem like it was.

Ben Hutchinson was the last piece of this impressive cover quartet, adding the key parts of three of my favorite key players in music history. The thing I found most thought provoking of the night was the unsung nature of the keyboard players who inspired this show. Page McConnell (Phish), Richard Wright (Pink Floyd), and Bernie Worrell (Talking Heads) were three of the most creative, visionary, prolific, and talented musicians of the last 50 years, yet most households wouldn't be able to tell you who any of them were on name alone. But all three of those bands, and the influence they've had on other musicians, relied heavily on the keyboards to provide the textures, tones, and sounds that made their work iconic. Hutchinson, like Combe, made a valiant effort to recreate the synths and boards in high fidelity, but something about the small room sapped a bit of the intensity from the sonic renderings.

I left Quixote's satisfied. As I walked 13th Ave back to the car, I found myself having a déjà vu experience. I recalled thinking the same thing I thought the last time I saw them ... The band was fantastic, b they needed some sort of lighting accessories. Pink Floyd and Phish both accentuate their songs with lights, props, stunts, and more. The least this band could have done was buy a small laser projector from Spencer's or something. Other than their lackluster visual aspect, the band was really a treat to watch, bending hypothetical musical dreams into reality at my favorite watering hole. Really, what more could I ask for?

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