Back in 1967, both The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd released their first albums. The Grateful Dead’s self-titled album dropped in March, and Floyd’s “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” dropped a few months later. Both records are an apt reflection of what indie rock was during that time, and the majority of both records’ songs clocked in at about three minutes long, with a few longer tunes thrown in to foreshadow the route their music would later take.
Both bands have also become an essential part of the classic rock canon, so much so that they’ve inspired loads of tribute and cover bands, including Dead Floyd, a Fort Collins-based band that digs into both bands’ vast catalogs.
Members of Dead Floyd came together roughly nine years ago for what was supposed to be a one-off classic rock show, or what drummer Stu Crair describes as a “Monsters of Rock” style performance. When guitar player Charlie Humphreys revealed he was more than a casual fan of the Grateful Dead and had musical knowledge of nearly every song, bass player Josh Miller revealed the same musical fanaticism about Pink Floyd in return, and the two figured they were onto something. Combine that with two sold out shows, and the collab became much more than a one-off concert.
“We did a one night only thing in a small venue in Fort Collins and it sold out. Line down the street, crazy response, and then we did it again, and it sold out again at the Aggie Theatre,” said Crair. “That was nine years ago, and I never intended to be in a cover band. I’ve always played original music. But it kind of became fun to write set lists that are a crazy mix of two bands I personally love, and everyone in the band does. It kept evolving from there into something bigger and more fun.”
Both Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead were on the same trajectory at the same time. Club shows and shorter songs started giving way to long psychedelic jams, bigger audiences, and larger venues. Dead Floyd, while very much a cover band, also wants to put their own stamp on what they do.
“The main thing we try to apply, and still to this day, we don’t want it to be like a tape recorder,” Crair said. “The live show should be a unique show every time, and it should be very much in the moment. We absolutely want to do the songs justice. There are certain things I think are undeniable, but sometimes the tempos, the feel, arrangements of a song, we’ll definitely mess with a little bit to fit what we’re trying to do.”
One may wonder about the fandom, and if there is any monotony in playing “Bertha” or “Comfortably Numb” night after night.
“The answer is absolutely not,” said Crair. “I just listen to it differently than we ever did before. A song pops on that we play often, and I’ll say, ‘I haven’t listened to this song in years,’ even though we’ve been playing it for years, and there’s all kinds of cool little things we can incorporate into the show. So it keeps my fandom at an all-time high, because I appreciate it more than most. I’m studying it as much as I’m listening to it to say, ‘How can we do this better or different?’”
Dead Floyd will return to Durango tomorrow (November 9) at the Animas City Theatre.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. [email protected]