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The Floyd Experience at Mizner Park Amphitheater

The Floyd Experience

Known as “The Ultimate U.S. Pink Floyd Experience,” the 10-piece The Floyd Experience delivered 90 minutes of brilliant music and a vivid light show to fortunate spectators at Boca Ra- ton’s Mizner Park Amphitheater on Saturday, October 13th. With a little help from sound engineer Ray Rivard of Audio Events, The Floyd Experience creates a gorgeous mix of electric, acous- tic, classical and lap steel guitars, along with two keyboardists, drums, a bass, a sax and spectacular backup singers. SFL Music and I had the pleasure of sitting down with The Floyd Experience to discuss their history and playing such timeless gems, as well as their future just before the talented ensemble took the stage.

SFL Music: How did The Floyd Experience originate?

Tommy Strowd (Guitarist): A little more than two years ago, the core members and I were just practicing for our jam band and try- ing to figure out what direction to go in. We came up with a Pink Floyd tribute band as an idea. None of us believed we would be able to pull it off. This was in DC Rehearsal Studios in West Palm Beach. After a year of practicing, TC (guitarist Tom Christopher) gave it a 50/50 chance of being able to do anything with it. And here we are on those odds.

Dennis Freireich (Bassist): I’ve been with Tommy and TC since the beginning. The three of us had a band. We were rehears- ing and our wheels were spinning. We weren’t getting anywhere. That’s when somebody came up with the idea of a Pink Floyd tribute. TC already had some experience with the original guys in Pink Floyd. Personally, I was never a big Pink Floyd fan, but I decided to give it a shot and I really got into the music and the story of the band. Now I’m loving it.

Tom “TC” Christopher (Lead Guitarist, Vocalist, Musical Di- rector): When Jeff (Leone on keyboards) came along, I thought we could actually pull this off because he was the Waters to the Gilmour. We’ve recreated the rivalry and the general distaste of each other. (Laughs). We are continuing that organic feeling be- tween us. There is respect for each other, but we just don’t toler- ate each other very well. (More laughs).

Jeff Leone (Keyboardist, Guitarist, Vocalist): All that laughter is a bunch of good friends and fellow musicians having a great time before our show at Mizner. I was in a successful Pink Floyd
cover band about 25 years ago called Off the Wall. But for the next 20 years, I focused on original music. Then one day, I was cruising Craigslist. I was probably looking for a motorcycle. I came across an ad for a new Pink Floyd tribute act that was looking for a singer. I was so intrigued, I called right away and talked to the Manager, Barbara Strowd. It turned out to be an excellent group of musicians striving to make the project a reality. But there was a piece of the puzzle missing. It turned out that I was an ideal fit… It has been a fabulous experience. I just hope that it goes on for a long time. We are like one big family.

Stanley Bernstein (Keyboardist): I had just gotten back from Colorado where I had attended a Brit Floyd concert at Red Rocks. I was blown away by the production. It gave me goosebumps. So I came back home a week later and got a call from our drummer Roy Fantel. He asked me if I would be interested in working with a Pink Floyd tribute band. It was really weird because I had just seen a Pink Floyd tribute band’s show. I said ‘Sure, why not?’ It was fate. This is stuff that I grew up on and had never played. Now I get the chance to do it with some really fine musicians.

SFL Music: What’s in store for South Florida music lovers here tonight at Mizner?

Roy Fantel (Drummer): At the show tonight, the fans are going to see as close a recreation to the original Pink Floyd material as humanly possible. We try to do the original recorded material note for note. We have all done our homework to do Pink Floyd justice.

SFL Music: Is tonight’s show considered work or play?

Lucie Pierro (Backup Vocalist): It’s a little of both. Playing at Mizner is always a lot of fun. I mean, here we are in a huge dressing room with air conditioning. It’s an exciting place to be, and we are ready for it. There are such brilliant musicians in this band. They all play so well together. The fact that we are all local South Florida musicians makes it even better. I am just happy to be a part of it. I get the amazing treat of singing “Great Gig in the Sky.” (Lucie’s phenomenal voice earned a standing ovation).

SFL Music: Mervyn, is “Money” your favorite song to play sax onstage?

Johnston: No. I think “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is the highlight for me. I like playing all of it. I like listening to it all as well. It’s as close to the real thing as anyone’s going to get. Ev- eryone in the band puts in a tremendous amount of work to make the show authentic. They are terrific musicians and they are mar- velous to work with.

SFL Music: What’s next for The Floyd Experience?

April French (Backup Vocalist): The future of the band looks bright. We are looking forward to a concert on Saturday, Decem- ber 1st, at The Fillmore on Miami Beach. Getting out of the state and touring the nation would be fantastic. We have all the right components.

SFL Music: How does The Floyd Experience’s performance stand up against to the original
Pink Floyd?
Bernstein: To compare our show to the real Pink Floyd, we are doing ev- erything they did in the studio. Only we are doing it live.

Leone: It all comes down to the live show. When you’ve got your monitors on, the house music is up loud and the audience is hot out there, that’s when all the practice pays off. This is the best part of it for us.

Onstage two hours later, Johnston delivered a monologue before The Floyd Experience’s closing num- ber, “High Hopes.” “Thank you all for coming out to this wonderful venue and supporting live music,” he said. “Big shout out to Nick Mason, Roger Waters, Richard Wright, Syd Barrett and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) for bringing this legacy. Also to the (Ameri- can) blues artists, Pink Anderson and Floyd Counsil for inspiring the name. Growing up in England, I couldn’t help feeling the im- pact of this giant among bands. From humble beginnings in the London underground scene to two of the bestselling records in history (1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon and 1979’s The Wall). Yes, real records that all of us old geezers remember buying. A progressive band with live shows that extend the song forms, philosophical lyrics and iconic album covers. As a sax player, I was drawn to the defining solos of ‘Money,’ ‘Us + Them’ and ‘Crazy Diamond.’ I suppose you could say I am over the moon and on the dark side. Our goal is to pay tribute to that legacy.”

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