By Michael Lello

Photos by Pati Bobeck

PLAINS, Pa. – On paper, the Pink Talking Fish concept sounds intriguing – pay tribute to and transition between the songs of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish.  But what happens when the concept is executed?

On stage last Thursday at the River Street Jazz Café, Pink Talking Fish put to rest any skepticism, playing two sets of tight, funky, exploratory music that embraced both the spirit and the letter of all three iconic groups’ music.

We arrived partway through the first set, as the band was segueing from “Slippery People” into “Have A Cigar.”  After the quartet navigated its way into “Houses In Motion,” they heavily teased the early Pink Floyd tune “Set The Controls For The Heart of the Sun,” while staying locked  into the “Houses” framework; these moments are the type that make Pink Talking Fish insanely fun.

The complex Phish favorite “You Enjoy Myself” was spot-on; the lights even went out for the spooky vocal jam.  Pink Talking Fish transitioned neatly into the eerie “Dark Side Of The Moon” instrumental “On The Run,” back into “YEM” and into Talking Heads’ “Big Business” to end the first set.

The second set opened with the familiar strains of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” aka “2001,” setting up a non-stop set of segues.  The band – Eric Gould (bass, vocals) of Particle, Dave Brunyak (guitar, vocals) and Zack Burwick (drums, vocals), both of New England Phish tribute band The Phreaks, and Rick Umlah, of Boston’s Richard James and the Name Changers, on keyboards – expertly maneuvered through the tricky songs and transitions, Burwick solidly guiding the band from behind the drumkit as every member contributed vocals.  Brunyak and Umlah’s lead work was richly textured and faithful to the original compositions, while Gould’s bass work alternately acted as a foundation and an occasional funky lead excursion.

The second set continued with seamless renditions of “Another Brick In The Wall Part II,” “Psycho Killer” and Phish jam warhorse “Tweezer,” which galloped into Floyd’s “One Of These Days.”  A furious combination of Phish’s “Down With Disease,” Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed And Painless,” a transition back into “DWD,” into Floyd’s “Eclipse” and then Phish’s “Run Like An Antelope” wrapped up the breathtaking second set.

The group returned for an encore that appropriately represented each of the three bands Pink Talking Fish covers, with Talking Heads hit “Burning Down The House” and “The Wall” radio staple “Young Lust” (complete with a fun tease of Phish’s “Carini”), which segued into the energetic “Tweezer Reprise,” with Brunyak reenacting Phish’s trampoline antics, sans trampoline.

Pink Talking Fish exceeded expectations at the Jazz Café, and seemed to only hint at what it can be as it adds more material to its repertoire.  The concept alone should be enough to bring curious music fans to shows, and once they hear the band perform, word should spread, and audiences should grow.  If this band comes to your town, see them.

Setlist courtesy of Pink Talking Fish

Set 1:
In The Flesh>
Chalkdust Torture
Slippery People>
Slippery People
Have A Cigar>
Houses In Motion*
You Enjoy Myself>
On The Run>
You Enjoy Myself>
Big Business>
Interstellar Overdrive>
Big Business

Set 2:
Life During Wartime>
Another Brick In The Wall>
Psycho Killer>
Another Brick In The Wall>
One Of These Days>
Down With Disease>
Crosseyed And Painless>
Down With Disease>
Run Like An Antelope

Burning Down The House
Young Lust***>
Tweezer Reprise

*w/ Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun tease
**w/ Any Colour You Like tease
***w/ Carini tease

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