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Pickin' on Floyd: Poor Man's Whiskey brings their take on Dark Side to town...with lasers, of course 

Poor Man's Whiskey brings their take on Dark Side to town... with lasers, of course.

click to enlarge sound_darkside.jpg
A few years ago, Jason Beard found himself in his garage late at night as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon played in the background. This really isn't unique - 30 percent of American males have probably been privy to a late-night Dark Side garage session. But what happened next is where things get interesting. Surrounded by recording equipment and instruments, Beard picked up his mandolin and started playing along. It's an odd marriage - the congress off a bluegrassy instrument and rock's seminal piece of psychedlia - but it worked for Beard, a founding member of Bay Area genre-smashers Poor Man's Whiskey, and by morning he'd outlined a bluegrass adaptation of the album.

"I woke up my wife at four in the morning and was like, 'Guess what I'm going to do?'" says Beard.

What he was going to do was convince his band to cover the Floyd classic in its entirety, which Poor Man's Whiskey did for the first time in 2007. That year, I met Beard at a Fourth of July party where he introduced himself as one of the organizers of the 4 Peaks Music Festival. He also gave me a CD that he said was a live recording of his band playing something he called Dark Side of the Moonshine. I thought he was crazy - even after giving the disc a listen - but that was before I got to know Poor Man's Whiskey, a band with as big as a draw in Bend as any act that pulls off of Highway 97.

The band is most known for its appearances at both installments of 4 Peaks - the festival held in 2007 and 2008 on a Tumalo ranch, but was canceled this past summer - and has also held its own with standalone circus-like performances in town that showcase the band's Americana prowess as well as its guitar-wailing-theramine-playing rock and roll tendencies. As their stock has risen here, Poor Man's Whiskey has carried with them a label of being "the band that plays a bluegrass Dark Side" despite the fact that none of the band's Central Oregon shows have featured a tease of the project. From the way Beard explains it, breaking out one Dark Side cut is nothing short of heretical.

"It's either all or nothing because playing one song doesn't do it justice. The whole thing is one song," he says, "You can tease people with it, but that's not as cool as the whole album and it's not as special. It's really all or nothing."

The Dark Side of the Moonshine performance is very much all or nothing ... emphasis on the all. The show is replete with crazy lighting, decorations and, as Beard mentions several times - lasers. Lots of them. Oh, and the band plays three sets in different costumes. Wizard of Oz costumes, to be exact, with Beard (who first donned a Pink Floyd T-shirt when he was 10 years old) proudly dressing as the Cowardly Lion. PMW happily and heavily employs in its show the urban myth that Dark Side and the Wizard of Oz - you remember this, right? - go "seamlessly" together when synched up just right.

"We're pretty insistent that we do it with the lasers and the costumes. We're creating this amazing event that's bluegrass but still has the psychedelic element," says Beard, who invites concertgoers to dress as their favorite Oz character.

Poor Man's Whiskey has been a lot of things since its inception as the novelty acoustic wing of a funk rock band called Pura Vida, but one thing Beard says they won't be, or won't be permanently, is a Pink Floyd cover band. For an act that seems to be suffering from undiagnosed musical ADD and goes from traditional bluegrass to hard-driving space rock within a two-hour set, it's hard to believe that they could ever be something as narrowly defined as a cover band... no matter how attached Beard gets to his lion suit.

"It's important to me that people not think of us as a Pink Floyd cover band," he says, "The last two years we've been like, 'Whatever comes out comes out, we'll just play it.'"

And play it they do, with or without lasers.

Poor Man's Whiskey perform
"Dark Side of the Moonshine"

8pm doors, 9pm show. Saturday, October 24.
Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. $15/advance, $20/door. 21 and over. Tickets at Ranch Records or


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