Published October 10, 2019
By Joshua Miner
Joe Pascarell has lived and breathed Pink Floyd for most of his life. At age 12, his older brother brought him to his first show – during Floyd’s famous Dark Side of the Moon Tour. The music would change his life. Ever since that fateful day, the thought of playing the music for audiences around world was a dream and nothing more. Now having played the music of Pink Floyd for over 30 years, Pascarell is living that very dream.
All those years ago, Pascarell says there was little that compared to Dark Side of the Moon. The album became one of the most popular in the world, selling over 45 million copies since its release in 1973 and carving out a spot on the Billboard charts for over 900 weeks.
“It was like a world changing event,” Pascarell says of the album.
Set against the ubiquitous sound of the Beatles – the norm in the Pascarell house – the release was a monumental achievement for a musical world populated mostly by quick and catchy two and a half minute songs.
Both that album and the band have become permanent fixtures in American popular culture ever, with the image of the rainbow prism set against a background present in dorm rooms over 40 years later.
“It holds up, which is why I think we can do what we do.”
The Machine began performing in Rockland County, NY in 1988 playing a variety of covers from a number of their favorite bands. By 1989, they were approached by a manager who suggested the band focus on Pink Floyd songs exclusively. The band droves of fans across the world have come to know and love was born.
Formed with Tahrah Cohen on drums, the band now features Scott Chasolen on keyboards and newcomer Dylan Kelehan on bass.
The key to the Machine’s longevity is the timelessness of the music, Pascarell explains. No matter how many times he hears the intro to Shine on You Crazy Diamond or Time, he says he feels just as he did spinning Pink Floyd vinyl all those years ago.
“The main thing is that it’s great music. You can’t play crappy music for that long,” he explains. “It’s rewarding to play every night.”
Although he’s played many of the tunes over 2,000 times, he says the love he and his bandmates have for the music is still as strong as ever.
In 2013, Pascarell left the band he had formed nearly 25 years before. Turning 50, he wanted to move on to other projects, feeling he was done with that portion of his life. However, the music called him back soon enough, and by 2015 he was back in the permanent lineup once again.
“I’ve done this long enough,” Pascarell says of his thinking during his hiatus. “So, I left, and the first year was great.”
Eventually, however, he says he came to regret the decision.
“I was enjoying the hiatus, but then I really started to miss it. I got really upset. I’m like ‘shit, I worked my whole life to build this, and then I walked away from it.’”
While he knew he couldn’t simply walk back into the band, fate would have one the replacement member leaving soon after – and the band asked Pascarell to rejoin them.
“And I’m like: ‘As a matter of fact, I’d love to come back!’ When you do something your whole life, you lose your objectivity and you’re unaware of what you get from it – until you stop doing it.”
Now back on stage playing everything from Piper at the Gates of Dawn to The Division Bell, Pascarell says he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Another major shift occurred a few years later when longtime Machine bassist Ryan Ball, who filled in for Pascarell on guitar during his absence, would leave the band in 2018 after 21 years.
For The Machine, it isn’t about money or fame – although they are one of the most well-known tribute acts in the world with their laser shows and spot-on renditions of the classic Floyd songbook. Rather, they go out night after night because of a deep love and respect for the music they play.
Recently meeting Pink Floyd keyboardist Nick Mason, Pascarell says the musician was amused that people were still playing his songs after all these years. If The Machine’s popularity is any indication, however, the music of Pink Floyd isn’t going anywhere.
“I heard it when I was a kid, it had a profound impact on me. I learned to play the guitar by figuring those songs out, hunched over the records. You know, I never had a guitar lesson. That’s how I learned the music. I learned to play by trying to mimic what they were doing,” he laughs. “And now, it’s been my career for 30 years.”
For those who love the quirky, early days of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett or even those that may be partial to the post Roger Waters-era, The Machine plays something from every stage of Pink Floyd’s storied career. Though for Pascarell, it’s the 1970’s when Floyd was at its exploratory peak. It’s this Pink Floyd that he and his bandmates channel for their critically acclaimed shows.
Their performances also feature the psychedelic Interstellar Light & Multimedia Show, whose lasers echo the late Floyd’s own stage set-up for a completely immersive sensory experience.
With David Gilmore and Waters’ falling out, Pink Floyd played their final concert at 2005’s Live8 Concert. For the past 14 years, The Machine has filled that void for millions of fans across the world as authentically as possible with veneration and respect for the work unmatched by anyone else. As fans themselves over numerous generations, Pascarell and his bandmates still have the same love for bringing these timeless rhythms alive as the audience does hearing them play it. As The Machine takes the Strand Theatre on a journey Friday night, Pascarell says he never loses sight of just how fortunate he is.
“I never forget when I was a kid, a 15-year old kid, I would dream: ‘Wouldn’t that be amazing if that was your job?” he recalls. “My favorite thing to do is play the guitar, and that’s what I get to do for a living, so I’m very grateful for that.”
The Machine will be playing Plattsburgh’s Strand Center Theatre on Friday, October 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29-$49 in advance or $34-$54 the day of the show and can be purchased at strandcenter.org or by calling the Box Office at (518) 563-1604 (Ext. 105).