BY MOLLY CONGDON
CLIFTON PARK — Everything went dark, smoke seeped from the stage and seconds later glowing green spotlights, accompanied by screams and whoops, shot into the horde of onlookers as “The Machine,” America’s top Pink Floyd show, made their entrance like a lamb at Upstate Concert Hall.
There was a surreal softness at the start — slowly easing the audience in, almost hypnotically, and transporting them to another world; the imaginative, psychedelic world of Pink Floyd.
Tahrah Cohen, the leader of the band, has been playing the drums her entire life. Her curly blond hair, which was pulled back halfway, causing tiny ringlets to add a bit of spirally volume, framed her wide smile. When she was a third-grader, she saw a drummer on television and knew that she had just beheld her future.
“It was something I knew that must happen, no matter how, I had to get there,” Cohen said. “When I was watching that drummer, I thought, ‘This is who I am.’ ”
Her love of music was not limited to one genre; in fact, she fell for everything from experimental to folk to rock. Her passion for Pink Floyd, however, began 26 years ago when the nuts and bolts of The Machine were put together and put into motion.
“Our roots are in the Rockland County area, and we played there quite a bit, but our first show was at SUNY Albany,” Cohen said. “Then, before we knew it, all these agents were calling and asking us to play all over the world.”
As soon as the doors of Upstate Concert Hall opened, the massive line of people started to pour inside. The concertgoers ranged in age from elderly couples to teenagers — escorted by their parents — sporting windbreakers and scrunchies.
The younger crowd — still untroubled by aching feet or arthritis — staked out their territory in the splash zone, where I imagine a fair share of moshing has occurred. Their shadowy silhouettes huddled together so much so that, in the dimness, their bodies seemed to meld into one mass and only their heads were individually visible, similar to the raised bumps of a LEGO block.
The veterans, the original Pink Floyd devotees, made a beeline for the few chairs available within the seating area resembling a deck, providing the illusion that one is experiencing the music outdoors at a neighborhood gathering.
Also looking for seating were the college students, still in that fresh 21 stage, who hopped on the bar stools to order their first concoctions of the night, then showed no desire to relinquish their thrones while securing a fair buzz before the first strum.
It’s clear that Pink Floyd transcends generations.
“I love the diversity of this music,” Cohen said. “Some of it is very simple, some of it is really improvisational, some of it’s quiet and some of it’s heavy.” So, it seems fitting that her favorite Pink Floyd song is “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” which consists of nine different parts complete with numerous climaxes. “It’s a beautiful song that is well structured and written, and then there’s this improvisational moment at the end,” she explained. “It’s a great combo of structure and fluidity.”
Cohen partially credits a portion of The Machine’s success to its large repertoire of songs. “The goal of performing live is to be passionate and sincere and if you’re tired of playing a specific song, you might have to give it a rest so that what you play comes across authentically.”
The Machine feel it’s important to not play the same show twice. To avoid being boring and repetitive, they keep every set list — they even have the one from the show they played at Upstate
Concert Hall last year. This year, the fans at this venue would be getting a something special: songs from Pink Floyd’s latest release, “The Endless River,” which came out in November. Since Pink Floyd is no longer touring, The Machine are the first ones ever to play it live, according to Cohen.
People rocked their hips, stared unblinking at the stage and held their iPhones up high in the hopes of capturing a picture or a brief video to have as a memory forever as The Machine kicked the evening off with “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.” Heads across the room shook up and down in a this-is-what-I’m-talking-about way.
“When there’s a room full of excited people, it’s contagious.” Cohen said. “We are all here for the same thing — we want to have a great time. The band wants to have a great time and the audience wants to have a great time, so it’s kind of like a stacked deck.”
Even though The Machine plays only Pink Floyd, Cohen believes that the band would be great playing any kind of music. “We are dedicated musicians; music is our life,” she said. “We understand how to play music, and I know that sounds like a simple statement, but it’s really not so simple to be able to channel music properly, get out of the way when you have to be out of the way and to remain pure, like a band in a garage. And most other bands just aren’t like that.”