Pink Floyd play ‘Astronomy Domine’ to an empty auditorium back in 1970
Pink Floyd, above all else, are a band steeped in authenticity. Never has a group been so painstakingly strict with keeping to their task of creating mind-expanding music and, it must be noted, still remain so incredibly popular. Yet, in America at the turn of the new decade in 1970, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Richard Wright and Nick Mason were still comparatively unknown.
Sure, in Britain Pink Floyd weren’t just known, they were leaders of the scene. However, that didn’t matter one bit when they crossed the pond. It meant that they were eager for extra exposure wherever they could get it, even if that meant they would play to an empty auditorium. The footage of which you can find below.
The sun rarely stops shining on the West Coast and when Pink Floyd arrived in America with another big swing of their psychedelic hammer aimed squarely at leaving a crack in the market. When they were given the opportunity to perform under a unique set of circumstances they naturally jumped at the chance.
The gig was simple. An hour-long set to be broadcast on radio via KQED and on television too. The stage would be the illustrious Fillmore West auditorium—a scene at the time which was still bristling with counter-culture murmurations. A perfect fit for Pink Floyd one would imagine, except for one thing, there would be no audience.
The band were tasked with the set, of which they included songs like ‘Astronomy Domine’, ‘Atom Heart Mother’ and ‘Grantchester Meadows’, all of which can be found below, as another chance to crack the US market. Judging by their performance and the subsequent success we’d say they certainly set their foundations.
“At that point, they were really anxious to have whatever publicity they could,” remembers the program’s co-producer at KQED, Jim Farber. “We did not have much of a budget. Pink Floyd did the performance and offered the rights for a certain number of airings for practically nothing. My memory is we paid them $200.”
The performances are nothing short of sublime. They are cultured and cultivated, using the acoustic strings as effectively as their electric counterparts to create soundscapes that would swallow up their audiences. While admittedly that was tough for the band too with the non-existent crowd in the theatre but those listening and watching at home were swept up by Pink Floyd.
It would be some years before they mirrored their British success with American audiences but many would attribute the record selling triumphs the band built to the foundations laid on this day.
Below watch Pink Floyd play for an empty auditorium way back in 1970.