If you are a fan of Pink Floyd and happen to be in Madrid before mid-September, I’d highly recommend taking a trip out of the city centre to visit the Pink Floyd Their Mortal Remains Exhibition located in Feria de Madrid.
I first heard about the exhibition during a visit from my parents to Madrid. My dad has always been a fan of theirs. When I was younger, I generally reacted to their music as most children do to their father’s beats, with general disgust.
But as I have aged, my musical taste has expanded (my waistline is in a similar situation) and now I love a lot of their music. Some of it is still a little too weird, but on the whole, I would happily say I enjoy Pink Floyd.
On the other hand, my dad has been an avid fan of the band for over 50 years! So how would we both react to The Pink Floyd Exhibition? Is it just for the fans or can the casual observer also get a kick out of the experience?
What is the Pink Floyd Exhibition?
The exhibition is a musical journey in the form of documentary footage and personal effects from the band’s history including many rare and previously unseen items. It tells a story from the formation of the group and their weird stuff to the more melodic era and their madcap musical theatre concerts of the ’80s, right up to their reformation for the Live 8 concert in 2005.
Having seen success and received great feedback while in residence in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, it was decided to take the Pink Floyd Exhibition on tour. After leaving London, it has been to Dortmund and Rome and has now landed in Madrid. Where it heads to next is currently unknown, so you only have until 15th September 2019 to give it a visit.
The official website describes it as “an audio-visual journey through 50 years of one of the world’s most iconic rock groups, and a rare and exclusive glimpse into the world of Pink Floyd. It features many previously-unseen objects collected over the band’s eclectic history.”
It even goes a step further to include a quote from a British newspaper “almost as good as seeing the band live”.
Now, that’s some pretty lofty expectations being set right there, so how did it go?
Buying Pink Floyd Exhibition Tickets
It was a spur of the moment decision to pay a visit as my dad had seen it advertised while wandering along Gran Via the previous day. He suggested we checked it out, so I hopped online to check out the tickets.
The tickets were listed on their website at €19.90, but after the usual additional fees they throw in, the total cost ended up at €42.20.
When buying the tickets, I had to specify our arrival time that is broken down into half-hour slots. A nice touch is that the times are colour coded based on popularity, so you can try to aim for a quiet time. If you miss your slot, the website does say they will let you into the next available time, which based on how busy our visit was, shouldn’t be an issue.
Getting to the Feria de Madrid
The Feria de Madrid is a huuuuge exhibition centre, and The Pink Floyd Exhibition takes up just a tiny corner of it. While we drove there, it is also easy to reach by Metro on the pink line, number 8.
I have found this handy map that points out exactly where the exhibition is in the Feria. It would have been pretty helpful for me had noticed it before we visited, I wasted 10 minutes driving around looking for Pink Floyd Exhibition signs that didn’t exist.
If you are driving to the Feria de Madrid, there is plenty of parking (€2.25 per hour) close to the exhibition. I was able to find street side parking quite easily for free. But, it is worth noting I was visiting on a Sunday, if you are visiting mid-week, then these free spaces will probably be a lot harder to come by due to the number of offices in the area.
The Pink Floyd Exhibition
As mentioned, I am certainly not an avid fan of the band. I have a passing interest, the kind of guy that may listen to a best of album now and again. My dad, however, he has been a long time fan of the Pink Floyd, owning pretty much all of their records and also getting to see them live at their peak.
A shipping crate archway painted yellow and black like an oversized lego wasp marked the entrance. With the Madrid sun blinding us outside, we could bearly see what we were walking into.
As my eyes adjusted from the sun to the darkness of the exhibition room, I could see three staff waiting, staring at us. My eyes took just long enough to adjust to make it feel somewhat awkward.
Once my vision was restored, we handed over our tickets and the lady explained to us (in English) that we need to turn the WiFi off on our phones, which was strange, but we did as requested.
As we worked our way around the optimistically set up queue ropes, many surrealistic giant inflatables loomed over us. I later found out they were part of Pink Floyd’s The Wall tour.
As we passed into the next section, there was a small desk to pick the audio gizmo, and a different staff member to explain to us that there were no numbers, wander freely and the gizmo will connect to the correct audio as you look at a screen. Suddenly it made sense why I wasn’t allowed my WiFi on.
The exhibition began with some classic posters and press clipping before introducing us to the Pink Floyd Family tree. This graphic showed the band through their various lineups and other bands or projects that spun from group members. As my dad pointed out, it was interesting how few of them we had ever heard of.
Once we turned the corner, we were into the central part of the exhibition, which was broken down into various time frames. It has a window displays containing lots of paraphernalia relating to the band at that period.
Close to each exhibit were TV screens running various documentaries with band members and associates talking about what they were doing at the time and other stories. While I found it interesting, I did find it difficult to digest as I jumped from one screen to the other. I also found the audio sometimes struggled to connect or tuned into the wrong thing, which led to confusion, but on the whole, they were well-presented displays.
As we slowly made our way through the ’60s and ’70s, we entered a room where there was a floor to ceiling display of the band equipment with a documentary talking about how the ideas and experiments they were performing with music. Also, to the side of the room and my one of my favourite things, a mixer set to the band’s song Money where you can play around with the different instrument levels, fading and get a little experimental myself.
When I finally dragged myself away from destroying one of the band’s iconic hits, I turned the corner to see a replica of the giant wall used on one of their tours and more of the stunning inflatables. This section talks about the bands desire to do more than just concerts and how they came up with the concept of musical theatre. The Wall was the concert my dad attended, so for him; it was a trip down memory lane. For me, it was interesting to learn about how the band nearly brought Heathrow to a standstill with a giant inflatable pig! A little different to these days where it is drones you have to worry about.
Finally, there are a few more displays from their more modern work before building up to the highlight of the exhibition, the immersive experience which is “almost as good as seeing the band live”.
So was it? No, I mean I haven’t seen them live so I cannot compare, but having been introduced to the concept of musical theatre about 15 minutes earlier, this was a massive let down.
My expectation was some clips from the iconic The Wall concert, maybe a medley of there tops songs, but all it is is Comfortably Numb from Live 8 and a video of one of their early hits, Arnold Layne, about a man who pinches underwear off clotheslines.
While the volume was nice and rib vibratingly loud, and the guitar solo is pretty epic, I was expecting better for the grand finale.
Finally, as always at these kinds of things, we had to exit through the gift shop. Both my dad and I were feeling good and felt like we would buy something. He wanted a t-shirt for sure while I can always spend money. However, the prices were something else. While I understand, there is always a premium when buying souvenirs at an event, charging €30-40 for a t-shirt and €40 for the event souvenir book, needless to say, we both left empty-handed.
So did it live up to the expectations?
Well, I’m writing this one week after going, and I’m still unsure. The exhibits and information there are fantastic and look stunning, and any Pink Floyd fan or even those with a passing interest in the band will enjoy the exhibition. However, in my opinion, the way it was presented with the auto-connecting audio didn’t work as well as I think they hoped. While it is old technology now, I still feel that the old audio guide style of tapping in a number would have been a better way.
The audio presentation also means that you end up with your headphones on all the way around, taking away the feeling that it is a group activity. Again, numbered audio guides negate this as rather than a continual stream of information, you can do it in your own time.
The videos just felt like a chopped up documentary, and by the time we were halfway through, I’d given up on them thinking if I care enough, I’ll watch a full documentary about the group on another day.
However, that said, the displays were fantastic, I loved seeing all the concert inflatables, and I learnt a lot about the band. The whole of the past week I have found myself listening to Pink Floyd, the stuff I know I like and trying some of their other stuff too.
I came away with a new appreciation of the group that defied definitions while my dad certainly enjoyed his trip down memory lane. But would I say it was value for money? Not really, I think for what it is, €10 – €15 would have been a fair price, but if you have a love for the band or a dad that loves them, then you will undoubtedly enjoy it, but don’t think about the price.
As he features quite strongly in this post, I thought I’d leave the final thoughts to the old man I call dad:
When sitting in a mates house after school in 1967 listening to Pink Floyd’s debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn, you wouldn’t have thought that 52 years later these masters of psychedelic music would still feature in my life. But Floyd like many other bands from the period are still played regularly in my household. So when visiting my son in Madrid recently and seeing the “Experience “ advertised I had to drag my little boy along!
It’s a fascinating insight into the band covering each of the band’s albums chronologically from Piper at the Gates of Dawn to the final tribute to Richard Wight, The Endless River. You get the story of the album told by the band, producers even the album cover artists.
There’s plenty of guitars, drums, keyboards and amps to drool over as well as the larger than life recreation of LP covers. I also found the story behind the staging of The Wall fascinating as I saw the show at London’s Earls Court.
There probably isn’t anything new to learn for a Floyd devotee but having it all under one roof does mean you can indulge yourself and I hadn’t heard the story of the flying pig. The one that crash-landed in Kent after breaking away from its tether over Battersea Power Station during the photo shoot for the Animals cover.
However, one question still remains unanswered, and we’ll never know, would albums like Dark Side of The Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall have been made if Dave Gilmour hadn’t replaced Syd Barrett?
I also feel I must throw in that I was also disappointed with the finale if you are going to create a large screen experience let’s have more than two tracks!