The idea of ever missing a Flaming Lips show disintegrated after I first saw them at the 2009 Treasure Island Music Festival. Love at first experience. To attempt to describe a Flaming Lips show to someone who has never experienced before is essentially impossible. It doesn’t quite do it justice to simply list the bat-shit crazy events that transpire through the evenings hours, but to compromise that is almost exactly what I’m about to do.
Last night The Flaming Lips played their 1999 widely acclaimed and dearly loved album “The Soft Bulletin” in its entirety at the historic Bimbos 365 club in San Francisco as part of Noise Pop Festival 2012. The show, which was quietly announced only about 1 month ago, sold out in 30 seconds flat. The sell-out was expected since the club has a capacity of 685 and The Flaming Lips most recently sold out 2 nights at the Fox Theater in Oakland (2800 capacity…clearly about 6000 people in the Bay Area have an interest in seeing The Flaming Lips live). needless to say, snagging a ticket sorta felt as coveted as getting a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Front-man Wayne Coyne makes for a good Willy Wonka anyways with his mad scientist hair and zany outfits.
Despite taming down some of the visual aspects of the show due to the physical size of the stage/venue, The Flaming Lips provided what can only be described as an onslaught of the senses. Just to be sure everyone in the audience knew that what they would be experiencing through the night would not just be some dudes making music on a stage - they catapulted into “Race for the Prize” with bright colorful psychedelic lights, an explosion of massive over-sized balloons, fog machines, and….of course…industrial sized fans blowing more confetti in the air then you can probably imagine for the entire duration of every chorus of the song. It was actually difficult to both jump and dance like crazy while screaming and laughing and NOT get confetti in my mouth. Difficult as in impossible. A small sacrifice I suppose.
By the end of “Race for the Prize” my sides hurt from laughing so hard (and still do as I type this the day after). I dare you to find me a person that can’t smile during the opening moments of a Flaming Lips concert. That’s really what the show is all about: being alive, and remembering you are human. If there’s ever a time to just let go and freak out - it’s at a Flaming Lips show. Considering the location of San Francisco, The Flaming Lips freak-show was simply preaching to the choir and making everyone love every second of it. after the confetti-dust settled from “Race for the Prize” Wayne said something to the effect of ‘in case you just came with a friend not knowing what you were getting into and have no idea what the fuck just happened…we are The Flaming Lips’.
The band moved forth with the extravaganza that would later involve a glow in the dark harp, 3ft tall hands that shoot lasers, a light-sensitive mechanical spider that emits sonic craziness, and a chorus of 685 San Franciscans fake-orgasming. Did I mention this was the scaled-down version of their show?
At the end of the album, the band returned to offer a bombastic and life-affirming encore of “Do You Realize??” letting the confetti rockets run free and once again providing a finale of non-sensical proportions. At one point during the show Wayne proclaimed that music was his religion…and who could argue that after the psychedelic-church freak show that had been relentlessly bombarding all our senses for the previous hour. I can’t wait till this Church is back in session.