[ATTENDED: August 7, 2015] The Flaming Lips
I have been a fan of the Flaming Lips for a pretty long time. I saw them in 2000 on The Soft Bulletin tour and it was one of the most exciting concerts I had been to. Wayne Coyne was a stellar frontman, and he spoke of love and happiness and togetherness and it was an amazingly positive experience. So, when they broke out “She Don’t Use Jelly,” their goofy novelty hit from 1993 (which I was surprised by), and they released hundred of balloons into Irving Plaza, the whole atmosphere was filled with joy.
For that show, it was Wayne on vocals and gong (he played the gong a lot), Michael Ivins on bass and Steven Drozd on everything else. For a drummer they used a video feed (of I believe Steven). It was weird but it worked really well. And even fifteen years later I remember it very fondly.
Well, in fifteen years, the Lips have gotten bigger, technology has gotten cheaper and more portable and Coyne’s ambitions have gotten more psychedelic. And this was the most fun I have ever had at a concert when the set list was no where near one that I would have put together myself (more on that later).
So for this show, there were giant costumed characters on stage, there was a gigantic wall of video screens, there were confetti guns (mounted as well as hand held) and there were balloons (much bigger balloons than last time). And yes, Wayne crawled out in the hamster ball.
The show started a little late–Wayne apologized that they will be the only band at Musikfest who were delayed because they were “waiting for one of our giant mushrooms to get ready.” But before their set started, Stephen and Wayne came out on stage to test some things–it was weird seeing them just casually walking around.
I enjoy nearly all of the Lips’ output, but there is some that I like more (obviously). So it was weird to recognize some songs but not really know them. The fact that they opened with a song from 1995’s Clouds Taste Metallic, was a huge surprise Although I see that they have been opening with “The Abandoned Hospital Ship” for a while now. The song starts slow, and on stage they were joined by giant mushrooms and a rainbow.
And then, when the song kicked into high gear, the whole stage exploded–gigantic lights behind the band lit up confetti cannons shot and enormous balloons fell on us. It was so much fun and so much excitement, that yes, I may not even remember much of the song.
Then the band played the fantastic “Fight Test” (from Yoshimi, an album they played three songs from). The crowd was totally into it as the balloons bounced around.
And then they surprised me by playing “She Don’t Use Jelly.” I don’t have anything against this song at all, in fact I rather like it, but they have released so much music since that track, and it is kind of a novelty hit that I am so surprised it is til in their repertoire. And yet it is so much fun to hear live. The song was extended because Wayne was running around shooting off confetti cannons.
At some point new creatures came out on stage–giant caterpillar things and a big sun (later there were giant aliens as well). It was so funny to see them helping these participants on and off stage (no mention of who was in the costumes).
And then Wayne pulled out the biggest balloon ever: One that read, as the picture shows: Fuck Yeah Bethlehem (where does one even get a balloon like that?) After singing with it for a few verses, he threw it out into the audience, and we all passed it back over our heads.
After these upbeat songs, the band jumped into “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung” (one of four songs from At War with the Mystics). A much darker (mostly) instrumental song. This song was all about the visuals (and Wayne’s gigantic gong that lit up when he hit it. And they jammed it for a pretty long time.
At one point Wayne was given a ukulele. i assume he was actually playing it but it’s main function was used to pop the even bigger balloons that were hurled at him from the side of the stage. They were filled with confetti so when they burst, confetti went everywhere. They also threw these huge balloons at us. I have two great videos of this, but i can’t ever seem to get videos to link here, so you can see them here and here.
Incidentally, in 2000 there were three guys on stage. This time there were seven, with two drummers, a guitarist and two multi- instrumentalists. On the right side of the stage there’s Michael Ivins (still there, but even more low key than in the past) playing a grounding bass. There’s Matt Duckworth who is beating the everliving crap out of his drums. He hits a cymbal like he’s trying to break it. It’s really intense. And in front of them is Jake Ingalls. Ingalls stands to play guitar but more often is seated (criss cross applesauce) playing with keyboards and whatever else he’s go on the floor in front of him).
On the other side is percussionist Nick Ley, guitarist Derek Brown and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Steven Drozd. Drozd is simply amazing to watch perform–he plays guitar and keyboard at the same time. He sings backing vocals and he has all kinds of gadgets and noisemakers and other things in front of him. Sadly, I have no good photos of that side of the stage–they always seemed to be in darkness. Even when Drozd came on stage before the show (in pretty bright daylight) I couldn’t get a good picture of him–he must have a forcefield around him. But that’s Drozd in the silver cape (both drummers had green wigs on too).
Then Wayne got us to sing the “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” (he informed us that the lyrics were mostly “yeah yeah yeah.” And that song rocked and was fun. And then the show stopping super fun “Yoshimi , Pt 1.” Earlier in the show he was swinging around a carpenter’s light by its cord. For this song he had a big silver pompom that he was waving around.
Then the band went back to the Clouds album for the lengthy jam fest of “Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus With Needles” (a trippy song, obviously). Speaking of trippy, this show surprised me by having the least amount of pot smell of any of the recent shows I’ve been to. And I mean, you totally didn’t need it with the videos and everything else going around, but it still surprised me. A friend suggested that everyone must be doing mushrooms instead. More shocking was the three kids in front of (with an aduilt accompanying) who were vaping in front of me. The one kid was no taller than Clark (although he was obviously not ten). What the hell, random dad? Another what the hell is directed to the woman who sat through the whole show! Everyone was on their feet, but she reamined planted the whole time. I ever heard her boyfriend say “why don’t you stand like everyone else.” So when Wayne crawled right over her, she was still seated. What the hell, random girl?
But imagine my sheer delight when he crawled the hamster ball right over my section! I was taking a video of him crawling towards us and then you see me swing the camera down in order to support the ball! He made his way out to a platform at the end of our section ( I noticed it on the way out). Where he stood and sang the rest of “Vein of Stars.”
For the return back to stage, he once again crawled over us. That’s his arm in the orange jacket (which had rubber duckies on the shoulders). And the band played “Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die” (the only song from their latest album The Terror).
At this point, the back door of the stage opened again, and Wayne was wheeled out on a giant platform that had a video screen on it (making a seamless picture) with the wall behind them. He chatted with us a bit about CHAPPO and doing drugs (I think my kids would have really enjoyed the visuals of the show; however, this one section (and the Fuck Yeah balloon) were the only things that were not kid friendly about the show (oh, and that whole backing video of the naked women dancing, oops)–although I would never bring a seven or ten year old to a Lips show, let’s be clear). They returned to Mystics for “The W.A.N.D.” a rousing song, and then back to Bulletin for the more mellow “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton.” Spoonful ends with the word Love, and Wayne asked us to sing it as loud as we could so people would think it was coming from a UFO.
The show was not even two hours (very short by recent concert standards) and the songs they played were deep cuts (many of them jammed for seven or eight minutes). I could list thirteen different songs that I would have liked them to play more. And yet it was so much fun. So joyful and inspirational. So…happy. Even if you don’t know the Flaming Lips, they are an amazing band live.
I don’t know how much fun they would be if you aren’t in Row H, although I’m sure those balloons made it all the ya to the back. On the bus ride back to the parking area, people were just covered with confetti and glitter and sharing pictures and raving about the show.
Also, the CHAPPO guys took this cool photo from backstage. You can really see what’s going on here.
||New York (Irving Plaza) 2000
|The Abandoned Hospital Ship||Race for the Prize|
|Fight Test||The Gash|
|She Don’t Use Jelly||The Spark That Bled|
|Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung||A Spoonful Weighs a Ton|
|The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)||Lightning Strikes the Postman|
|Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus With Needles||Feeling Yourself Disintegrate|
|Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1||Sleeping on the Roof|
|Feeling Yourself Disintegrate||The Spiderbite Song|
|Vein of Stars||She Don’t Use Jelly|
|Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die||What Is the Light?|
|The W.A.N.D.||Waitin’ for a Superman|
|A Spoonful Weighs a Ton||When You Smile|
|Do You Realize??|