All of your friends are standing in line

Hours after a rain storm the size of Belgium hit Gainesville, a second storm - more metaphorical in character - returned the favour. More on that later.

As I said last week, I was pretty excited - stoked, in the parlance of our times - to see the Flaming Lips. About four thousand people were, too - a great turnout for a free show. Considering it was a free, open-air show, the bands had to contend with playing in front of mostly people who didn't know their songs. No matter.

The Rapture went for a lean set - no room for the more spaced-out noodling tracks from 'Echoes', preferring the more instant, accessible tunes. Pretty much every song I wanted to hear was in there - 'Pieces of the People We Love', 'Sister Savior', 'Killing', 'W.A.Y.U.H.', 'Heaven', 'Get Myself Into It'... Luke kept doing that thing where he shoots the audience with his guitars, but the crowd interaction was pretty limited. Still, people were dancing, and their set worked in the glorious sunshine very well.

The downside with seeing the Flaming Lips is that their stage set-up takes the best part of an hour. Maybe they were just killing time, waiting for it to get dark, because the light show would've been much less effective otherwise. Any question about whether the long wait was worth it was quickly answered as Wayne came out in his giant hamsterball and rode over everyone like a human manifestation of joy and indomitable spirit.

As I suggested the other day, it's really hard to write about the Lips live experience without sounding like a twat. It doesn't matter that they only play ten songs. It doesn't matter that it gets really cold. It doesn't matter that the prevailing winds are blowing all the balloons and streamers behind the stage. It doesn't matter that most of the projections were the same as they've been for at least five years. It certainly didn't matter that, as I said, most people weren't familiar with the tunes.

...because the Lips are so fucking endearing. Wayne is always happy to be playing - he's genuinely happy to be playing a free gig, he's genuinely happy that his nephew's band played earlier in the evening, he's genuinely happy to be here. There are girls in alien suits on one side, dudes in Santa Claus suits on the other. One guitar has a mobile phone stuck to it, the other has an iPod and two necks. There are lots of balloons, one of which is a beast, finger puppets, penguins, singalongs, anti-Bush tirades, hands-in-the-air-moments, and the sentence "I was worried that the lady on stilts might get her abdomen sliced off by the laser"... Only a monkey could have made this show better.

I've never been too hot on any of their albums individually, so it's always great to see that the live show captures their best songs. Oh, and 'YYY Song' was the best of the night - made me appreciate it a lot more than on wax, so there.

Go and see them before you die - you won't regret it.

Race for the Prize, (Instrumental), Free Radicals, Fight Test, Yoshimi..., Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, Vein Of Stars, Waitin' for a Superman, She Don't Use Jelly, Do You Realize??

[download The Flaming Lips - Yeah Yeah Yeah Song]

Pics by Rafael Rodriguez


Jon said...

Your writing is excellent as always. Their show really was something you just need to see at least once. It's akin to a musical traveling circus.

Lauren said...

I already told you this, but i'm saying it again--i really enjoyed this post. And it's not just because i was there, but because it accurately (and amazingly) described the experience.

And it was an experience, to say the least.

(Also, your friend is right. It WAS like a musical circus. And i know circuses. There was even balancing. But no perch. Sigh.)

bigshoulders said...

nice review of the Gainesville show!
I was at the Raleigh show 2 nights ago and wrote about it as well...
I'm just perusing the blog-dom, reading others' accounts of their FLips experience.

I love the Hamsterball! No way that it could be used indoors, though...
Point goes to the outdoor venue for that one!


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