The Scene: It was, in several ways, the mid-winter Woodstock complete with hippies in boots and hats. It was snowy, cold, icy, and muddy . . . oh so muddy. Everyone was doing their best to avoid sloshing through puddles and slipping down the ice and mud covered hill that led to the main concert field. While there were plenty of under 21 year olds wandering around, the average age seemed to be in the low to mid 20’s. Honestly, this festival was lacking many of the things that make festivals so much fun, sun, green grass, and the warmth of summer, but what it lacked in environmental comforts it made up for in one single act, The Flaming Lips.
The Flaming Lips: As the snow fell steadily and the crowd huddled together to stay warm, an army of brightly dressed stagehands scurried around the stage putting the final touches on one of the most elaborate stage set-ups that is currently touring the festival circuit. There were megaphones, white amplifiers, confetti cannons, a giant LED screen, microphone stands laden down with cameras and other gadgets and of course, the inflatable space bubble that’s big enough for The Flaming Lips frontman, Wayne Coyne, to get inside and walk on top of the crowd. It’s quite a spectacle as it’s being set up, let alone when things get started.
The band was introduced and appeared through a door in the middle of the LED screen before the bubble began to inflate and Coyne stepped inside. He rolled right off the front of the stage and out into a crowd who was more than happy to receive him on their outstretched hands. His short tour on top of the audience left many smiling faces in his wake and the band raged through “The Fear” behind him as Caterpillars and Butterflies danced happily in the wings of the stage.
When Coyne made his way back to the stage to sing “Worm Mountain,” the true mayhem ensued as he unleashed countless brightly colored balloons into the audience, smoke machines filled the chilly air, and the confetti cannons began to pump the skies full of pink, orange, and yellow. It was a true spectacle that almost out shined the two Embryonic songs that were the soundtrack.
Coyne then pulled the old school fans into the mix when he launched into a trio of the bands best known songs, “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” and “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt 1.” This got the crowd heavily involved as they sang at the top of their lungs and struggled to take in the surreal world that surrounded them as the snow continued to fall from the darkening sky.
Things went from strange to downright out of this world when Coyne donned a pair of giant hands for the instrumental track “Laser Hands” and the disco ball that had been hanging above the stage began to descend as if beckoned by Coyne’s huge hands. The crowd erupted when the lights went out and lasers shot from the palms of the hands on to the disco ball creating a burst of laser light that danced and stretched to all corners of the park.
As the show, and the spectacle that surrounded it, drew to close, Coyne slowed things down for the bands anthem, “Do You Realize.” Even as I walked toward the exits, I could hear thousands of voices singing along in perfect unison. In many ways the cold, mud, and snow added to the surreal experience that is always a Flaming Lips show. It was a unique experience and well worth the drive home over Vail Pass in nearly white-out conditions.
Silver Trembling Hands
She Don’t Use Jelly
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1
See The Leaves
The Ego’s Last Stand
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
What Is The Light?
Do You Realize??
Race For The Prize
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: A+
All photos by Tim Dwenger