I was pretty convinced that the Flaming Lips weren't going to be able to bring their well-known, massive stage show inside Liberty Hall. I mean, c'mon - it's a huge, festival-style behemoth, and Liberty Hall is proudly a lovely, now century-old, small-town opera house. But I was wrong - there it was onstage, the story-tall LED oval from Wakarusas and many festivals past, surrounded by confetti cannons and spider-leg-looking LED tubes, primed to blind the 1,200-strong crowd.
Hometown boy and Lips drummer Kliph Scurlock took the stage sporting a Kevin Durant jersey and introduced Deerhoof as "my favorite band." The four members came to the stage, including the petite Satomi Matsuzaki. As they progressed through their set, I wondered about audience members who were unfamiliar with Deerhoof. Kliph's favorite band or not, it's not an easy listen for anyone who's not a fan of squalling, intensely discordant guitars. Those who love the music can see the deep technicality in it, particularly the drumming, and the band members' interplay. Deerhoof is the kind of band that I love to watch but don't go for much at home.
As the stagehands set up for the Lips' set, the audience was treated to multiple sightings of Wayne Coyne, who, about 10 minutes before the set, came out to prep the audience, providing a warning that the band uses a lot of smoke and a lot of lights. "Some people have a bad reaction. If the lights start to bother you, just don't look at them." He also asked that the audience take care of each other and not crush each other when he came out in his "space ball."
Once the set began, though, the band wasted no time going full-out spectacle. One by one, the Lips entered the stage through the LED screen (actually, through a glowing zoomed-in vagina on the screen), except for Coyne, who was already inside the inflating hamster/space ball. Fully inflated, he made his way over the floor crowd, to the glee of the fully camera-ready audience. Bright paper confetti exploded all over the crowd. The lights flashed. The spectacle of these shows may be well-documented, but it really, truly is fun, at points even joyful. Oh, and there were dancing girls dressed as Dorothy on both sides of the stage. I believe this is an improvement over the animal costumes, which I think are funny but must smell like a million foul armpits inside.
Musically, the most impressive member of the Lips is Stephen Drozd, who is an impressive musical experimenter in the way that Jonny Greenwood is for Radiohead - he uses effect after effect both on his instruments and his voice, even rapping his throat with his hands to get just the right warble to escape. And Coyne is the ringleader of the colorful circus, constantly begging the crowd for more and more noise, down on the ground and up on his feet, loving the attention. The audience gladly obliged. Though today they're probably feeling it a bit in the lungs: There was way, way too much smoke coming out of those fog machines. At one point in the show, the stage was barely visible.
Highlights included "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song," on which Wayne popped a huge balloon filled with confetti, and the encore, which included a King Crimson cover ("21st Century Schizoid Man") with Deerhoof, as well as the band's perennial closer, "Do You Realize?" Said Coyne, "Nobody else gets to play for an audience that's smiling the whole time... We love you, we love you, we love you, we love you." And this was just the Thursday show - tonight ought to be even bigger.
Sweet Leaf (Black Sabbath)
She Don't Use Jelly
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1
See the Leaves
Drug Machine in Heaven
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
What Is the Light?
20th Century Schizoid Man (King Crimson cover, with Deerhoof)
Do You Realize?