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Concert Review: The Flaming Lips (Austin/Denton, 3/12-3/13)

March 23, 2010

So, who knew I was MEGA-excited about seeing The Flaming Lips, especially seeing them two nights back-to-back??  I know, you’d have never guessed it!  I’ve barely had time to let it sink in that I actually saw them twice in a row (and once from about 5 feet away) because of all the SXSW craziness, but needless to say, it was one of the best concert experiences ever.  So let’s dive right in, shall we?

One of the things I find most endearing about The Flaming Lips is how accessible Wayne Coyne is at their shows.  I’ve been to plenty of concerts, and you would be hard-pressed to find the headlining frontman visible on stage during the opening act, and you certainly wouldn’t find him doing his own soundcheck.  The Flaming Lips and their certifiably weird leader practically have a cult-like following of fans and are one of the most influential bands in history.  Considering those things, I think it’s fantastic that Wayne is still such a big part of the show’s set-up and as soundcheck ended at both shows, he came out to let the audience know that he’d be right back.

As in the Lips tradition, both shows began with Wayne in the iconic plastic bubble.  Things went swimmingly in the Austin Music Hall, where they were able to set up a ramp straight into the audience, but things were a bit different at NX35.  Before the show, Wayne had to plan with the security guards how he was going to get into the audience (watch a short video of their exchange here).  Though the planning seemed to go perfectly – the show began with the psychedelic video screen and um, vaginal imagery, the bubble inflated, and Wayne was carried out into the audience – when something completely unpredictable disrupted the party instead.

Once the whole place went black, you can kind of see Wayne panicking a bit and it’s understandable why…if you were in a giant plastic bubble being held up by hundreds of drunk people in the dark, wouldn’t you want to be put down as soon as possible?  When he got back to the stage, he kindly took the time to explain that the power had blown (watch him talk about it here).  It was unfortunate that the NX35 audience didn’t get to experience the whole bubble encounter, but the whole scene was pretty priceless anyway.

After the lights came back up, the show proceeded as normal.  For both the Austin and the Denton show, the Lips played mostly songs from their hardcore experimental 2009 release Embryonic including “Worm Mountain,” “See the Leaves,” “Silver Trembling Hands,” and “Convinced of the Hex.”  In Austin, the audience was treated to an acoustic guitar performance of “Yoshimi” and in Denton, that performance was preceded by a short acoustic version of “Watching the Planets.”  Of course the Lips also played their hits and crowd favs, including “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” and “In the Morning of Magicians,” with “Do You Realize??” as the closer.

Click the jump to read the rest of my review, plus my thoughts on the Austin Music Hall and NX35!!

At both shows, Wayne dedicated “Waiting for a Superman” to his friend Mark Linkous.  In the closed surroundings of the Austin Music Hall, it was a gorgeous and touching moment that brought tears to many people’s eyes; directly after this song at NX35, another power outage brought levity to the festival crowd and gave Wayne the opportunity to talk about toaster ovens and housewives.

Because the Austin show was full-length, we were treated to several more songs than NX35, including the Lips’ one and only super-hit “She Don’t Use Jelly.”  Despite playing this song for the better part of 15 years (and it being nowhere near as brilliant as most of their other work), their performance really exemplifies why people love The Flaming Lips so much.

And in fact, several of their performances are infused with this same sense of pure joy and just plain fun.  Coupled with the ecstatic dancers they pull from the audience for each show, raining pounds of confetti, crazy visualizations, laser pointers and/or giant laser hands, and their charismatic frontman, attending a Flaming Lips show is one of the greatest times at a concert you’ll ever have.  Even at the end of NX35 when their set had to be cut short because of the power outages, Wayne somehow made it okay by preempting any audience irritation with his infectious good will and humor.

Check out more of my newly uploaded Flaming Lips pics on my Flickr page.

Now, I’ll take the opportunity to say a couple of words about the Austin Music Hall.  I hated it.  As a venue, it totally sucked (in my opinion of course).  The line to get in wrapped around downtown for numerous blocks…and we got there more than 30 minutes after the doors were supposed to open.  Downstairs, about a third of the places to stand had some sort of structure blocking the stage, and upstairs was even more annoying.  Even though it was easier to see the stage (which made it worth it for me), security guards were constantly patrolling the walkway and stair areas INSTEAD OF JUST CLOSING OFF THE UPSTAIRS ONCE IT GOT FULL.  They continued to let people come up, crowd the walkways, and then distract everyone standing in a legitimate place by shooing people away with flashlights.  And after the show, we were stuck in the State Parking Garage across the way for close to 30 minutes – like literally, can’t back out of your space stuck – before police came to direct traffic.  Come on Austin Music Hall, there has to be a better way.

As for the Big NX35 Saturday Show, despite the power outages and a bit of behind-the-scenes confusion, I think the whole thing was run really well and efficiently.  I didn’t see any problems with lines, people were calm and orderly, parking and leaving were shockingly easy (especially compared to anything in downtown Austin), and official employees and security were kind and laid-back.  We even got invited to someone’s house post-show to imbibe “gallons of liquor.”  Though we didn’t take the fella up on his offer, it doesn’t get friendlier than that, folks.  I’m only sorry that I couldn’t have come earlier in the week and stayed for the whole festival.  Check out a couple of NX35 pics on my Flickr page, including an adorable guy holding up the official Silver Trembling Fetus Christmas ornament.

That wraps up two weekends ago…stay tuned for my SXSW reviews and recap, starting tomorrow!

One Comment leave one →
  1. seanningham permalink*
    March 23, 2010 9:40 pm

    Awesome pics, great review. Way to blog, AGMG!

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