Thursday, April 19, 2007

Freaks, Geeks, Dwarfs, Confetti, Yoshimi, Lips ablaze and a Ninja Turtle


Having Nancy, the GPS with attitude as our co-pilot, my motley crew took off from the Queen City via 85N to this great state’s capital city to feast our eyes on the myriad of explosions in sound and sight known as The Flaming Lips. A brief stop at my new favorite convenient store (Sheetz) where sandwiches were ordered with kiosks and my partners in crime ogled the overwhelming selection of goods and treats offered (make yourself milkshakes, 12 pots of various coffees, hard boiled eggs and grapes etc.) we were fast on our way to industrial Raleigh, a real treat if you’ve never visited.

We arrived just as Nancy predicted at 7:08pm and were greeted to the neon pink and blue sign stating simply Rodeo Disco; we had arrived. Rodeo Disco is no ordinary venue and the Flaming Lips are no ordinary band. This part time music venue shares its walls as Raleigh’s finest Latino dance club, housing room for no more than 800. Fully decked out with raised wooden dance floor equipped with greasy Latino mirrors so’s that Paco can watch himself execute the Electric Salsa to perfection and drive the ladies loco. This place was legit. All the signage was in Spanish, the bar serves up the coldest Corona, Tecate and Modelo this side of the border and when the DJ from 90.7fm EL REY tackles the tables you best be ready to groove, groove like the freak you know you are. Just be sure not to wear your shorts, else you not be permitted Gringo!

The moment I saw the stage splattered with oranges, reds, greens and blues, balanced by walls of sound on each side and confetti cannons aimed towards the heavens I cursed myself for adhering to the rules and leaving the camera in the car. It was a rookie mistake and not one that will happen again. I will do my best to convey the on goings of the show and trust that the readers can use their own imagination to recreate these splendid images with their mind’s eye and some stolen pics.

Never Mind the Bullocks, Here’s Star Death and White Dwarfs!

We found a spot in the balcony, giving us ideal vantage and quick access to the bar. We were the envy of all other concertgoers. After an awkward hour of standing around watching a grown man dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and teenagers clad in ‘I don’t fit in at High School so this is my chance to show who I really am’ costumes and downing a few cold ones Star Death and White Dwarfs, from Lips home state of Oklahoma, finally took the stage.

Lead singer, Dennis Coyne (which I did not realize until now shares the same last name with lead Lip, Wayne Coyne…coincidence???) was decked out in a green jumpsuit and was ready to rock, but to everyone’s dismay he stood a near 6 foot in height, WTF?!?

The Dwarfs were nothing to write home about, but they did have a strong early Lips feel to them, which I’m sure Wayne and Co. relate with. The high note of their set was a drum-bass solo that came in the second to last song. The beat was heavy but fast with a techno feel. Kliph Scurlock (drummer for Lips, who could easily pass as Smokey from Lebowski) could be seen just offstage hitting note for note in the air with Dwarf kicks man. At close of the song the crowd gave a boisterous vote of approval and then kept the enthusiasm going as Kliph took the stage and manned the drums for the final song. There was a strong parent-child feel between these two bands as post set Kliph was busy giving pointers to the young drummer and the rest of the averagely heightened Dwarfs took down their equipment and set up for the main act.

Over the PA played a quirky song in which the chorus was ‘The Flaming Lips,’ the machines began to pump out white clouds while the crowd crew closer and “the room was filled with smoke and apprehension.”

Characters from the Cartoon Network hurriedly dispensed hand held light lasers to all in the audience and then with a burst of light and pouring down of confetti, giant balloons, search lights and lasers the Lips ripped into It Overtakes Me and the production was under way!

Zeppelin cover, automated bugle belting out taps, enveloping orange confetti, young girls in purple “alien” mini-skirts with search lights, 7 dancing Santa Clauses, Yoshimi and the Chiquita Banana in the crowd, iPods and cell phones taped to guitars, clips from appearances on the Jon Stewart Show, 90210 and a topless girl doing kung fu on the projection screen, Wayne wielding dual streamer loaded guns, swinging bulb lights around his head in halos, a singing Nun hand-puppet and giant foam hands…the Lips perform like no one else.

Wayne leads the way for this group as a true showman, entertaining with antidotes, jokes, and an overwhelming appreciation for the fans. When it came time to sing the Yeah Yeah Yeah Song Wayne went on a lengthy spiel about the Bush administration and then asked for audience participation to ring out the ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ with all our might. The crowd was so engrossed by this point of the show that the response took the band off guard and Steven Drozd (percussion, bass, guitar, keys/synth) lost his place and had to start the song over. When the song commenced Wayne offered his blessing to the audience, bowed and thanked them for being such an active participant to the show and for being such loyal fans. You could see and hear the sincerity in his voice as he commended the legions for being supportive of each other and his band, which ‘gives them the courage to create and perform.’ It was just a feel good kinda night all around…and the crowd ate it up.

As the show heated up so did the temperature. The small venue was packed to the brim and the swelter of the crowd never allowed the swell of energy to settle. At the point in the show where Captain America leads the audience in a chant, he was unsure what to do as he told Wayne “I don’t think they need to be any more fired up.” To cool us off a bit Wayne used a leaf blower with giant balloon attached; growing and growing until bursting with the drum roll and mounds of confetti and streamers. Wayne then used the blower to cool off band mates and fans.

In homage to the support Wayne lead a sing along into A Spoonful Weighs a Ton, asking that at the end of the song that everyone turned to whoever it was that they had come with and tell them you love them. “Yelling as hard as they can, The doubters all were stunned, Heard louder than a gun, The sound they made was love”

Other highlights included Waiting for Superman (note Superman and Spiderman on stage), Do You Realize?, Fight Test, Free Radicals, W.A.N.D., Yoshimi Pt. 1, some of the older hard psychedelic material from later year they dedicated to the Dwarfs and of course She Don’t Use Jelly; which like Beck’s Loser and Radiohead’s Creep, has become a label they can’t erase so rather than fight it they embrace.

Mid point of the set the screen instructed the audience to “Point your lasers at Wayne in 10…9…8…7…when the clock ended every laser aimed at Wayne and the red beams illuminated the blurry smoke filled room and then Wayne retaliated with giant mirror, refracting the beams back on the audience. You just can’t make this stuff up folks.

Aside from being muy, muy caliente, no fake blood or globe trotting and a rather non existent presence from Michael Ivins (guitar and piano), who was decked out in skeleton costume, the band was on point and Kelph was “incendiary” on drums.

“Fuck, that’s good. I usually just dance around and not pay attention to the music, but I watched Kelph that time and he’s really fucking good.” –Wayne

Nothing is more satisfying for a fan than to see a band they love surpass all expectations and take the music to a level that puts it all in a new focus. I never dreamed all the nuances of the Lips sound would be duplicated in the live setting but they were, and some. As an overall production this show ranks among the best I have ever seen.

Justified. Satisfied. Mesmerized. Hypnotized.

When the two encores faded away and we left our casa musica I was left one thought…amazing.
SLIDESHOW: Lips at Rodeo

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