Planted amongst the crush of photographers' by the stage and fearing electrocution as my feet tangled among the coiled cables, every now and then Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips would pop out to check the mikes and oversee the stage logistics, which is something I usually don't see performers do for themselves. I now see this as part of his loving attention to detail (and no doubt, a healthy interest in his own safety). Wayne Coyne is going to -- by God – make sure you have a good time at a Flaming Lips concert or die trying.
The preparations for the show resembled operations on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier minus the huge, glittering disco balls dangling overhead. But when your act features smoke, gongs, confetti blasters, huge plastic bubbles, streamers and and dancing girls and boys for starters, there's a lot of gear and blocking involved.
Photographers had to make way in the pit for the huge, plastic bubble that Coyne regularly uses to commune with the crowd during the opening of the concert, which blazes forth into life (metaphorically) as band members step through a doorway that, moments before, was a psychedelic video display of a highly stylized, light-pulsing vagina. It's that kind of show. While there's so much going on in those first few frenetic minutes, it's easy to lose track of the actual music, but in this case, I believe it was “Worm Mountain.”
Once we were ejected from the pit and Coyne had dismounted the man-sized Grizzly Bear, I returned to my viewing spot, and they launched into “She Don't Use Jelly,” a hit that even non-Lips fans would probably recognize. From there, the audience was treated to non-stop visual spectacle as the Lips unwound songs that accompanied pleas for peace, love, and the transmission of joyful vibes out into a world stressed with fear and unending war.
Throughout the night Coyne is alternately a kiddie sing-alonger, drum major, circus master, and cheerleader, singing, “I Can be a Frog,” “In the Morning of the Magicians,” “See the Leaves,” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” which I, no doubt, have all out of order. But I do know that the show ended with a classic Lips song that translates as a joyfully gentle blessing of the throng, “Do You Realize?” It was a fitting coda to a Festival that – even where it falls short at times – aspires to the ideal of people living in cooperation with their fellow human beings and the earth, and the hope that like-minded people can make a difference.