“Is everybody ready to go crazy a little bit?” said Wayne Coyne, the leader of Falming Lips. “This is the first night of the festival so there’s no excuse for you not to have energy, and enthusiasm, and love!”
Coyne was absolutely correct, and we didn’t disappoint nor did the musical collective on stage composed of Flaming Lips and Dennis Coyne’s band Star Death and White Dwarfs. Dennis Coyne is Wayne’s nephew. He and the rest of the members of Star Death and White Dwarfs are full time roadies for Flaming Lips.
Regardless, what we gave them in energy they gave right back to us in production value. Let me attempt to put this as clearly as possible. What happened on this night was not a show. Classifying it as a concert would be unfair. And it was much more than simply a performance. Pardon my language, but for lack of better adjectives I can only describe what took place justly by calling it a FUCKING PRODUCTION. The only thing missing was a parade of elephants
The Lips and company had two-hours to play. They broke it up into halves. The first hour was all their hits and during the second half, for only the second time in the band’s history, Flaming Lips performed Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in its entirety. Tonight I witnessed something special and I will never truly be able to explain it well enough to you. You had to be there. For this I apologize. But it won’t keep me from trying. Drink it in readers.
I you will, picture a giant projector screen in the shape of an arch. It runs the length of a stage cloaked in fog and currently displays a blue, nude, female with orange hair frantically racing toward the audience, seemingly getting nowhere fast, ominous tones being played over this one-woman track meet.
Finally she starts creeping closer and closer. She is huge now. Most of her body is no longer on the screen. It’s just a torso and little lower now and she is still gaining ground. The mystery woman comes closer and closer until only her vagina is left on the screen. It glows piecing rainbow colors now. The screen is so bright I can barely stand to look. Suddenly, a door inside this digital birth canal bursts open and out walks the band one by one. They walk to their instruments, Coyne gets into a giant blowup hamster ball and literally rolls into the audience while the band rolls into “The Fear,” a spacey noise rock jam that does just as the title implies, freaking out the girl behind me that confidently stated only a few minutes ago that she “dropped six and a half tabs [of acid] prior to this” and she “feels fine.”
It’s during the third song where shit goes wild. The Lips play the first few notes of their biggest hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly,” and the audience erupts. When Coyne starts into the first chorus he calls for the largest confetti explosion I have ever seen. Picture the worst blizzard you have ever had the displeasure of driving through. Now pretend your wipers are frozen to the windshield and the snow is blinding. This mass of confetti was worse than that. I’m talking 2.73% visibility.
But Coyne was far from finished with his shenanigans. He calls for the roadies to start chucking giant balloons into the crowd for us to play with.
“I’m pissed dude,” I overhear a shirtless male standing next to me say to his friend. “I don’t have any drugs in me for this.”
“I saw The Lips three days ago with no drugs,” replied his friend, “believe me, you’ll be fine.”
The guy was right. I’ve never done a hallucinogenic drug in my life, and I was tripping balls. I didn’t know if what I was seeing was happening or not, my depth perception had floated away with the last balloon that passed overhead, it was pandemonium, and I loved every second of it.
If your mind has not yet blown, try to imagine the confetti explosions, the naked blue and pink women racing around in the background, the giant balloons, Wayne Coyne firing more confetti into the audience out of a hand cannon, and fresh layers of fog pumped onto the stage. All of this took place for several other songs including “The Yeah Yeah Song,” “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1,” “Pompeii Am Gotterdamerrung,” and the closing number of the first half “Do You Realize.” It was absolute madness. And one of the trippiest albums ever constructed by man had yet to be played.
The Lips came back out on stage and ran through Speak To Me/Breathe and On The Run before pausing. Wayne Coyne had something to say before the band took on the Pink Floyd classic “Time.”
“What time is it Bonnaroo,” asked Coyne. “I propose that at this time, a yea from now, that everybody here has made it so that marijuana is legal in America…[pause for audience applause]…Everybody has talked about it, everybody has dreamed about it. I’d say if we really mean it, everybody is going to come back here a year from now and marijuana is going to be made legal in America because we’ve all made it possible.”
At this point in the story I realize I have been focusing on all the lights, confetti, and balloons, and have not given enough credit to the musicians for their playing ability. This is the band’s 27th year in business so the playing is tight. However, the thing about Flaming Lips music is that it “is” about all the bells and whistles. The actual music is almost secondary. It’s one of those situations where if you don’t notice the music, then The Lips and Company have done their job. And just for the record, Pink Floyd’s “Time” is a very bluesy, barroom-type jam that The Lips played to perfection.
When The Lips started into Money, Coyne again started chucking balloons into the audience. This time however, the difference was, well, “money.” Coyne had these balloons filled with cash before hurling them into the gathered mass. Just a band giving back to its fans I suppose.
I can only describe what I saw in detail for so long. I can however describe how I felt and in a word, mesmerized. I have never been mesmerized before. I have never stared at something and gotten lost in it for a long period of time. Sure I’ve day dreamed before, everyone has, but for two hours on a Friday night in Manchester, Tennessee I was in complete awe of what was playing out before me. I imagine that type of bewilderment can only occur when a person experiences something for the first time that is so grandiose they never believed anything like it was possible. That explains my reaction.
In closing Coyne said something that stuck with me. I can’t quite remember the exact quote but it meant a lot to me and went along the lines of: When you look back on this show and your time here at Bonnaroo, don’t look at in terms of what bands you saw or how many bands you saw. Look at it in terms of who you were with for the experience. It’s the people you surround yourself with in life and the experiences you share with them that make it all worth it. Without your friends, without people who care about you, you’ll miss out on a lot of the fun this life has to offer.
“Let them know you realize that life goes fast. It’s hard to make the good things last. You realize the sun doesn’t go down? It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.” -Flaming Lips, Do You Realize