A last look at the Flaming Lips' 24-hour tour, this time with video.
A week ago at the time I'm writing, I was on the press bus following The Flaming Lips' entourage out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi as the band tried to set the Guinness World Record for Most Concerts in a 24-Hour Period. I wrote the story for Spin.com, and you can see it here. Here are the odds and ends - observations and moments that didn't make it into that story for one reason or another. Note that most of the links are to video footage from the O Music Awards broadcast and the live performances:
- I was having doubts about The Flaming Lips before this tour, and wondered if confetti cannons and the spaceball had become bits of Kiss-like shtick that couldn't be retired and prevented additional innovation. Those elements may now be carved in stone, but the 24-hour tour took a lot of chances as the band performed two unreleased songs, five songs from The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, and six covers (Led Zeppelin's "The Song Remains the Same" and "The Rain Song," David Bowie's "Heroes," Jackson Browne's "These Days," The Police's "Invisible Sun" and King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man"). They threw in one oldie ("Be My Head") and did all the shows but Memphis and New Orleans without the usual production. In most cases, without any production. Jackson had a little smoke, and one of the traveling fans worked his way to the back of the stage and trained a blue laser on a mirror ball that another touring fan was holding at the back of the room, but for the most part, the band had to rely on itself to put across a lot of little-known material and songs that weren't part of its usual repertoire. It also put a lot of trust in its fans that they wouldn't revolt at getting a 15-minute show. In a year that also saw the release of the 24-hour song, I walked away thinking there's still a lot of adventure left in the band.
- A cool moment: In Memphis, the city's mayor was to welcome the band to Memphis for the start of the O Music Awards broadcast online. Wayne Coyne came to the side of the stage to get the mayor's name. He asked someone who turned to ask someone, the second someone being Jody Stephens, the drummer for Big Star, who still lives in Memphis and runs Ardent Studios. He answered, "A.C. Wharton," while drummer Kliph Scurlock was wearing a Big Star T-shirt onstage.
- Alex V. Cook saw the Baton Rouge show and ended his take (which includes part of our Facebook conversation) with this spot-on rationale for continuing to stay with The Flaming Lips, even if the odds against ever getting another The Soft Bulletin grow daily:
I work with the campus radio station. I walked by and heard that cursed Gotye song and the announcer said it was a request. I remarked that I request that we remove that song from all playlists. We've gleaned all we can glean from this group, and got a "why you wanna be like that?" look. I try to avoid nostalgia but when I roamed those very halls twenty years ago and a little song by a little band called Nirvana hit it big, we dropped it like a bad habit. Not because it was suddenly a bad song, but because we had a post-adolescent, Quixotic mission to be different.
The Flaming Lips aim their lances those same windmills in the Corporatized Now. Sure VH1 and a list of companies were behind this thing, and sure some of their endeavors seem more Jackass than Jimi Hendrix, but they are weird! I like weird! Please, somebody be weird! Mark Leyner said in Et Tu, Brute that "All acts of creativity are acts of patricide. You must always kill the father." and even though I am now a father, I still think that's true. I can take it. Eighties music wasn't even that good in the actual Eighties. Blaze a trail, you lazy bums. Do something that has me stumped.
- The O Music Awards broadcast reminded me of classic MTV without the videos, and if someone did that online on a regular basis - the return of the VJ, complete with interviews and curated, varied videos of people we ought to know about now, I'd watch it. The middle of the night got pretty out there as Grace Potter was, in Coyne's estimation, "pretty drunk," and the morning featured Hunter Hayes playing "Wanted" to four young fans who were in danger of blushing themselves to death, but all of that was real and the kind of thing I'm dying to find on television. The shtickier elements felt forced and didn't work (a visit to a fireworks stand on Highway 61 where Coyne and MTV's McKenna find - surprise! - former Jackass Chris Pontius; the appearance of Spring Break bikini-clad dancers poolside in Biloxi), but those were always part of the mix and they rarely worked. But you watched on the off chance that the shtick would pay off or - better - that it would fail gloriously and memorably.
- The stop in Hattiesburg was a great reminder of how much rock 'n' roll means to people. I assume the bar had been full since 6 a.m. if not before, but there were still hundreds of people of all ages hanging around to see what happened and to hear what they could. Since the stage was right inside the front window, I expect they heard a fair amount. I looked through the window at people outside during "Do You Realize?" and saw obviously emotional faces. But more important than that it was good or bad was that it was there.
You could feel the moment when the summer sun was officially up for the day as a sigh rolled through the crowd like the wave as it hit people, but it didn't change anything. It was enough of an event that one news station sent a reporter to cover the scene. When she went live, someone had to call out, "Baba Booie!" Some things never change.
O Music Awards