The Flaming Lips w/ Radiation City
First things first, let’s take a moment to examine the picture to the left. That is Fred Armisen, from the TV show Portlandia, beside Flaming Lips frontman, Wayne Coyne. In essence, it is one of the most amazing, incredible, epic photos I have ever taken. This can pretty much perfectly describe the whole experience of seeing The Flaming Lips for FREE on Sunday night. Amazing. Incredible. Epic.
Thanks to the MLS League, Portland came to host the annual MLS All-Star Week, which subjected us to a week of waterfront events, games, and two free concerts. On Sunday night, a mass of native Portlanders met up in the Waterfront Bowl to see psychedelic indie band, The Flaming Lips, no charge. For everyone there, it was a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. How often would you be able to see such a big name band in that kind of environment, and not pay a penny for it? Not too often.
After standing in the hot sun watching the Grilled Cheese Throwdown (congrats to the Grilled Cheese Grill for taking the prize), the afternoon/evening of music kicked off with local Portland band, Radiation City. Prior to this, I had seen Rad City once before, at the School of Rock’s Best Of Portland event in February (read the review here). I remember really liking them that night, and they still performed a solid set, however it wasn’t as amazing as I recall. The band performed what felt like an unusually short set, and this may have been due to the fact that they seemed to meld all their songs together. Don’t get me wrong, I love smooth transitions in a live set, but when the songs aren’t universally known and you don’t take the time to separate them and let us know what we’re hearing, it just feels sloppy and confusing.
Despite this, the crowd and I enjoyed the bit of local music in the mix. Before the Lips took the stage to perform, they came out to set up the stage with their psychedelic decor. Included was a mound of grass a human could fit inside, plenty of reflective materials, light-up tentacles galore, and plenty more. Now, I have a love/hate relationship with when the band themselves set up the stage. When it’s a smaller band, you could say I love it! When it’s a bigger name band though, I’m not sure if it takes away some of the magic of the moment they step out. But, I can definitely respect the sense that they don’t really give a shit about who they are. It’s an important factor in any act, and you can tell that ego certainly isn’t rupturing the Flaming Lips.
As the band took their places to begin their performance, a surprise guest stepped out to give them a proper introduction.
“We’ve got Fred to introduce us,” Coyne says.
Armisen runs out on stage, and for the first of three times… “Ladies and Gentleman, The Flaming Lips!”
What followed is a show that you really have to see to believe. Dancing mushrooms, a rainbow, some “worms that want to become butterflies”, the sun, aliens, a star, you really name it. The fun thing about the Flaming Lips is, though they really seem like a band you’d listen to while high on some sort of hallucinogens, that’s really unnecessary. Just watching them makes you know what that would feel like.
Wayne Coyne and the rest of the band really had the audience under some sort of spell. Every song seemed to lead into a mass singalong, especially standing out are “She Don’t Use Jelly”, “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots”, and “Do You Realize??”. Every track had the audience going absolutely insane, and it was a blast not only watching the band perform them, but the crowd watch. The Lips are true performers, and you can’t deny it at all.
Their show is absolutely spectacular. As I heard one member of the crowd say, “The Flaming Lips is an experience more than it is a show for the music.” In addition to the giant dancing inflatable objects, one highlight of the spectacle was a point in between two songs, in which Wayne disappears backstage, the band launches into a face-melting drum/keys/guitar solo, and Wayne reappears, enclosed in a giant hamster ball, which he then rides around the crowd, while singing the next song. Talent.
By far one of the greatest moments was the last track of the set, a cover of The Beatles’ famous song, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. While perched atop a giant colorfully paneled box, Coyne belted a truly original version of the track, which did not include Miley Cyrus (whew!)
All in all, the performance was memorable, and I think I can say in full confidence that not a single person present left disappointed.
Tonight (Tuesday, August 5th) you can catch the second MLS concert, Cold War Kids, at Pioneer Courthouse Square. We unfortunately will not be able to attend, but you can catch us at Friday night’s 94 cent show with Sir Sly (more info on our event page).