The Flaming Lips - Assassins of Youth [Live Video]
Directed by Wayne Coyne and Blake Studdard. From American Head, out now.
2020 is so weird. One day, maybe in a couple decades or so, people are going to look back at videos like this and wonder wtf was going on. Sort of like how we feel when we see photos of tuberculosis sanitariums from around the turn of the previous century.
But good for the Lips. Leave it to Wayne Coyne and his compatriots to figure out a way to host a real live rock concert in the middle of an infectious pandemic. Put everybody in their own individual space bubble. And why not? It looks fun. Might get a little stanky in there after a while, but it’s probably worth it. How bad do you miss live music?
Coyne says, “The job of the Flaming Lips is to get you in a room, get you excited, get you to forget about the world’s problems and entertain you for an hour. But if we do that without this pretty radical protection, then we’re going to kill you.”
Killing your fans is not a good business model for bands. But neither is patiently waiting for Congress to pass along some financial help to people who have been put out of work by this virus. Bands are getting creative, hosting livestreams and trying to stay connected with their audience online, upping their merch game, etc. But how much longer will they be able to pay their bills without touring? It’s a bad situation and it’s not getting better anytime soon.
I was young yesterday
But everything is changed after today
And I don’t know what to do
Oh my younger self, oh I miss you.
So maybe we should all buy ourselves a space bubble. It looks like you can buy them at Walmart for $159.99, which isn’t so bad. Product description is a little scary: “A sealed water ball has enough breathable air for an average sized person to stay inside for 15-20 minutes without refilling. YOU MUST CHANGE THE AIR AT LEAST EVERY 30 MINUTES FOR YOUR SAFETY.” So there are definitely some logistical issues to work out. We’d need to find a way to pump new covid-free air into the balls. Clubs might have to widen their doors a little so we can fit through. So I don’t know…
The more you learn about space bubbles, the more impressive it is that the Lips were able to pull this off with an audience of 100 fans!
Although you may have missed it, there was a boxing match on Tuesday, June 9, at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Although Vegas is generally thought of in the context of gambling and of performing artists who have passed their prime and are looking for a place where they can considerably cash in without having to do too much in the way of heavy lifting (i.e., odds are that if they are performing at Caesar’s or The Bellagio or wherever, they are comped a room such that they don’t need to worry about doing too much in the way of traveling, outside of an elevator ride), the Strip is all about boxing (which goes along with the whole gaming experience but which doesn’t go to the point of tired acts because old boxers aren’t in the game).
While I’ve never been to a bout live, I’ve seen some televised events and the thing that always puzzled me is why the people who are dressed to the proverbial nines have seats closest to the ring, given that the boxers tend to throw off as much perspiration as they do punches, so even in a world that doesn’t have a pandemic, that effluvium doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing that one would like to be doused with: Wouldn’t they be better off, say, in row 10?
Tuesday’s card was organized by a company named Top Rank that has been in existence since 1966 and has been behind 9,000 fights and 1,500 cards. Bob Arum, Top Rank founder, was early in the closed-circuit and pay-per-view models for fights. Presently it has a contract with ESPN to provide free boxing (well, at least free for those who have ESPN as part of their cable package, presumably).
In its self-definition, the company states flat-out: “Las Vegas-based Top Rank stands as the country’s premiere boxing promotions company for one reason: We take care of our fighters and our fans.”
And that “take care of” is more essential now than ever before.
To pull off the event, there was a comprehensive COVID-19 protocol for all those invited. According to ESPN, “Once fighters land in Vegas, teams are transported in a sanitized vehicle to take a PCR test, the results of which will take six hours. If a fighter or anyone on their team tests positive either at this test or at the test following the weigh-in, he or she is immediately quarantined, and the fight is off.”
If they are OK, “They’ll be taken up a back elevator to a designated floor in the hotel for Top Rank. No access will be granted by elevators for other hotel guests, and all movement to and from the floor will come from a back-of-house elevator.”
Then there is regular testing and isolation from the outside world.
The bouts took place with without fans. The people calling the fights were not in the immediate space of the ring. The fighters were, in effect, in a “bubble.”
A bigger bubble is planned to be inflated next month at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando: this for some 1,500 people associated with the National Basketball League.
The tentative schedule is for the players, coaches, etc. to arrive July 7 and then playoffs starting on August 17. Families and others will be permitted to arrive on August 30. The NBA Finals is expected on September 30.
During this time there will be, not surprisingly, comprehensive testing of everyone.
There will be no fans in attendance.
One consequence of this is that the phrase “I’m going to Disney World!” may end up having a whole new, somewhat dystopian, edge to it.
The point of all this is to consider the future of concerts. Coachella and Lollapalooza, both outside events, unlike boxing or pro ball, have been cancelled.
The Flaming Lips - Sunrise (Eyes Of The Young) [Official Music Video]
Well it looks like Wayne Coyne made it through his midlife crisis and is back to making music again. I’ll admit I was turned off by Coyne’s recent behavior where he left his wife, allegedly started taking drugs after years of relative sobriety, and began running around with Miley Cyrus (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Around that same time the Flaming Lips had become the feel-good, never-turn-down-a-festival-appearance party band, making a cartoon mockery of the fundamental weirdness that had made them so appealing in the first place.
Remember when it just seemed INSANE that “She Don’t Use Jelly” became a hit? That was 22 years ago, bubba, and Yoshimi was 14 years ago. You can’t begrudge a band for sticking with it and gaining fans and success, but it would be hard to argue that they hadn’t gotten sidetracked over the past few years. There’s more to life than confetti cannons and balloons.
I was pleased with the slow-burn psychedelia of their Riot Fest performance this year. There were still confetti cannons and balloons, of course, but the music didn’t pander to the shirtless party bros. They weren’t taking their music — or their audience — for granted. Longtime Lips fans will give all the credit for any return to form to Steven Drozd, and maybe that’s fair. Drozd is said to be the only real musician in the band, but even if that’s accurate, Wayne Coyne is still the front man and is clearly responsible for steering the ship. From the three songs they’ve released so far from Oczy Mlody, due January 13 on Warner Bros, they’re heading into some interesting territory.
On our way back from All Good this year, we agreed it was – hands down – the best music festival we’ve been to. This is for a whole host of reasons, but must importantly, the music was outstanding. As I noted in our All Good preview, there were a number of bands we were excited to see. One of the great things about the All Good Music Festival is that they set up two stages right next to each other. While one band plays, they are setting up the next band on the adjacent stage. So there’s basically no gap to the music all day, once it starts, and you get to hang out in the same general area – not so much walking from stage to stage.
Add to that generally good weather, non-cramped camping accommodations, and extremely friendly staff, and you’ve got yourself a music festival to remember. Onto the musical highlights.
Thursday, July 19, 2012: The Music Never Stopped
The music didn’t start until 7 on Thursday, but I could have gone home happy after the first night alone. Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby, and Branford Marsalis, followed by Phil Lesh and Friends. Both sets were outstanding. I had earlier speculated that we might just see Weir, Hornsby, and Marsalis, without accompaniment. Or maybe just the addition of a drummer and bass player. What we got was Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, with special guests Bob Weir and Branford Marsalis, playing a whole lotta Grateful Dead tunes. Plus two Hornsby tracks. The set started a bit rough, but it only got better as they gelled on stage. You can give their set a listen over at the Live Music Archive.
I also speculated a bit about who was going to be playing with Phil Lesh and Friends. I wrote that I hoped he would have Jackie Greene with him, and he was. Plus Joe Russo on drums, two of Phil’s sons, Grahame and Brian, and – a very pleasant surprise – Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams from Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble. The set was like Phil Lesh meets the Midnight Ramble. Some Grateful Dead tunes were in the set and some songs that you might have heard at a Levon Helm show – “Chest Fever”, “Long Black Veil”, and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”, for example. It was my first time seeing Phil Lesh and Friends live, and this line up was a treat. You can listen to their set here.
Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby, and Branford Marsalis (with Hornsby’s Noisemakers)
The Flaming Lips were amazing! The first track they played, “Race for the Prize”, ended up being a top 5 rock and roll moment for me. I was standing stage left, in the photo pit, tucked in a corner by a big ass speaker, trying to take decent pictures of the insanity. Confetti and smoke all over the stage… I could have died happily in that moment.
They also played Pink Floyd’s “On The Run” – the psychedelic electronic experimental freakout from Darkside of the Moon – while Coyne climbed into the bubble and walked out over the crowd. He didn’t stay out as long as I’d expected to but it was a thing to behold nonetheless. If you haven’t ever seen the Flaming Lips, you should really try to work them into your live music schedule sometime. They will not disappoint. Q Magazine was spot on when they put the Flaming Lips in their top 50 list of bands you must see before you die. In the meantime, check out the video below of their whole show.
Sunday was the hottest day of the festival, and I was feeling a bit physically run down by then. The good news was that the day’s lineup was a must see for me, the strongest afternoon of music the entire weekend. I think the organizers did a tremendous job lining up a solid block of great music to keep us going on Sunday afternoon.
Corey Harris and the Rasta Blues Experience
Corey Harris was the first artist of the day. He and his band, The Rasta Blues Experience, brought a rich mix of reggae, blues, rock, and funk to the stage. Harris plays guitar and lap steel. I really enjoyed his slide playing. Great songs that cut across genres, one to the next. Conscious music that’s only occasionally preachy. I would have liked to see him in an evening time slot, but I’m glad All Good introduced me to his music.
Devil Makes Three
Devil Makes Three was also new to me. They play folk music that bounces with a punk rock sensibility. There’s some rockabilly in their sound, too. They are a three piece – guitar, banjo, and bass. All acoustic. The guitar player seemed to be the “lead” singer, with the other two hopping in on harmony pretty frequently. A particular treat form their set was their cover of Blind Willie McTell’s Statesboro Blues. Definitely want to see these guys again.
Mickey Hart Band
Well, I am now a big fan of the Mickey Hart Band. They had an hour and fifteen minutes to impress the crowd, and they did. Mickey has been able to move the furthest out from the “standard” Grateful Dead sound with his new band. He and his band have created something part Dead, part world music, and part the collective identity of the band members themselves. The lead guitar player is able to play in a completely non Jerry Garcia style of guitar playing – more Santana-ish to me – but will also weave some Jerry-ness into his playing when appropriate. Their version of “Fire on the Moutain” was a case in point. He broke out the familiar MXR pedal, or at least a reproduction of its sound – what my buddies and I called a “fart pedal” when we were kids. I love that sound almost more than life itself. I was dancing around like an idiot for the whole song.
So there you have it. Lots of great music at All Good this year, and I’ve only covered some of it here. I’m already looking forward to next year’s All Good. Hope to see you there.
I actually expected this to be a lot weirder than it is. It’s a surprisingly faithful rendition of the Beatles classic, considering the stripped-down nature of the effort. It’s almost entirely driven by the fuzzed out Rickenbacker bass, but Drozd fills in all the sound effects with his own mouth.
I can remember buying the Beatles’ “Blue Album” on vinyl from Believe in Music on Plainfield Avenue. I was in junior high, and it made a big impression on me. “Walrus” was my favorite. The lyrics blew my innocent mind. I had never heard anything like it with its self-references (“See how they fly like Lucy in the Sky”) and its graphic, gory images (“Yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye”). It’s an intense song.
The Lips do it justice, reveling in the psychedelia, but not taking themselves too seriously. It’s a rock song, and these guys emphasize that. People are too reverential about the Beatles. Putting them so high up on a pedestal obscures the fact that the Beatles were just four guys who wrote and played cool songs. You don’t have to be a God to do that. You just need to find someone to pound the shit out of a drum set.
Speaking of drummers, dig that Tonight’s the Night shirt!
Below are the things we’ve posted to Twitter recently. In reverse chronological order, just like Twitter… We’re reposting 206 tweets this time with a total of 146 links to stuff that (mostly) didn’t end up on GLONO.
# “Benchley had hit bottom. I had reached the mythical state of total anti-rock, which I call ‘Train,’ after the band.” http://ow.ly/1Clou 16 minutes ago
# “C-listers are considerably cheaper than hiring the bigger-name musicians who used to pack clubs.” http://ow.ly/1Ck4G via @Lefsetz about 1 hour ago
# “When he leans down to pick it up, the weight of his backpack and his overall wastedness prevent him from doing so.” http://ow.ly/1CiwB about 2 hours ago
# But don’t say “leaked” in your tweet or 4ad will dmca your ass! RT @tipsheet: Stream THE NATIONAL’s New Album Now http://bit.ly/bX44Lg about 4 hours ago
# Twitter deletes dude’s tweet after bogus DMCA takedown notice. #national #highviolet #4ad RT @TartyTart: http://bit.ly/aui6KA about 4 hours ago
Lots more below, and you might consider following us on Twitter if you want to keep up with this stuff as it happens…
A scantily clad young girl is tied up and guarded by a monkey who watches as she struggles to free herself. Then a mystical force shakes the shit out of her and freaks out the monkey. The ropes that were binding her come loose and she dances off into the sunset, leaving the monkey somewhat bewildered.
YouTube commenter Questpeace doesn’t really like the video: “I wish she like broke out of the chair and turned into like fucking Mothra and blew stuff up with psychedelic powers or something. I don’t know. I just think it could have been better.”
Below are the things we’ve posted to Twitter recently. In reverse chronological order, just like Twitter… We’re reposting 195 tweets this time with a total of 108 links to stuff that (mostly) didn’t end up on GLONO.
# RT @seanonolennon: Now they say I’m abusing Lennon fans? Because I’m defending my mother from insults over an advert I had NOTHING to do with!? 3 minutes ago
# How come Paul McCartney never made another album as good or as weird as Ram? about 2 hours ago
# Sad about Haeley. RT @maura: tonight’s ‘american idol’ recap, in which i get to the point: http://bit.ly/csZzTO about 4 hours ago
# “With Paula, you’re never more than a few minutes away from seeing a grade-A display of batshit antics on live TV.” http://ow.ly/1eHYx #idol about 4 hours ago
The Flaming Lips (along with Wayne’s nephew’s band Stardeath and the White Dwarfs) have seemingly taken a similar approach to Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon and channeled that landmark effort into a vaguely reminiscent cover album. It’s a pairing that surely will grab the attention of fans of either band with supporters of the Lips’ unique blend of weirdness probably getting the award for higher tolerance.
If the cover doesn’t give it away, the sound in the grooves of this long-player surely will. The reason why Stardeath & The White Dwarfs sound like the Flaming Lips is because the Lips employ the Dwarfs as roadies.