Ask anyone who has seen a Flaming Lips show to describe it, and you’re bound to hear something along the lines of incredible, indescribable, or completely and utterly weird. Their performance Friday at Warner Park for the inaugural Pondamonium was no exception.
Before their set, a peek behind the stage revealed an outfield full of oversized balloons among instruments and stage equipment. The balloons, along with glitter, confetti and smoke pummeling the crowd soon proved to be as much a part of the show as the music itself – and that is saying something, given the Lips’ energetic, innovative sound that had an infield full of fans dancing and cheering with every antic.
Underneath a giant disco ball, and in front of a two-story LED screen that alternated between a live stream of front man Wayne Coyne’s face and abstract visuals, confetti cannons weren’t the only things pouring over the crowd. Coyne himself rolled out in his trademark hamster ball routine over a sea of welcoming arms, somehow making it back to the stage fully intact. But then again, as a veteran entertainer known for constructing sedan-sized brains on his lawn, he has experience with the (often-musically) bizarre.
And so has the rest of the band, who played a seamless set of concert staples like “Race for the Prize” and “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.” After setting the tone with traditionally-structured, radio-friendly singles, along with a Pink Floyd cover (“On the Run”), “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Dawn” instigated a series of distorted jams with “See the Leaves” and the aptly-titled “Laser Hands,” during which Coyne did, in fact, wear tire-sized hands with lasers emitting from the palms. Fortunately, no ocular damage from the lasers ricocheting off a mirror ball was reported.
Leave it to the Lips to ignore the boundaries and labels of any particular genre. As power-pop mingled with psychadelia and noise rock, it was remarkably easy to get lost in the surreal spectacle that is a Flaming Lips concert. That much should be clear by now.
Yet amidst the chaotic sensory stimulation, an ordered musical arc purveyed the concert, leading into the epic “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung,” a euphoric interstellar trip that filled an entire baseball diamond with blissful smiles.
The only track topping “Pompeii” in crowd unity and pure enjoyment was the uplifting encore of “Do You Realize.” And really, the emotions it evoked sum up what the Flaming Lips are all about – enjoying life and living it to its fullest. That may seem like a bold statement, and it is. Walking away from the ultra-sensory performance by The Flaming Lips, however, it’s impossible not to truly and thoroughly appreciate the carnival-esque experience that just passed.
And the band makes it clear that the feeling of appreciation is mutual, through their performance and their words. “We didn’t know what the f*ck was going on in Madison,” Coyne proclaimed about halfway through the show, “but now, we do.”
And for anyone in attendance who didn’t know what was going on with the Flaming Lips before, now they do.