September 5, 2012
During one of the Flaming Lips earliest shows—back when they played as loud as possible to compensate for their lack of musical ability—they brought a motorcycle onto the stage, miked it for sound and revved it throughout the entire performance. The club ended up clearing everyone out after the carbon monoxide levels in the air reached toxic levels. The Oklahoma boys no longer hotbox small rooms with dangerous fumes, but they still refuse to settle on normal or worry about conforming. That’s part of the reason why they’re so damn appealing. The Lips will bring that appeal to Big Sur next Tuesday where they’ll perform one of the most intimate shows they’ve played in years at the Henry Miller Library. Fittingly, Miller also never worried about conforming. And thanks to (((folkYEAH!))) Presents—who's been working to make this happen for years—the Lips will be one with Miller's spirit. Below is an abbreviated list—in no particular order—highlighting some of the outfit's otherworldly weirdness.
1. The 6-hour song: It took three weeks to make the unprecedented, 6-hour “Found A Star On The Ground,” which the band described as “The Velvet Underground meets Super Mario Brothers.” All six hours are available to stream free HERE. The epic track was released as a special package that includes a “Strobo Trip” toy. The Lips gave all $20,000 they made in sales to the Central Oklahoma Humane Society and The Academy of Contemporary Music at The University of Central Oklahoma.
2. The 24-hour song: Somehow, they did it. A limited edition of “7 Skies H3” was released inside a real human skull. For some reason the Lips have yet to play the daylong tune live but if you have the time, stream it in its entirety HERE.
3. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Musical: Yes, it’s true. Now the Flaming Lips have something in common with Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musical adaptation of the instantly-classic album is set to open Nov. 6 at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego and run until Dec. 16. Music from The Soft Bulletin and At War With the Mystics will be featured as well.
4. Chronic-flavored gummy brains: This time, the Lips released a limited edition live performance of The Soft Bulletin encased in a gummy skull filled with a gummy brain that supposedly was flavored with marijuana. Yum?
5. Christmas on Mars: Talk about DYI filmmaking that was a true labor of love. Coyne—who built most of the sets himself in his backyard—and several friends began work on the film in 2001. It was released until 2008. The plot? Not really sure. I couldn’t make it through the entire film but I definitely have respect for all the effort that went into it.
6. Breaking a Guinness World Record: Jay-Z had the record but the Lips snagged it from the Hip-hop mogul after performing eight live shows—from Memphis to New Orleans—in 24 hours.
7. Recording in a parking garage: Dubbed the “Parking Lot Experiments,” the band rallied together a few thousand people and conducted an orchestra of car stereos. The result was the Lips’ 1995 4-CD release Zaireeka, which was intended to be played simultaneously on four different CD players. The LP is listenable. Needless to say, Warner Bros. wasn’t very excited about it.
8. Crowd surfing in a human-sized hamster toy: In addition to on-stage antics that have included on-stage gatherings of dozens dressed in fuzzy animal costumes, a giant inflatable bubble (debuted in 2004 at Coachella) Coyne uses to ride on top of audiences, has become a famous staple of a Flaming Lips show. Last month, Coyne told The Guardian that he foresaw his own death and it happened while inside the bubble. “I think that would be the greatest death ever,” he said. But that’s not the only vision of death Coyne has had: He told NME, “I’ll probably have a heart attack while taking a shit, like Elvis Presley.”
9. An album with Biz Markie, Ke$ha and Yoko Ono: On The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends—originally released last April as a limited edition, hand-pressed double-vinyl (the CD version was released a few months later) for Record Store Day—the band enlisted the most versatile assortment of special guests to appear on tunes with titles like "Helping the Retarded to Find God," "Is David Bowie Dying?" and "Supermoon Made Me Want to Pee."
10. The Terror: Coyne refers to the Lips’ forthcoming LP, number 15, as “possibly the best Flaming Lips album ever made.” He also said in a Rolling Stone interview that the album was born out of a “dark period.”