Photo By: Mike Fabio, A.K.A. revrev
October 15, 2009. Hollywood
I walked to the Nike Theater on Vine in Hollywood at 6 AM for the opening of the Flaming Lips’ “pop-up” store where they would give out wristbands for the subsequent show to the first 150 people who arrived. I had a tip that the store would open at noon, and as a dedicated fan and reporter I went there early expecting a gigantic line. I decided to potentially submit myself to hours of cold and discomfort in order to guarantee entry. As I approached the box office, under the marquee, where large posters for Embryonic hung on one side, I saw three people in sleeping bags. “Not too bad,” I thought. “At least I’m not alone.” I sat down in one corner, opened my book, put on my IPod, and started the waiting process. A few minutes later the sleeping people started waking up. They looked at me and I smiled.
“I can’t wait for the Flaming Lips,” I said
“Who?” The guy asked me.
“Are you here for the show?”
I pointed to the poster, but to no avail. His companions woke up next, and they all took their sleeping bags, backpacks, and bags full of food and wandered off. I never saw them again.
I realized I was the first person in line for the pop-up store.
A half hour later several more people showed up. An hour after that and a couple showed up with some chairs and board games. Two or three hours after that the line had about twenty people. Later on, several homeless people tried ruthlessly to cut in front of me, which caused the security guards to chase them away. A couple people saw the large Nike emblem in the theater’s lobby through the glass doors and asked if we were waiting in line for a new release of Nike shoes.
Wayne Coyne arrived shortly before they opened the doors. He thanked everyone for waiting so long, and looked directly at me. It was a thrill. Eventually the moment came when they opened the doors to the people in line and I stepped through the doors into the almost empty theater lobby. I didn’t recognize him at first, but Kliph Scurlock walked with me up the stairs to the actual store. I managed to get a “What’s up man?” through my intense excitement about being there after all those hours of waiting.
I walked up the ramp to the area where they gave out wristbands. A Warner Bros. employee handed me a neon-green, numbered wristband and said, “Congratulations on being the first person here.” They gave me a set of key covers. Elated, I continued into the store.
The store had t-shirts, CDs, posters, lithographs, and other assorted stuff. It all seemed to cost $10. I bought a t-shirt, a CD, and a lithograph. Sure enough, it came to $30. In a booth one could walk through some curtains and view a video for the song “Watching the Planets.” A sign on the curtains read “NC-17. No one admitted without ID. No exceptions.”
I went home to get ready for the actual show. I took a nap, drank some green tea, took some B vitamins for energy, and changed into my new t-shirt. I arrived at the theater at around 5:30 pm. By this time there was a line of people at least a block long and I had some doubts as to whether I was going to make it inside since one disclaimer on the event blog noted: “Ticket holders are not guaranteed seating. All ticket holders will need to be in the venue by 7:30 PM.” More people started piling into the line and I felt better about my place.
We filed slowly into the theater at around 6:30 PM. The auditorium was dark and smoky. Seating came easy and I even ran into a friend of mine. We sat for what seemed like hours and watched every single music video the Flaming Lips had ever made previous to Embryonic, for songs I sometimes didn’t recognize. Some songs had more than one video. I realized they were on a loop when I saw the first video that played when I first entered the auditorium. Wayne stuck his head out a few times to keep the audience enthusiastic through the waiting. Kliph tried the same thing, but sadly enough, nobody except me cheered.
At around 8, Wayne and Kliph both walked onstage for a Q & A session. They instructed the audience to Twitter the questions to Kliph’s account, as seen on some of the videos floating around the internet, and we waited another 20-30 minutes.
Wayne came out and answered about ten to fifteen questions with his usual charm and good humor. Wayne loves his fans, and loves talking to his fans. Some interesting things came out in his answers, like the fact that the money from the songs they sell to commercials goes both towards Scott Booker, the Lips’ manager, to fund the Academy of Contemporary Music in downtown Oklahoma City, and to provide funding for the Central Oklahoma Humane Society.
He also answered such questions such as, “How much do you spend on confetti?” “Have any of your songs induced nightmares for any of the band members?”, “What is ‘The Impulse’ about?” and “What would have happened if you guys decided to drop the whole Flaming Lips band and go to law school instead?” to which Wayne laughed about the idea of any of the band members going to law school, and replied that he never even intended for the band to last as long as it did, and he would continue with it as long as he had the fans to support the efforts of the Flaming Lips. He also intimated to the audience a certain future project that he asked for us to keep secret. I won’t write exactly what it is here, but I will say that it involves Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Henry Rollins, Peaches, one can play it along with “The Wizard of Oz,” and as is being made as I write this. Also, plans for a Soft Bulletin tour might be in order for its ten-year anniversary.
After the Q&A, the rest of the band assumed their station on stage. Wayne commented that the set would be only four songs plus a sing-along. All the songs would be off Embryonic. The first three songs they played straight through. For a Flaming Lips performance it was very stripped down. No furry animal people, no inflating clear plastic ball, no UFOs, no glowing vaginas, and no balloons or confetti. It was just a simple, straightforward set. Wayne didn’t even know how to start the show without the theatrics. He even asked Steven, “How do we start this? Do we just start?” Steven and Kliph didn’t say anything and just started into “Convinced of the Hex.”
After they played ‘Hex,’ they played an amazing performance of “Silver Trembling Hands.” I had never realized that Steven Drozd performs all backup vocals, including the high-pitched wails, without the use of any effects. They then played “See the Leaves,” which Wayne said they had never performed live before and gave an introduction to the song worthy of any of his liner notes in the past.
Then came time for the sing-along version of “I Can Be a Frog.” I could see the look of discouragement cross Steven Drozd’s face as Wayne instructed the audience on how to growl and grunt on cue like animals. Wayne kept telling the audience to be expressive, that there was no right or wrong sound, to just belt it out. The audience, on several occasions, however, didn’t live up to Steven’s rigorous musical standards, and he stopped the whole performance each time, once to instruct the audience on how to better make a helicopter sound effect. He stuck out his chest and started drumming his hands on it. The audience followed suit. The Lips left the stage with a blow-up performance of “Watching the Planets.”
Everybody, it seemed, stayed to get an autograph of the hand-numbered limited edition posters they handed out for free after the show. From around 9:30 PM to 12:20 AM I waited for my turn. At midnight they took the whole audience outside the theater so that it could close, and we lined up around the block. By the time I got my lithograph signed Steven seemed burnt out. He said, “I’ll write something good.” He stopped, and it seemed like he couldn’t drum up anything at that moment. I told him, out of sympathy (and out of honor and admiration for the guy), “Your signature is good enough.” If I got my autograph at 12:20 AM, I estimate that they would have had to stay until at least 2 or 3 AM to sign autographs for the rest of the audience behind me. All these things are just examples of how much they love their audience.