The Flaming Lips at Wakarusa, Lawrence KS, 6 June 2008

Sorry for the late post – I’ve been preparing to go to Tijuana with five close friends and a bunch more to build a house for a family there with the partnership of Amor. -h

Jill and I tiptoed away from our post at the Friends of the Kaw River beer tent just in time to see the Lips on the main stage at Wakarusa Friday night, resolving a chord of mine that had hung suspended for nine years.
The winter of 99-00 after “The Soft Bulletin” had come out, Wayne Coyne & Co. toured through Lincoln NE. Advertising for the Knickerbocker’s show wasn’t consistent; some posts listed the admissible ages as 18 & over, some as 21 & over. Charles and I called the club and it sounded like we, as 18-year-old seniors in high school, would be able to get in. We drove through a light snow and arrived at the door with only hoodies for warmth (the club was notoriously hot inside) and were told that we couldn’t get tickets yet, but to hang around in case some were made available. In retrospect I’m sure the club was near a sellout at the 21-and-over level and didn’t want to sell tickets to kids who couldn’t buy drinks if they didn’t need to. We froze in the doorway for an hour; Wayne walked out, and back in; and after pleading our case one more time it became obvious we weren’t going to see The Flaming Lips that night.

Weather last Friday couldn’t have been more different than it was for Charles’ and my attempt. The Kansas City spring humidity (!) lifted, a breeze circled the crowd, and it was gloriously perfect to be outside with a bunch of young hippies.

Following a spot-on space rock introduction the Lips meandered through cuts from their past three records including “Free Radicals,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1,” “Race For The Prize,” “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” and “The W.A.N.D.” We sang along enthusiastically, but not with abandon; we maintained appropriate Midwestern reserve. Between songs Wayne gushed about the greatness of Wakarusa, the importance of love, the political significance of the ritual of rock music, and his vision of a day when the Ceremonial Bugle is only needed at Flaming Lips shows, not funerals.

Somewhere in the middle of that long moment I realized that my heart makes a theological response to The Flaming Lips.

It takes incredible love to make pop music out of:

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face?
We’re floating in space?
That happiness makes you cry?
That everyone you know someday will die?

And instead of saying all of your goodbyes let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It’s hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn’t go down
It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round


If you could blow up the world with the flick of a switch
Would you do it?
If you could make everybody poor just so you could be rich
Would you do it?
If you could watch everybody work while you just lay on your back
Would you do it?
If you could take all the love without giving any back
Would you do it?
And so we cannot know ourselves or what we’d really do…

With all your power
With all your power
With all your power
What would you do?

The lyrics don’t even come close to capturing what happens when this love is chanted over freakishly fuzzed-out guitars and intergalactic synthesizers while aliens and construction workers dance and Wayne fires streamers and confetti into the crowd with a shotgun-like launcher device.  It’s transcendent.  It’s egoless.  It’s a pause from everything in life that separates us from ourselves, from each other, and from Infinity.

It’s fun!  It’s beautiful.

It’s no wonder I bring my theological lens to bear on it, but I don’t mistake my point of view for what is actually happening.  Weird as they might seem on the surface I love The Flaming Lips for their music, their questions, and their sheer courage to have a concrete vision of where this world could go when it would be much cooler and more indie to snark, posture, criticize, and remain aloof and uncommitted to anything anybody might disagree with.

See them if you ever have the chance.  They’ll show you what they’ve found at the depth of things, and you may not walk away the same.  -h

Catch me on drums next Friday night June 20 with The Sleepover in Omaha, NE at The Slowdown.

One thought on “The Flaming Lips at Wakarusa, Lawrence KS, 6 June 2008”

  1. Damn! Jeremy and I were going to come out that Saturday to see Ben Folds, but changed our minds about it. I kinda wanted to sneak out Friday to see them as well. We’ll see how next Friday works, but I highly doubt it. Howie, are you becoming a member of the sleepover, or just helping out?

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