Lips’ Back On Toes?

movie number 1 

“My favorite festival is definitely Bonnaroo – we’re excited to play there this spring for the third time.” 

-Steven Drozd, April 8, 2010 

“It’s a nerve-wracking thing to do when you don’t get to play it over and over in front of an audience. Usually you have the luxury of getting to play a regular set and honing it as weeks go by, but when you only get to play this piece of music twice a year or something in front of people, it’s nerve-wracking. But it keeps us on our toes, and we like that.” 

Wayne Coyne on playing Dark Side of the Moon live, Billboard 

 flaminglips2.jpgBonnaroo 2007 

Part 1

As you probably know if you are reading this blog, Flaming Lips musical mastermind Steven Drozd (“People thought that I played all of the instruments on our earlier releases but in reality I only played most“) was hospitalized the last week of April.  On the morning of April 28, 2010, a Palm Beach local news site (pbpulse.com) broke the news: The Flaming Lips had pulled out of their appearance at SunFest scheduled for the next night.  By the afternoon it had circled several times around the web with Sunfest’s organizers adding Drozd had been hospitalized for undisclosed reasons, and a representative for the Flaming Lips announcing the possibilities of more cancellations.  Well wishes – along with curiosity and speculation on why he was hospitalized – flooded the web.  That same afternoon a press release from Memphis in May announced The Flaming Lips had canceled a second gig (“A hospitalization of a member of Flaming Lips has caused the band to be unable to perform at the 2010 Beale Street Music Festival. In a statement released on Wednesday, April 28, band management said: ‘Multi instrumentalist Steven Drozd of THE FLAMING LIPS has been hospitalized and will be unable to perform. Doctors are expecting a full recovery within a few weeks. As a result, all immediate shows will be postponed.’) and The Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band would take their slot.  That night, spinner.com posted a remark from The Flaming Lips’ publicist stating Steven was “expected to make a full recovery” and a Facebook user (Dustin Welch) posted another comment which quickly circled the web, that Kliph Scurlock “wants everybody to know that Steven will be just fine as soon as he gets some rest. He (and the rest of us) really appreciate your kind thoughts and well wishes, but please don’t worry yourselves.”  The next morning the latter was confirmed by Kliph himself at The Lips’ old board (“Steven will seriously be fine (as in back to 100%) as soon as he gets some rest. Freaking out and speculating will do no good, so please don’t do it. Your kind thoughts and well wishes are, as always, very much appreciated and are helpful to him right now, whereas any sort of negativity isn’t, so let’s please keep things positive. Yes?“) and killed the completely unfounded (and distasteful) suggestion on the new board that Steven had relapsed and this was a repeat of his infamous “spiderbite” incident.

Kliph, April 29, 2010: “Do we not have a right to a bit of privacy? For the record, Detective, all 4 of us (and Dave Fridmann) were completely sober during 100% of the making of the record. Steven, Michael, Dave and I enjoyed a couple of drinks when we sat down to listen to the final master of the record, but that’s it. Happy now?” 

Around the same time Kliph posted the above remarks, Steven tweeted “Thank you, everyone, for your concern. I had to do this and I’m getting it together”, and things looked bright… even as they pulled out of more shows: three in Florida -5/12 Jannus Live, 5/13 House of Blues Orlando and 5/14 St/ Augustine Amphitheatre- rescheduled for October, and their May 15th slot at The Hangout Music Fest, a “three day beach party” in Alabama, where The Roots replaced them. 

Now, a month after the first batch of shows of The Flaming Lips 2010 Embryonic tour was cut short, they’re set to resume gigging with two upcoming shows: tomorrow night (June 6) at Houston’s Free Press Summerfest (in Tinsley Park) and next weekend at the festival that hosted two of the most iconic sets in Flaming Lips’ history, Bonnaroo.  After sidetrips to Croatia and the UK’s Glastonbury Festival – mirroring The Lips’ career re-defining trans-Atlantic 2003 double-whammer at Bonnaroo and said British festival – the Embryonic tour resumes full throttle in the U.S. in July with Fang Island opening a string of shows, a few with Stardeath and White Dwarfs and some with Spoon, The Morning Benders or The Black Keys.

All of this leads back to the recurring Flaming Lips’ topic of 2010: Dark Side of the Moon.  Bonnaroo and Glastonbury were afterall where The Flaming Lips first covered “Breathe” in 2003 (in a more straightforward way than they now perform it with Stardeath and White Dwarfs).  Though The Flaming Lips with Stardeath are only scheduled to cover the Pink Floyd album at Bonnaroo, it’s anybody guess what The Lips will pull out to keep the crowds at Glastonbury, and elsewhere, on their toes…

An otherwise glowing review for uwpost.com of a recent Stardeath/ Lips show: “In what can best be described as a live rehearsal for their upcoming Dark Side of the Moon performance scheduled for this year’s Bonnaroo Music Festival, the two bands joined forces for their freaked out cover of Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” segued into “Eclipse.” While it was an exciting moment, the delivery wasn’t all that captivating. In fact, it raised the question: why should any band cover DSOTM, isn’t the original just fine? 

Wayne to World Entertainment News Network via Yahoo: “The only people who seem to come at you with ‘how dare you touch this music?’ sort of attitude are the old school Pink Floyd fans. There are these mean-spirited ‘how dare you touch Pink Floyd, you guys suck’ sort of blogs. “I don’t read the blogs but some of the guys in the group do… I love that controversy and welcome any enemies who want to try and stop us, because, any time people attack you, people want to come to your rescue. If you’ve never been attacked, you never know what affection and what love and what loyalty you have in your fans.” 

Wayne to MSN: “There are some very hardcore Pink Floyd fans out there that no matter what anybody does, if you touch this sacred ground your name goes on a list and they’ll kill you in the future. That was true when we did ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ But we also know musicians and artists don’t give a shit. They love hearing anybody who does anything that has another contextual comparison to it. … it’s not a note-for-note reinterpretation. We’re not trying to say ‘Look we can produce records like Pink Floyd. A lot of the things that they did back in 1973 you can do in two seconds on a computer these days. Technically it’s not that hard. We weren’t trying to do that.  We were trying to take the songs and make them our own trip. We felt people would forgive us if it was not to their liking and some people would say ‘This is great I’m glad you tried.’ We didn’t think of it as being the greatest thing ever. It was just a thing to do. It’s just great to play with other colors.” 

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Part 2

The Flaming Lips re-invention of one of rock’s great (and greatest) sacred cows is truly a spectacle to be seen live, afterall, though it’s now almost exclusively regarded as a “classic album”, Dark Side of the Moon was first and foremost a concert performance price for Pink Floyd.  The question is what else do The Flaming Lips have planned… and with their mysterious absence for over a month, it’s anybody’s guess what they have been working on (besides the sole Dark Side at ‘Roo) for their other upcoming high-profile gigs (such as Central Park and various festivals starting tomorrow night and continuing throughout the summer at Nateva Music Festival, Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest, Louisville Forecastle Festival and Austin City Limits).

Wayne to Billboard: “We’re viewing Bonnaroo as the exclusive ‘Dark Side…’ show in America for the summer…We may do another one somewhere else in the world, maybe, as the summer ends.” 

Wayne to spinner.com“We do a Flaming Lips set then starting about 2:30 we do this ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ thing. In that sense, it’s perfect for that. It lets you play a little bit longer… We did it at the New Year’s Eve show just knowing everybody’s gonna be taking acid, staying awake until five in the morning. We might as well just be jamming on some freak-out music. I don’t think it’ll be that much of a stretch to think Friday night at 2:30 in the morning at Bonnaroo would be that much different than being in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Eve. I’m sure people will be having their own party while we play this space rock or whatever. In that sense it’s perfect for that.” 

…and two months later (April) Wayne followed up to spinner.com: “At Bonnaroo, that’s quite normal. It’s open-ended when you take a midnight slot. It’s part of the trip of playing at Bonnaroo. The bands they pick to end the night on one of these stages, [it’s an] anything goes kinda thing… When we suggested ‘We’ll do ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ at 2AM on Friday,’ I don’t think anyone was surprised.” 

Wayne to toneaudio: “We have more things to announce, but we can’t chat about that right now. When I talked to someone about the idea of doing Bonaroo this year, it was on the Internet in 30 minutes and pretty much all around the world instantly. So we are definitely on the roster, but I’m hesitant to let anything out right now, as I know it will be on Facebook in about 8 minutes.” 

True…  back in March, news of the physical release date for Dark Side of the Moon and spring tour dates were both released to the press around the same time and somehow became jumbled into a completely unfounded rumour circling the web that The Flaming Lips were to tour Dark Side in the spring (apparently the two topics being written up in one article by New Music Express was spun by spinner.com and then copied by others) .  That of course didn’t happen (though they did bring openers Stardeath and White Dwarfs back on stage to encore “Brain Damage” into “Eclipse” on a string of shows).  It seems likely though that The Lips have been working on something(s) to keep us on our toes.

Wayne to toneaudio: “Let’s formally announce right here that we will try to get Steve Martin to perform a song with us at Bonaroo. And we will be performing DSOM in its entirety at Bonaroo. If you get a chance, listen to Steve Martin’s autobiography, which he narrates on iTunes. It’s very interesting and lends a lot of depth to his personality. We listened to it on a long road trip recently and it was much more engaging than Obama’s autobiography.”

Any long time Lips fan will tell you that Wayne throws lots of unbelievable plans out-there, and they don’t always come to fruition (like his 2006 vibrating panties idea), but more often than not, they do.  We’re talking about probably the only band in the world that could get Justin Timberlake to mime bass for them dressed up as a dolphin!  Steve Martin? No problem…Consider this: soon after Wayne made the above Steve Martin at ‘Roo “announcement”, it was reported by A.V. Club Undercover that he and the band “arrived in Milwaukee one day before [their] show at Riverside Theater to catch the wild and crazy guy in action, and milled around the Pabst’s plush surroundings sipping on Milwaukee beers without being recognized by most of the crowd.”

Whatever they play, and whatever surprises they present, it seems likely that Embryonic will be a big part of their upcoming sets, as it was in the previous 2010 sets.  

Wayne to spinner.com: “We’ll be doing quite a bit of the new record. We have so much material to pick from. There are times when we just think ‘Let’s just play some of this new junk and rock out for a bit.’ Some of it is very radical music to play… There’s a calamity happening onstage and that’s a lot of fun. Bits of our show have become very choreographed: the space bubble and the confetti, things that have moments where you do them. Then there are other moments where you just kind of get chaotic. You’re not sure what all the stuff is; you just play and it’s radical, especially with the caliber of the guys in the group. We never get tired of the old stuff, but to play new stuff is thrilling.” 

For those of us that won’t or can’t make the trek to Bonnaroo, NPR Music with three affiliate radio stations (KUT Austin, The Current Minnesota Public Radio and WFUV New York) is set to stream the complete sets, live and on-demand, of 40 or so artists, including The Flaming Lips, The Dead Weather, The Black Keys, Thievery Corporation, Phoenix, Local Natives, Here We Go Magic, Neon Indian, The National, John Fogerty, Stevie Wonder, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, The Melvins, Tinariwen, Baaba Maal, Regina Spektor, She & Him, Weezer, The Gaslight Anthem, Dave Rawlings Machine, Mumfords and Sons, Jay-Z, The Disco Biscuits, The Dave Matthews Band, Kings of Leon, Nas and Damian Marley, The Avett Brothers, Jimmy Cliff, Norah Jones, Dan Deacon Ensemble, LCD Soundsystem and more.  If you listened to any of their SXSW webcasts retweeted at http://twitter.com/FutureHeartDay, you know NPR does some of the best live music coverage on the web and their streaming concerts are top-notch.  For more on this as it develops, follow FutureHeartDay on twitter. 

For the visually oriented, Fuse will be covering Bonnaroo for television audiences for the third year, and the festival has announced it will be webcasting, on its YouTube channel (though details are still slim).  Again, more on this as it develops at http://twitter.com/FutureHeartDay 

And another reminder for those of you in Oklahoma who can’t make it to Bonnaroo: Blastula: The Making of Embryonic will première Friday June 11 at 10:00 PM at Kerr Auditorium as part of the deadCENTER’s 10th Annual Film Festival (encore Sat, Jun 12 IAO Gallery, 5:30 PM).     

Get psyched all this week with the Dark Side of the ‘Roo countdown and highlights from dozens of this years acts at http://twitter.com/FutureHeartDay

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