“We didn’t know if we’d ever get another chance to play in a cemetery so we thought we would make the most of this simple statement that I feel like the more we realize – that even this moment that we’re having here – is kind of a special, temporary thing, the more we’re able really to cease this thing and say let’s make it good, let’s make it meaningful and share it with our friends… and let’s be glad it didn’t fucking rain…”
-Wayne Coyne’s “Do You Realize, Morning Rendition” banter, June 15, 2011 at sunrise
When Wayne Coyne tweeted a video of himself at The Alcove of Devotion inside Hollywood Forever Cemetery in February (watch it in the first 15 seconds of the above video) – noting he was “Gonna try and do a Flaming Lips show there” – the idea of The Flaming Lips actually playing in this graveyard almost seemed too weird to be true – even by Flaming Lips standards. But alas, by early April he had a psychedelic poster circling the web – a topless woman holding a skull in one hand and shooting a rainbow out of the peace sign she made with her other (see it and Wayne’s tweets at the bottom of this post) – announcing not just “a Flaming Lips show there” but three of them… over “two nights, one morning”…
The two nights were self-explanatory: first their own classic, The Soft Bulletin, then Pink Floyd’s classic, Dark Side of the Moon. But what was “the morning”?
Wayne explained the details to Jaan Uhelszki back in May: “They gave us access to all the old mausoleums and rooms and everything there, so we’re doing a kind of freak-out in one of the buildings. Then we’re doing “Do You Realize, Morning Rendition” with Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Bimbos from the big bell tower there. They’re going to do this one song with us. But I don’t want to give people the impression that you get to spend the night there. This is not a camp-over sort of situation. We’re going to play the Soft Bulletin, you’re going to go home, you’re going to go out for coffee, come over, and watch this “Do You Realize” as the sun comes up, go back home, and sleep because then you’re going to come out the next night and watch us do Dark Side of the Moon until 3:00 a.m.”
This “two nights, one morning” engagement is called “Everyone You Know Some Day Will Die” – an apt name for obvious reasons (the venue and surroundings) but also also for a slightly less overt reason: both Bulletin and Dark Side are deal with death. So it’s even more appropriate that for the free “morning” segment (yep, “free” – anybody could walk in – no ticket required) they would play the piece the concert’s name is pulled from – “Do You Realize???”, a song often played at funerals. Most of all, it’s how they played it:
…at sunrise …
… from the cemetery’s bell tower…
…with Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros…
Flaming Lips bassist/ multi-instrumentalist/ engineer Michael Ivins played the Eliza Otis chimes from the bell tower while the rest of the bands played on the ground in front of a modest-sized audience of early-to-rise fans. Prior “Do You Realize” there was a mini-jam between Flaming Lip Steven Drozd and Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros.
The two bands evidently befriended each other backstage at Lollapalooza’s 20th Anniversary celebration (at the beginning of April in Chile – “Nos topamos con Wayne Coyne en el backstage de Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros“). Both artists also appeared at Santa Rosa, California’s Harmony Festival this past weekend: The Flaming Lips headlined on Steven Drozd’s birthday, Saturday, June 11th – with Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and others – where they previewed some of the Dark Side re-arrangements and Edward Sharpe appeared alongside Primus and others on Sunday, June 12th.
In many ways, the combination of these two shows is the culmination of every alteration and addition The Flaming Lips have made to their live show this entire year. But what makes this so special to so many isn’t just that it’s an ambitious concert undertaking – demanding the band be at the peak skill, creativity and work ethic – it’s also the weighty, timeless, epic albums they picked to play and the decision to perform them on back to back nights in a cemetery!
On top of all this, last night also saw the release of a very limited edition Soft Bulletin – live Gummy Song Skull: a strawberry skull with a marijuana-flavored brain containing The Soft Bulletin recorded live (at a secret location), “a unique playlist” and music videos for live versions of “Race for the Prize” and “What Is the Light” (recorded at SUNY Fredonia).
So now that they’ve asked “the biggies” about love and loss with The Soft Bulletin…
…and played a touching, bell-enhanced, sunset, cemetery version of “Do You Realize??? – what can we expect for tonight?
A once-in-a-lifetime graveyard freakout unveiling their new Dark Side of the Moon / Wizard of Oz arrangement – with its familiarly big questions about sanity and death. Peaches will guest, screaming the lead on “Great Gig in the Sky” (as she did on The Flaming Lips studio version of that song, but never before in concert) and it will be unlike any time they’ve ever played the Floyd milestone before (literally, the two times they performed the classic live in 2010 they did so with Stardeath and White Dwarfs – now the Lips have re-arranged it without Stardeath… but with plenty of Wizard of Oz references visually and musically).
Wayne to The Quietus: “Last summer we were playing some versions of Dark Side of the Moon that were more like our versions, that we did with my nephew [Star Death and White Dwarves] and Henry Rollins and Peaches. This summer we’re playing another version that has some of the Wizard of Oz themes and ideas running through it, so that’ll be a lot of fun.”
More photos from this morning and bell tower info below:
In case you’re wondering, here’s a little background info from hollywoodforever.com, “Hollywood Forever is a cemetery unlike any other in the world. One of the world’s most fascinating landmarks, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place to more of Hollywood’s founders and stars than anywhere else on earth. Founded in 1899, the cemetery was an integral part of the growth of early Hollywood. Paramount Studios was built on the back half of the original Hollywood Cemetery, where the studio is still in operation today. The cemetery of choice for most of the founders of Hollywood’s great studios, as well as writers, directors, and, performers, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is now listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. Visitors come from all over the world to pay respects Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and hundreds more of Hollywood’s greatest stars.”
“The Stars of Hollywood Forever” website explains that the bell tower, a “Spanish-influenced structure from the early thirties, a nearby three-story tower, today houses the Eliza Otis chimes… The chimes, commissioned in her memory, are a twenty-thousand-pound set of twelve cast-bronze bells, each inscribed with one of her verses. They hung in the bell tower of the cemetery’s chapel from 1905 to 1925, when the chapel’s beams bowed.”