I experienced history. This past week, the Flaming Lips made their first stop ever in Charlottesville, VA, playing at the outdoor Charlottesville Pavillion and was without a doubt, one of my most memorable concert experiences ever. I was surprised to find only one opening band, Deerhoof. A three piece from San Francisco, Deerhoof's surprising combination of manic drumming, experimental art-rock, noise, and an adorable japanese singer caught my attention, but it was too difficult for me to appreciate the music, which I had never heard before. Also, considering how it was still light outside, Deerhoof had to play without the benefit of a serious lightshow. Interesting music, yes. Interesting live music, not quite. Putting Deerhoof behind though, I didn't know what to expect from the Lips. I have to say that I wasn't sure what to expect until after the girls in alien and santa claus costumes came out on stage. The band quickly followed them, without Wayne Coynes. Suddenly a huge plastic ball rolls out onto the crowd, containing Wayne inside. Then it all started. Wayne assumed his position on stage, the lights flared, and countless huge, blue balloons appeared out of thin air. I've never seen a show quite like it. Confetti cannons aimed out of the crowd at either end of the stage, while all manner of LED, strobe, and conventional lighting illuminated the stage from both the front and behind the band. The biggest eye catcher was the huge screen used as a backdrop for the show. They used the screen to project a wide variety of synchronized videos, from music videos, to pseudo-psychedelic images, to clips of japanese game shows. The most unique images, however, happened to come from a small camera attached to the microphone point up to Wayne's face, letting the crowd really see the emotion in his face as he adressed the crowd. They played all of their hit songs, and a few more that I had never heard, making a total set list of around 12 songs, including a double-encore. Like many bands, they encouraged crowd participation through sing-alongs, but I've never before heard a louder "YEAH-YEAH-YEAH...." You get the idea. Just to wrap up, there's no possible way that I can package the Flaming Lips' live experience in words, so I'd like to thank my friend Corrine for helping me capture the concert on video and putting it online.
-Ryan (finally writing again)