PREVIOUSLY: Last night the Flaming Lips unveiled the more-awesome-than-you-could-possibly-imagine reboot of their stage show, which replaces the happy-happy-joy-joy bliss rallies they’ve been staging for the past decade. Gone are the balloons and blood and bubble-walking and the dancing Santa Clauses and the big hands that shoot lasers. In its place — well, fact is it defies words, you really had to be there — but calling it H.R. Giger meets Hanna-Barbera on the dark side of the moonhenge isn’t that far from accurate. Frizzy-brained frontman Wayne Coyne conducted the proceedings from high atop a lumpy mound-like perch festooned with bifurcated mirror balls and long, winding tentacles of LED lights pulsating this way and that in time to the music. Behind him was a bedazzling beaded curtain of luminous diodes that pulsated and projected things both Freudian and phantasmagoric. The music, too, has changed mightily. Most of last night’s set was drawn from the vast, cold, Krautrock-ian wastes of the new album, The Terror, a desolate, forbidding totem of paranoia, fear and loathing — in short, it’s the feel good bummer of the year. Which you’d think would be tough, if not impossible, to sell to a beery festival audience on a gorgeous Indian Summer night on the Delaware. But if any band can do it, it’s the motherfucking Flaming Lips, 21st century ambassadors of peace and magic from Oklahoma by way of Neptune. MORE
PREVIOUSLY: For someone who’s been a fan and a follower of the Flaming Lips for going on 27 friggin’ years—who was there when the acid hit the punk rock, when Jesus still shot heroin and priests still drove ambulances, back before she started using Vaseline, before clouds started tasting metallic, back before we realized the sun don’t go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning ’round—going to Wayne Coyne’s house is, without exaggeration, like winning a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I amble up to the gate and cash in my golden ticket: Coyne’s cell phone number.
I peck out a text to announce my arrival, and before I can send it off, the gate swings open and the Wizard emerges, accompanied by a comely young lady who has, he explains, just finished gluing the crescent of glitter-rock sequins that semi-circle his right eye for the impending MAGNET cover shoot. (Although the photo shoot never materializes during my stay, he will continue to wear the sequins for the two days I spend with him, no doubt savoring the double-takes and poorly disguised sideways glances they elicit in the restaurants, bars and coffee shops we will frequent along the way.) He is dressed in a long, high-necked, blue woolen overcoat flecked with dog hair, fitted mustard-yellow slacks, tennis shoes and, despite the late-winter cold, no socks; this will remain his attire for the duration of my two-day visit, which, presumably, was the case long before I got here and will remain so long after I’m gone. The Wizard is the kind of guy who, when he finds an outfit that is the perfect mix of comfort and style, wears it until the wheels come off.
He smiles warmly, inviting me into the main house, where I am immediately set upon by a bitey, stranger-hating Chihuahua named Thor, who, by way of greeting, chomps down on my ankle and refuses to let go. This is not playful biting, this is “get the fuck out of my house” biting. It hurts and draws blood. If Coyne wasn’t here, I would drop kick Thor into next week. He is exactly no help.
“Oh, Thor, come on,” Coyne says, rolling his eyes, hands on his hips, with the tone of voice a parent would use to express his or her disapproval of a child making fart noises with his mouth at the dinner table. I grit my teeth and smile, pretending this is the playful nipping Wayne treats it as because I’ve only been inside his house less than a minute and it would, in all likelihood, be interpreted as rude for a 200-pound stranger to drop-kick a seven-pound chihuahua into next week in his own house. Actually, that’s not exactly true, this isn’t Thor’s house. Thor belongs to one of the myriad elfin bearded and bespectacled young men who toil in The Wizard’s dream factory.
“Let me get with my guys back there and tell them that the dreaded MAGNET reporter is finally here and I’ll get them set up on the things that we’re working on,” he says. “Come back, I’ll show you.” I finally shake loose from Thor’s death grip and follow Wayne through a series of spaceship-like hallways that lead to the laboratory in the back where the aforementioned bearded and bespectacled young men are working on the many, mad scientist-like experiments in brain-melting psychedelic retail and shock-and-awe marketing The Wizard is working on. MORE