Although the Puyallup State Fair ended this past Sunday, it certainly went out with a resounding bang. Among the fair’s list of performers were Counting Crows, Larry the Cable Guy, Never Shout Never and finally, the Flaming Lips. Last Wednesday, Oklahoma City’s renowned psychedelic rockers dazzled their audience with stunning aesthetics and lush, mind-altering soundscapes.
The opening band, the Butcherettes, took the stage first and immediately erupted into dissonance and unidentifiable noises, as if to prove that their eccentricity was on par with that of the Flaming Lips. Throughout the set, the Mexican trio’s frontwoman, dressed in a bloody apron and a pen-drawn mustache, ran in place as she whacked violently on her guitar and bellowed like a perfectly charismatic punk singer.
During the set change in between bands, the Flaming Lips’ lead singer, Wayne Coyne, appeared onstage briefly to give a hug to someone in the front row. But like a 21st-century equivalent of David Bowie, he did not stay long when roughly one hundred eager fans stampeded toward him, hoping to bask in his rock star brilliance.
Suddenly, an air raid siren began as the lights dimmed and the crowd roared in anticipation. The crowd watched as a neon orange woman in space came onscreen with a pulsing white light emitting from her cosmic vagina, through which four members of the Flaming Lips emerged using a door.
As always, the Lips made quite the spectacle of themselves as they began their first song with explosive neon confetti and man-sized balloons, “like magical stuff shot out of some Great Dragon’s ass,” Coyne mused later. Costumed dancers came onstage as Coyne jumped out into the audience in his inflated “space bubble,” smiling as he passed over peoples’ heads.
When Coyne returned to the stage, he picked up the microphone and said, “Well it’s great to be here at this beautiful State Fair in a place that we can’t pronounce. Pwallup?”
A fan in the front row corrected him and he repeated the word again self-consciously as he lead into “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” from the Flaming Lips’ 2006 release, “At War With The Mystics.” Every time Coyne sang “yeah” throughout the song, the word appeared in different languages onscreen in-tempo for a nice effect. The whole crowd sang along as the Flaming Lips played “She Don’t Use Jelly,” their bouncy radio hit from 1993’s “Transmissions From The Satellite Heart.” The energy slowed down as Coyne introduced two of their strongest acoustic ballads, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell” from 2002’s “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.”
They played some newer material before an echoing piano riff introduced, “What Is The Light?” a psychedelic anthem from 1999’s “The Soft Bulletin.”
The Flaming Lips left the stage before performing their fantastic cover of “Brain Damage,” my personal favorite from the Pink Floyd album, “Dark Side of the Moon.”
They left the stage and returned again for a second encore to play, “Do You Realize??” their beautiful single from “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.”
As always, the Flaming Lips reminded everyone of the cleansing power of music.
Looking around the audience, it was easy to see how deeply the song had affected people, as fathers hugged their sons, friends laughed with each other and lovers kissed.
“I’m sure there are people out there who have experienced deep sadness recently in their lives and maybe they’ve come here to escape that sadness, even just for a little while. So everyone who came here tonight to enjoy music and to enjoy each other, thank you. You may have just changed someone else’s life,” Coyne said as he introduced their final song.
PHOTO COURTESY/TOMMY STONE