please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Saturday, September 05, 2009

More Lip Impressions

Wayne Coyne apparently begins each show by crowd surfing in a big, transparent hamster ball. He seems to enjoy it immensely, and god knows the fans enjoy it. Here it is in test mode.

Again, there's this highly egalitarian thing going on (or at least great pains are taken to make it appear that this is the case) where they say again and again: we recognize that there's no difference between you and us, really.

Interestingly, the best song by far was 'Convinced of the Hex', which has the insistent chorus, "The difference between us...", and sounds like P. Floyd's 'Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun'.

That's something too; the music. I've never thought that their music was all that great, and this show left me feeling that they're still kinda lightweights. But that doesn't matter nearly so much when they have such a compelling live show. In that context, a song like the "Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" makes all the sense in the world. Listening to that many people affirming something is really powerful.

Speaking of powerful affirmations, later in their set, the frenzy cooled down for a few as a lengthy piece was spoken. It concerned how...Well, I'm not sure how to summarize it. It kind of had to do with the idea that, while one may not necessarily agree with our various (and constant) wars around the world, one does need to accept that those are your brothers and sisters out there serving in -and dying in- them. Now, credit to Coyne for not making it into that terrible 'they're just doin' their jobs!' thing that everybody seems to make it into: it was a reminder of the human factor.

And how they chose to memorialize was this: as 'taps' was played on a single trumpet, all of us raised our hands in a 'peace' sign. Nothing but a sea of upraised fingers, for as far as the eye could see. Suspension of critical thinking required? A little, but it was surprisingly un-schmaltzy, this moment, and no more manipulative than any emotional event is.

The confetti. God, all that fucking confetti. Yesterday, as we tore down the stage at Edgefield, the further we got into the guts of the stage, the more orange and yellow slips of paper we found.
On top of the four confetti cannons, there was repeated use of the homemade balloon-inflation-device to blow up -first to size, then to explosion- enormous balloons that were also filled with confetti. The fans onstage were blowing all this around (along with the still-returning balloons, which were starting to either explode dramatically in the blackberry bushes, or lodge there where they would stay for weeks thereafter). Toward the end, there was so much floating paper in the air that I had to close my eyes. I was getting paper in my eyes, and was sort of fearing catastrophic amounts of paper cuts, yes.

This was chaos. It was good chaos, though, and much is to be said there, I guess, for the confluence of hipster and hippie. There's plenty of places where they flow together and don't mutually dislike and distrust each other. The Flaming Lips may not seem like an obvious example, but they do have that special place in The Middle firmly occupied.

The Lips have a mythos that they've been building for a while now, with stories and characters, songs that are easily sung-along-to with li'l life lessons that you might just go ahead and take home with you. The song "Do You Realize" is a dead ringer for The Dead's "Eyes of the World", in terms of lyrical content.

But they still have hipster cache leftover from those many, many years that they toiled in obscurity and didn't sound like they currently sound at all. I myself felt like being a pest and requesting that they play their stunningly gritty cover of Sonic Youth's "Death Valley '69". "She Don't Use Jelly"? Well, both hippie and hipster alike enjoy a song that is easy to sing along to, has a not-especially-concealed in-joke, is prima facie absurd...Something for everyone.

Above all else, I guess that the whole thing has a tribal aspect that I officially deem Nice. What I specifically mean by that is how rare and wonderful this particular tour is for this industry in particular. How they interact with their audience is great; how they interact with other people who put on shows for a living is fucking unheard of.
And dare I say that they seem to have actually meant all their utopian crap? I mean, even if it's a pose, what a great pose to have, as opposed to what recording artists generally say.

That they see a hole in the market that could be filled with, hey life's a funny thing, and there's songs and stories to be made out of all of us, and perhaps we could all be a bit braver, and nicer to each other, and it's not too late to halt this here decline shows an interesting prescience, at least.

Top Moments o.' the '09 summer concert season:
1. The Decembrists doing "July, July!" at the end of July, also their cover of "Crazy On You".
(Lesser equivalent: Actually watching Heart do "Crazy On You".)

2. Being thanked by Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal for doing our jobs.
(Much lesser equivalent: Carlos Mencia coming outta his dressing room after running two hours over time, with his cronies [with a midget, which is idiot shorthand for 'funny'] and saying, "Let's get a picture with the people who do the hard work and never get any of the credit." Then more or less forcing all of us to stand there grinning while a picture is taken.

Again, motherfucker was already keeping us there late. Secondly, this was just wasting more time, and besides, I hate the guy. He isn't funny, which is all that he need be to be a comic.
Lastly, all the credit I require for doing my fucking job is a paycheck, you asshole. )

3. Best show start to finish: Al Green.
(Wayyy lesser equivalent: Keith Sweat.)

4. Most visually stunning show: The Flaming Lips.
Runner up: The Decemberists.

5. Best in-between-song banter: Lyle Lovett.
(Worst: Sugarland. I had to watch two nights of that bitch pretending to be more southern than she actually is.)

6. Most difficult load-in: Miley Cyrus, as it was Day One of her tour.
(Simplest load-in: The T-Mobile tent outside the Blink 182 show. No really; The Pretenders.)

7. Coolest piece of swag: Hand painted, hand pulled poster for The Decemberists, Andrew Bird and Blind Pilot. Not many people got these. I'm noticing an increase in the practice of making a thousand kinda ho-hum posters that get distributed everywhere and about ten really cool posters that only friends of the band get.
(Weirdest piece of swag: A tiny piece of paper saying "feed me", with the Jonas Bros. seal on it. This was my meal ticket, and I suspect one day it'll be a collector's item.)

8. Best and worst crew shirt: The Flaming Lips are famous for this kind of thing. The shirt this year had an enormous pot leaf on the front, with the words 'FUCK YOU' above it, and the words 'I DO WHAT I LIKE' beneath.
On the back of the shirt, four vaginas with legs with the word 'band', and an arrow pointing to them. And in much larger letters, 'CREW', with an arrow pointing to this big neanderthal-looking guy wearing a shirt with a big pot leaf on it that says, 'FUCK YOU, I DO WHAT I LIKE'. Beneath all this, the legend reads, 'I LOADED IN WITH THE FLAMING LIPS, AND THEY WERE A BUNCH OF PUSSIES'. And beneath that, 'Thanks to all the great load-in/load-out crews of the world'.
All of the foregoing is in glow-in-the-dark material. I will probably never wear it in public.

(There is a partial picture of this, from the Flaming Lips naked video shoot up on Mount Tabor the other day. Said shirt is on the guy standing next to Wayne here. For some reason, I can't just reprint it here. Possibly due to Terms Of Service.)

9. Weirdest brush with fame: being waved at by Nicole Kidman. I was leaving the Keith Urban show for a few hours, and I see the runner van arriving. The van is driven by a woman I know, so I wave at her. But I notice that this thing with reddish-blondish kinky hair in the back seat thinks that I was waving at it, and...Well I can even see the whole thought process:
"Oh, yes yes...I still need to do this whole thing, don't I? I have to smile and wave to these people even when I'm just riding in a van with my husband. Ho ho; well, let's do this thing one more time for my adoring fans...Wave wave, smiiile...Yes. Ah, stardom."

At least I imagine that's what happened. That's what it suddenly appeared to be.

(Weirdest brush with fame not happening to me: Corey was standing backstage watching the Heart show, when Ann Wilson comes offstage briefly, blows a kiss at him. That was okay, but then she took a swig of dong kwai (or however we spell that) "for the throat", and threw the bottle at him, narrowly missing his head. The chief electrician shouted, "What the hell was that?" There was no explanation offered for this.)

(Heart, as viewed from the spot tower, September 25th, Edgefield)

10. Worst crowd moments: Heart (five brawls at Heart, causing me to say, "That kind of music just brings out the bad element, y'know?") and The Gipsy Kings, where...It's a long story, but those people sucked...

A list of all the shows I did, June to September, as taken from the notebook where I write down all such things:

Il Divo
Dionne Warwick
Jazz Attack
Jonas Brothers
American Idol
Steve Miller
Anita Baker
Decemberists (x2)
Sugarland (x2)
Lyle Lovett
The Fray
En Vogue
The Flaming Lips
Dave Koz & Brian Culbertson, with Peabo Bryson
The Pretenders
Al Green
Chris Isaak
Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal
Keith Sweat and Teena Marie
Gipsy Kings
Blink 182
Keith Urban
Miley Cyrus
Gov't Mule
Carlos Mencia
The Killers
Jason Mraz

[*(x2) denotes two nights of show]

Also, Microsoft Tech Ready, Nike Fall Sales, Portland Opera's production of 'La Boheme' and some band/performance art thing from Ireland that I did for PICA. I'm lucky I work so much. Hell, I'm lucky in general.