The Flaming Lips played a prime slot at this year’s Wakarusa Festival – Friday at 10:00 pm on the Main Stage. But the band’s music and customary spectacle was a bit overshadowed.
For those of you that have not been following along with The Flaming Lips drama that unfolded over the last month, allow me to briefly fill you in. The Wakarusa story will make more sense that way.
In highly simplified form, here’s what happened.
Lips frontman Wayne Coyne is friends with Christina Fallin the daughter of the governor of Oklahoma. The daughter is in a band called Pink Pony and had posted a photo of herself on Instagram. Then at one of her bands’ performances in Oklahoma, she donned a Native American headdress and performed a mock war dance. Several protesters had come to the show to protest her Instangram pic and were near the stage. And reports state that the band ridiculed the protesters, laughed, and perhaps even flipped them off.
In response, Lawrence resident and longtime Lips drummer, Kliph Scurlock, went online and called Pink Pony’s actions disgusting, among other things. Coyne didn’t take kindly to that and defended fallen, blasting back at Scurlock.
Coyne then posted a picture of his girlfriend wearing a headdress online. And a picture of a dog wearing a headdress as well.
More online back and forth ensued and Scurlock got fired.
Eventually, Coyne went to Rolling Stone and gave an interview where he called Scurlock, among other things, a “compulsive pathological liar,” “immature,” “not very significant to us,” an “asshole bully,” “not creative,” and a “horrible, hateful person.” So, yeah.
Anyway, the Lips were on the Main Stage and I was interested to see the new drummer. And of course, Coyne’s antics.
For about 15 minutes before the show started, Coyne paced the stage in a skin-tight suit printed to look like all his skin had been removed, revealing the muscles and tendons of the wiry frontman. He arranged backup dancers that were dressed as rainbows, mushrooms, and one girl whose head poked out from a grassy knoll at the front of the stage. Finally, the band launched into their first song and confetti cannons showered the audience. Coyne tossed out inflated aliens holding ice cream cones that bounced from hand to hand all the way to the back.
The band sounded just the same as it did with Scurlock.
A song or two into the set, despite all the recent controversy surrounding the firing of Skurlock, Coyne presided over a marriage ceremony between a shirtless dude and his excited bride.
But get this – the dude was wearing a huge Native American headdress.
I wondered if Coyne brought the headdress to the party to make yet another point of some kind. And if he told the dude to put it on. Or maybe the guy just happened to have it on hand. Which would be kind of weirdly coincidental, but not entirely outside the realm of possibilities at a festival like Waka where costumed revelers parade around in all sorts of outfits. Either way, the gesture surely did not go unnoticed, and it served as yet another F U to Scurlock.
As Coyne pronounced the couple man and wife the band ripped into She Don’t Use Jelly, the Lips breakthrough hit from the mid-90s, and likely the only identifiable song in their catalog that non-music junkies would know.
Once the band got back to the actual music, it was pretty much what you’d expect if you’ve ever seen the Lips before. Particularly cool was the version of In the Morning of the Magicians that, like other acts on the Main Stage, featured a crushing bass guitar that sent shockwaves through the ground.
No hamster ball, though. It was a slow burn through the usual suspects, culminating as always with the introspective ballad Do You Realize? For the uninitiated, the set delivered; but it was a bit old hat for any seasoned festival goer or Lips fan.