Monday, May 2, 2022

The Flaming Lips & Particle Kid 4.25.22


Mission Ballroom
Denver, CO

Words & photos by Andrew Wyatt

Sometime during the last year of my dad’s life, he once remarked to me that he enjoyed “the magic of refrigerator wisdom.” He went on to elaborate that refrigerators, in homes across the country, collaged with family photos and children’s drawings, also are interspersed with an infinite variety of poetry, philosophical quotes, words of practical advice. And, of course, his favorite, Bible verses.

It may seem odd amid the flurry of confetti cannons, inflated stage props, and a large flashing hallucinogenic LED back screen imagery, but it was the magic of refrigerator wisdom that struct me, during an enthralling evening of the Flaming Lips performing a rapturous set at the Mission Ballroom in Denver. Placed in the upper right corner of our refrigerator is a bumper sticker sun in the center of a haphazard orbit of photo booth strips of my wife and I in crazy festival costumes and wigs with this beckoning statement: “Until Further Notice, Celebrate Everything!”

Avid fans of the Flaming Lips brand of psychedelic rock, intuitively recognize that exhortation as a recurring theme of their live shows. Every Lips performance rises with champagne effervescence precisely because the lyrics and melodies are fermented with the recognition of human mortality and the imperative to live and love life while we are still living. Just three songs in and lead singer Wayne Coyne beckoned, from within his trademark inflated plastic ball, with the favorite, “Do You Realize??" Later, The Lips returned to another tune off the Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots album with, “All We Have Is Now.” “You and me were never meant to be part of the future,” Coyne’s high tenor voice gently warned in that song.

Coyne acknowledged between songs that musicians and their fans, before the Covid-19 pandemic, may have taken the joys of live music for granted.  After an abrupt halt to live shows, a two-year hiatus, and rescheduling snafus, Coyne said, “Now we have to play as if every concert is our last, because it really might be.”

The Mission Ballroom show was a rescheduled event meant to promote their 2020 album release American Head. The band deftly sprinkled songs from that album while reaching back to early hits like “Race for the Prize.”  Each song in the setlist seemed to be chosen as a reminder to music fans to recognize human loss and turn those losses into celebrations. Between one song, Coyne offered one statement encouraging fans who were experiencing personal struggle to keep smiling. This struck a chord because the last time I attended a Flaming Lips show was in 2016, the year my father battled brain cancer. His memorial service was held the day of my birthday that year.

Even the show opening act, Particle Kid, played their Syd Barret-influenced set with urgency and jarring abandon. So, it seemed quite natural, as I picked bits of brightly colored confetti and scattered musings from my tousled hair that the thought of refrigerator wisdom popped into my American head. Until further notice, celebrate everything, because all we have is now.

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