The first time I saw the Flaming Lips in concert, I was sure they’d changed my life forever.
I was waist-deep in the bliss of Pemberton and, having heard nothing more than “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Part 1” a couple times on the radio, I didn’t know what to expect from their live show. When the band came on stage with a brigade of fans dressed as Teletubbies, I thought I’d been transported to another world. Frontman Wayne Coyne climbed into his signature hamster-style bubble and as he traipsed across the crowd, tumbling and rolling inside of the bubble, confetti cannons erupted on both sides of the stage while gigantic balloons bounced on top of us. I remember stuffing my pockets with as much crumpled confetti as possible and later gluing them inside my “Pemberton journal,” alongside a stick-figure illustration of Coyne, hoping to immortalize a moment that, at the time, meant so much to me.
I saw the Flaming Lips at Malkin Bowl a few years later and was equally blown away this time, but the following year was when that colourful, oversized balloon popped. The Flaming Lips were at Sasquatch, performing “The Soft Bulletin and more,” but a raspy Coyne could barely make it through a song without erupting in meandering monologues about how the world was broken and we all needed to “hold on together.” They barely made it three quarters of the way through Soft Bulletin before running out of time and having to cut things short. It was the first time I’d ever been disappointed by a band at a music festival.
I’m not alone in my Flaming Lips fatigue and while I’m sure some people have just tired of their race to be the weirdest band alive—or maybe it’s the accusations of racism, who knows?—for me, the Lips seem to be more obsessed with themselves as a band rather than the music they’re creating. In essence, they’ve become a shtick band.
Another example of shtick fatigue: through some twisted fate, I’ve seen B.A. Johnston perform about eight times now in the last couple of years. The first show I was starstruck with the way he had all his music playing on a discman, how he played the piano with his nose and walked through the crowd, showering everyone with beer and armpit sweat along the way. The second time seeing him was more of the same and I honestly stopped paying attention after that. (“Hey, Jacey! If you don’t like seeing a band, then just don’t go see them.” None of the recent shows have been strictly B.A. They were either during Sled Island or I went to see the opening bands.)
Don’t get me wrong: I love shticks. There’s nothing wrong with having something distinguishable about your band’s live performances, but you should never rely on the theatrics of performing. They’re not something a person can take home with them after the show.
Shticks are great the first time; they’re slightly less enjoyable the second; and they can be downright insufferable as time goes on. Your shows can be a spectacle but I’ll give you a tip, as someone who goes to an unreasonable amount of shows: as long as you’re showing up and making great music, people will show up to listen to it.
On an unrelated note, you’ll notice our masthead’s shifted around a fair bit since the June issue. I’m pleased to announce that two of our long-time contributors, Alex de Boer and Robert Catherall, are our new Under Review and Real Live Action editors, respectively. I’ve had the pleasure of working with both of them over the past year and I can’t wait to see all the great things they’re going to bring in this new capacity. I’d also like to welcome Sves Yeung, our new art director. This issue you’re reading was a joint effort between her and our outgoing art director and I think they did an exceptional job.
That’s all for now, folks. We’ll be taking it easy for the rest of summer but Discorder will be back in time for September. See you then!
So it goes,
[Edited: Read Jacey’s follow-up to this article here.]