The Flaming Lips to open summer season at Belly Up Aspen
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a story originally published in the Aspen Times Weekly on Dec. 22, 2016.
The Flaming Lips gave Aspen one of its most memorable onstage moments in recent memory when, in the wake of David Bowie’s death in February 2016, the Oklahoma psych-rockers took the stage at Belly Up and played an eight-song tribute to the pop music legend.
Lips appearances have become routine around here since the band’s Belly Up debut in 2010 — often making seasonal appearances in the club, where the band returns on Friday, June 8. But, of course, there’s never anything routine about a Flaming Lips show.
Their mix of stage theatrics, folk and rock have made for singular experiences in each local outing.
At the first show here, frontman Wayne Coyne popped his signature “space bubble” — a human-sized hamster wheel in which he surfs on crowds — while attempting to roll off the stage.
The local concerts have been among the few small-venue appearances the band has made in recent years, but they haven’t been shy about breaking out their full bag of tricks: confetti canons, massive mirror balls, Coyne’s prosthetic laser-shooting hands, balloons and, of course, the space bubble.
“Whenever I hear music, I ask, ‘What’s the visual that goes with that?'” Coyne told The Aspen Times during one of the band’s swings through town. “Whenever I see something visual, I think, ‘What’s the sound of that?'”
Coyne and his merry pranksters play an inimitable brand of rock and folk and unadulterated weirdness they’ve perfected since they started playing together more than 30 years ago. They’ve had just one bona fide commercial hit, 1993’s “She Don’t Use Jelly,” but came into their own creatively with 1999’s “The Soft Bulletin.”
It was around then that they started adding all the bells and whistles to their live shows and earning a reputation as the best spectacle on the festival circuit.
“We just thought we had nothing to lose by being a group that tried weird things,” Coyne said. “It was, ‘What more can we do?’ And that freed us up — I could throw confetti and use puppets. I put myself in the audience and think: What would I want to see?”
Their songs can tend toward the surreal, like “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” but more often the Flaming Lips tread some serious existential ground. 2013’s “The Terror,” for example, was a dark and atmospheric trip. Coyne’s lyrical focus on the dark side, curiously, led to the the joyful and cathartic fun we’ve come to expect out of their live shows.
“I don’t want to bum the people out,” he said. “I don’t want the audience to go home and blow their brains out. I want them laughing and enjoying themselves, so we have balloons. I’d do whatever I could to communicate to them that this was entertainment. We knew we were singing about things so personal and powerful that, if they internalized it, it wouldn’t be fun. A lot of times, people look at the guys onstage and say, ‘Yeah, I want to be like them.'”
The band’s most recent album is “Oczy Mlody,” released last year.
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