Probably the best way to see the Flaming Lips live is to go into the whole thing having no idea who they are or what their music sounds like. I only decided to go because I was intrigued by their openers, le Butcherettes, and I had no idea what sort of craziness waited in that theater.
Somehow the Lips had evaded my radar. Le Butcherettes crept onto the screen after seeing an internet video of a particularly eclectic performance of their song “New York.” In the video singer Teri Gender Bender is dressed like a 50’s housewife covered in blood. She screams and prances about the stage and her drummer comes out and pours flour over her head as Teri’s powerful voice breaks into some scatted-out, howling a capella. I had a feeling it was something worth seeing in person.
In the real, non-digital realm, Teri’s antics are scary, arousing, amusing, thought provoking, and hypnotizing. The Keller Auditorium was an unusual setting for such a performance, but strangely fitting. As le Butcherettes crashed their way through the set, the multiple balconies and plush-red-everything began to give off a strangely old-world gothic vibe. Teri is a sha-woman. Or maybe the word I’m looking for is Witch. But witches can be beautiful and enchanting.
She has burning eyes and a maniac posture. You can tell that she’s looking at something, but her eyes are seeing through the audience, beyond the walls of the theater. Her persona shifts constantly, taking on confidence, fear, sorrow, hatred, violence, jealousy, madness and joy to anthropomorphized extremes. It’s as if for one word she is the goddess of Vengeance, and in the next the angel of strength.
A lot of what’s been written about Teri Gender Bender has whittled her portrayal down to that of a feminist on the war path, but that narrows her far too much. The fact that she wants to empower women is incidental. Teri writes music that is empowering, plain and simple. It reflects the perilous and sometimes disastrous struggle of the individual over their circumstance. Rarely will you find music delivered in such a visual, physically penetrating manner.
Now that the Monotonix have broken up (shhh, if we don’t talk about it maybe it won’t be true), le Butcherettes may be the best and basest live performance we have available to us.
The moment the band finished their last song, Teri threw down her guitar and ran insanely up the walkway between the seats out the rear exit. There she went—she could be one of the next goddesses of rock and roll.
Suddenly everyone wanted a drink, and the inner ring was like Disneyland thanks to all of the long lines and freaks everywhere.
Before heading to the theater, I had stopped for a drink at the Lotus down the street. As eight o’clock, the show’s scheduled start, approached, more and more extravagantly clad weirdoes were streaming in and passed the bar. The oddity didn’t strike me at first, then a friend of mine said, “You’ll probably see all of these people at the show.” Oh? “Yeah. The Flaming Lips are supposed to be pretty crazy live.” You don’t say?
They were all there, of course. So it turns out that the Flaming Lips are a crazy psychedelic band.
Singer Wayne Coyne came out on stage to kind of warn everybody that things might get pretty crazy with the Space Bubble and the seats and all, and just don’t worry about the lights if they’re freaking you out, just close your eyes, and if you’re on acid or mushrooms…you’re going to have a really good time. And this chick in a green dress wearing alien antennae climbed up on stage and wouldn’t get down until he kissed her, and even then they had to get security to get her off the stage.
Then they fired up the Stargate. Seriously. They had a damned Stargate. So lasers, lasers, lasers…naked women dancing with one another, their images projected by lasers, then the band emerges from a laser woman’s vagina. Then Coyne rolls out on top of the crowd in a clear plastic ball. This is apparently all old news to everybody else, but it was entirely new to me. Giant balloons, confetti, a lot of great energy filling the room…an all around wild show. Those of you who are familiar with the Flaming Lips are probably aware of the spectacle of their show, and if you don’t know the band, I’m not going to reveal much more. Don’t look up their shows on Youtube or read another article to find out what goes on there. Just go to one of their shows. It’s worth it.
Watching security try to reign in a bunch of dancing, tripping hippies and keep them in their seats was pretty enjoyable.
Le Butcherettes and the Flaming Lips make an amazing bill. Different in many regards, their similarity comes through their ability to make music more than something you listen to. They both assault the senses in their own way; Teri through her schizophrenic catharsis, and the Lips through their life embracing joy-fest.
They both definitely make you feel alive.