Saturday, July 30, 2011

Forbidden Fruit, Part 3 – Some Positivity

this is episode 3 of my account of the ghastly Forbidden Fruit festival

After Yo La Tengo I was seriously thinking of just cutting my losses and heading home for a nice sherry or a warming cup of cocoa, but my beloved persuaded me to stay on for the headliners, who were admittedly the main reason I had come down to Forbidden Fruit in the first place. And these people were… The Flaming Lips, a band I had basically not seen since their tour after the first Bowlie Weekender (or maybe I also saw them at an early ATP). Back then, they were a somewhat avant-garde indie rock band, sometimes associated with Mercury Rev, who were beginning to achieve some recognition on the back of bizarre live shows and the sheer attritional force of a band that will not stop plugging away. Since then, the Flaming Lips had become surprisingly popular and were now almost a default festival headliner band, largely on the strength of a truly spectacular live show. My beloved persuaded me that this was something we had to see – that no matter how squalid Forbidden Fruit was, we had to bear the horror and stay to see the elephant.

I appreciate that, at this stage of the game, I am basically the last person in the world to see the Flaming Lips spectacular live show, so maybe I do not need to say too much about it. Still, something must be said. It is… spectacular. They come on through a door on a screen on which super-bright images are projected, while the audience is bathed in strobe lights. The sides of the stage are filled with randomers dressed as characters from The Wizard of Oz. Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips gets into a giant ball and rolls across the audience. Balloons, confetti, and various other objects are blasted in the vague direction of the audience. Basically, this is the thing to show anyone who moans about how today's bands don't know how to put on a show*. The Flaming Lips had me grinning like a lunatic and seemed to, briefly, create a sense of genuine audience community. I fact, I actually had a pleasant conversation with a stranger who asserted that she was the actual giant woman on the screens behind the Flaming Lips (she had changed her hairstyle in the meantime, apparently).

And the music? You do hear people saying that for all the Flaming Lips amazing visual treats, the actual music is a bit pedestrian. I cannot agree to this, it still sounds way more avant-garde to me than anything you would normally get headlining a festival for trend people. OK, so they are not Boredoms, but it is intriguing that this kind of music can still find something approximating to a mass audience. That said, they do occasionally drift off into bland ballad territory (e.g. that dreadful 'Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots' song) but they soon come back to something off the wall.

I am surprisingly unfamiliar with the Flaming Lips on record, but they did play some songs I know. Sadly, not so much from the recent album Embryonic, so we did not get to join in with the animal noises on 'I Can Be A Frog'.

Still, all good things come to an end. The initial sense of audience community largely wore off as drunken munters started telling each other i) how much they were enjoying the gig and ii) how drunk they were. Once the Flaming Lips finished, I made my excuses and left.

* I am indebted to Sarah Dorman for this insight.

image source

An inuit panda production

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