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Flaming Lips Arrive at Bonnaroo, Direct From Outer Space

It was absolute mayhem in Centeroo last night as I fought my way through throngs of Flaming Lips fanatics and curious onlookers, all vying for a primo spot at what promised to be the most psychedelic performance of the weekend.

Emerging an hour early for sound check, the Lips treated the already massive crowd to a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” before disappearing once again, only heightening the already mystical aura surrounding the show. Finally, as the clock struck midnight, a droning, spacey track flooded the audience while a flying saucer containing the Lips descended from above the stage. Seconds later, I spotted Wayne Coyne, larger than life, encapsulated in a giant bubble atop the illuminated saucer. With confetti streaming, enormous balloons floating above and laser pointers — which the Lips secretly passed out to lucky audience members – flashing everywhere, Coyne rolled into the audience for a quick spin around the front rows before deflating his bubble to begin the set with “Race For the Prize.” “Sorry it took so long,” Coyne apologized. “I know you all waited a long time. I hope it was worth it.” It certainly was.

Over the course of the next two hours, I experienced what can only be described as sensory overload. As the Lips jammed through the majority of tracks I most longed to hear — including “Flight Test,” “Free Radicals,” “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1 & 2” and the “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,” I struggled to take in the madness surrounding me. Coyne’s face projected from a microphone camera onto a giant screen, glowstick puppets dancing above the crowd, more truckloads of confetti flying overhead, a cloud of enormous bubbles and lots of sing-alongs were just a few of the overwhelming antics that left the few sober audience members wondering if someone slipped something in their drink.

Coyne also took the opportunity to get political though, urging festivalgoers to vote, and taking some jabs at the administration and their “stupid fucking war.” “Bush doesn’t have much time left. Let’s hope we don’t get a motherfucker that’s just as bad.” Then, in a tribute to fallen soldiers, the band played a truly breathtaking rendition of “Taps” that hushed the crowd.

With the show winding down and my aching body begging for relief, I regretfully called it an early night. Exiting to the epic tones of “Do You Realize,” I couldn’t help thinking that no festival could ever be complete without the Flaming Lips. DANE SMITH

Dane is most certainly right on — no festival could ever be complete without the Flaming Lips. For those who’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Oklahoma City trio perform, whether it be during their barroom heydays or as theatrical megastars in recent years, there’s one thing that separates Wayne Coyne and his musical crew from everyone else: unabashed, heavy-hearted sincerity.

What makes the Flaming Lips sincere is their generosity. For several tours now, they’ve been inviting fans on stage to dance during select durations of their celebratory live show. Lucky for me, I was one of the few asked to be a part of the band’s joyous Bonnaroo gig last night (June 16). The chance alone was surreal enough, however, to be on stage, sharing in the fans’ ultimate adoration for a band so good at what they do, and so passionate in paying it forward, it was an experience that left me nearly speechless. Call me a music geek. Call me a flat out dork. I’ve been called both things plenty of times, but that’s what I am.

As the clock struck midnight, a handful of other Lips enthusiasts and myself, donning Santa Claus attire amidst a humid Bonnaroo sky, scampered on to the Which Stage for the weekend’s biggest rock’n’roll party. My face might have been grazed in three days worth of Tennessee sand, and I may have been wearing a few too many layers of clothing for such a sweat-drenched night, but I was on stage with the freakin’ Flaming Lips! I asked a seasoned Santa if she had any advice; “Just dance really hard,” she said. I did just that for the next two and half hours, in between the zillions of red lasers, tangerine-colored balloons, raining confetti, and streamers.

Between the wave and sway of “Do You Realize” and the rousing chorus of “She Don’t Use Jelly,” the Santa Claus pack, positioned on stage right next to bassist Michael Ivins, and a host of aliens, stage left near guitarist Steven Drozd, danced like no one was watching. A million smiling faces beamed before us, but with the countless teeth showing around me, I was reminded of that idyllic childhood giddiness you get when you dream of that perfect candy store. Like Dane, my cheeks hurt so much from smiling – I don’t think I’ve smiled so long since I got my Huffy 10-speed for my 10th birthday. Call me a romantic. That’s what I am … especially when it comes to rock’n’roll. MACKENZIE WILSON