The Flaming Lips — music never looked so fun

Wayne Coyne and his giant, confetti balloon just before it pops.

Wayne Coyne and his giant confetti balloon just before it pops.

Do you realize?? Because I certainly didn’t realize how much fun a concert could be until I saw The Flaming Lips perform at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival Saturday night.

I can definitively say it was the most wacked-out, feel-good party I have ever been to. In my friend’s words after the concert, “I have never been a part of anything so wonderful.”

I didn’t see the entire festival. Frankly, my friends and I were so fixated on The Flaming Lips, we could hardly stand to wait through the other bands. Objectively, however, it was a solid festival. I can’t say every group lined up with my musical tastes — 30-minutes-a-song jam bands simply aren’t for me; I’m looking at you Railroad Earth — but I can see the appeal of having a wide variety of genre to attract a diverse audience.

Maytisyahu gets the dub-fueled lyrics going.

Maytisyahu gets the dub-fueled lyrics going.

Matisyahu put on a good performance, waiting until after sunset in accordance with the Jewish sabbath. His set was comparatively short though — only one hour. Of course, we didn’t complain because of the shear ecstasy of our anticipation for The Flaming Lips, but I would have like to see a bit more from the soul-rapping dub master.

Call me bias — I’ve been a huge Flaming Lips fan since I first heard them — but their show was simply phenomenal. In signature style, lead singer Wayne Coyne entered an inflatable bubble and rolled out onto the crowd, suspended by the countless fans.

At one point, a fan threw a pink robot — avid fans will get the reference — onto the stage and Coyne wore it, using it for a Yoshimi singalong. “This is the first performance where the audience provided the robot costume,” Coyne joked. “We’ll get you your suit back. Thank you.”

Wayne Coyne navegates the crowd in his space bubble.

Wayne Coyne navigates the crowd in his space bubble.

Probably the best part of the concert was the feel-good vibe. The Flaming Lips have a unique style of almost overly optimistic, uplifting lyrics. They consciously rub against angsty rock, choosing instead to focus on having fun with tons of props and colors. The atmosphere made the crowd wonderfully happy — and some a bit stoned. Everyone just wanted to have fun and be happy.

Twenty-four hours later, I already know I won’t miss an opportunity to see them perform again.

Members of the audience onstage in costume.

Members of the audience onstage in costume.

Yes, that is Wayne Coyne's giant face in the background.

Yes, that is Wayne Coyne's giant face in the background.

Get Yoshimi!

Get Yoshimi!

Good thing Earth Day is over.

Good thing Earth Day is over.

Everything is color — even sound itself.

Everything is color — even sound itself.

Okkervil River @ ASU

People crowd the stage in the warm night.

People crowd the stage in the warm night.

Last night Okkervil River played a free show for Arizona State University students. Getting to see a band voted high on the best new music for free doesn’t get much sweeter.

I only saw the second opening band, a local group called Austin Gibbs — named for the lead singer. Gibbs was plesent enough and a good chillout before the main attraction, but his songs struck me as accutely two-dimensional. Most of them were love-related, cliche songs that really didn’t push the envelope lyrically or musically. Still, it was good to lie in the grass and just bob heads to.

Okkervil River, however, was amazing. This band has garnered a lot of attention from music critics and, while I can’t say I love every song, the live set was great. Their music has a surpising amount of intrumental depth that I never noticed until actually seeing all the intruments.

The crowd enthusiasm added to the experience too. Unlike most free concerts, which tend to attract a mostly apathetic crowd, people showed some real following for the band, belting out lyrics and clapping along through the entire show.

Okkervil River @ ASU

Okkervil River @ ASU

The set was shorter than most concerts — only a bit over an hour for the headliner. But the length seemed fine, and Okkervil played their most recognizable collection. Also, an encore was guarunteed — as my friend pointed out, “you know they’re coming back out; they haven’t used their mandolin yet!”

ASU Art Museum Film Festival

ASU Art Museum's Annual Film Festival: the turnout

ASU Art Museum's Annual Film Festival: the turnout

Last night was the 13th annual ASU Art Museum Film festival. The turnout was great —  50+ (edit: 1000+ so much for my ability to estimate crowds) people with lawn chairs and blankets spread out over the museum’s architecture in the warm night.

Oh  yeah, and the films were great too. Entries from all over the country were presented back to back, and I liked every one. Film festivals always present a great opportunity to escape from the formulaic, perpetual echoing of film-culture. They really challenge people to both feel and think through the visual/audio presentation. You may not always understand pieces, but understanding isn’t what’s important — it’s the sensations they provokes.

I took the opportunity at intermission to shoot my first panorama, using my crappy little digital camera. I just free-handed it so the images didn’t line up perfecty, but some creative cropping fixed that. Above is the full image in a low-quality format for the web, and I’m trying to create a player that allows you to zoom and move around the image, but it’s not working yet — WordPress may not allow me to embed it without some serious fennangling . I like how it turned out though; maybe I’ll do more panoramas soon.

Civic Space Park opens

enter the vortex

enter the vortex

"Her Secret is Patience" hovers over the Cronkite School.

"Her Secret is Patience" hovers over the Cronkite School.

About half a month behind schedule, the Civic Space Park opened today, bringing a large, urban-style park to Phoenix.

The park looked excellent — lush grass, chessboard-topped tables, polished and cleaned architecture. And, of course in the middle of it all, was Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret is Patience,” the giant “mothership-looking sculpture” (as my friend described it) that hangs over the space.

Water is good at 100+ degrees.

Water is good at 100+ degrees.

City council members, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, representatives from ASU and the community spoke at the opening. Gordon emphasized that the park’s completion made Phoenix final look like the fifth largest city in the nation — which appearances or not, it is.

Crowds gathered for the opening.

Crowds gathered for the opening.

Personally, I can’t wait to chill on the grass between classes at the Cronkite School. The park looks and feels (think grass on your toes) great. I’m just a bit miffed it didn’t open earlier; the good weather won’t last long.

McDowell Mountain Music Fesitval = The Flaming Lips

The Love Blisters cover "Flight Test." (Photo by Phoenix New Times)

The Love Blisters cover "Flight Test." (Photo by Phoenix New Times)

I just saw The Love Blisters play The Flaming Lips’s “Flight Test” for the Phx New Times.

Now I’m beyond excited for the McDowell Mountain Music Festival!

The Flaming Lips: paragons of showmanship.

The Flaming Lips: paragons of showmanship.

I’ll admit, The Flaming Lips are the majority of my reason for going (please let Wayne Coyne dress as either an alien or a bunny rabbit). But the whole festival seemed a bit expensive: “$50 for tickets to a music festival when I only want to see one band.” After pondering the lineup a bit longer, I’ve assured myself this will be a solid day of music — including rumors of a drum circle.

For those not acquainted with The Flaming Lips, GET ACQUAINTED! I say this mostly because I’ve tried before to describe the sonic gestalt that is The Flaming Lips and failed miserably. Suffice it to say, if you’re into anything from dream-poppy bliss to obscurely happy punk-rock, this band could be for you. They’ve been around for 25+ years; background shouldn’t be required at this point.

They seem to like orbs a lot.

They seem to like orbs a lot.

Building a more connected (online) Phoenix

Yesterday’s post on Urban Affair and Downtown Phoenix Journal generated a ton of views and comments — way more than I expected.  But then, maybe that’s to be expected considering Phoenix’s increasingly large, and  zealous, local movement.

I just wish I had paid more attention.  The original post was a rush job I quickly hammered out between classes simply to get something posted (there’s a lesson in responsible blogging in here somewhere).  Of course, the result included some errors of fact and typos, but I’m actually glad they were there.  Without them, I doubt the post would have received the attention it did, and I never would have heard the bloggosphere’s Phoenix voices  — and there are a lot.

Beginning in-mass approximately 10 years ago, many Phoenix residents have worked hard to develop nationally recognized movements promoting local business and community.  Of course there’s Kimber Lanning, et al., with the exalted Local First Arizona, the largest coalition of independent business in the nation.  LFA is the organization I’m most familiar with, having written half a dozen stories on it for various publications and journalism projects in the past year or so — the topic always seems to please j-school professors.  But there are tons of other movements, and a surprising number of them are online.

The cyber community in Phoenix, while not as big as many other cities, seems to be extremely well-connected.  Blogs link to organizations, which link to blogs, which link to businesses, etc.  And the writers for these publications certainly seem to know what’s going on; the coverage is phenomenal.

As a small-time local blogger, it’s really amazing to see the power of these larger movements.  I DO see blogging as the future of local publications, overtaking the free, community papers.  Print will always be available, but more and more content has moved online.  And that’s great.  Online has so many benefits, among them the ability to link and create vast communities that coordinate and contribute to each other.  Groups like Urban Affair and DPJ have become hubs for both original content and aggregated information imported from dozens of personal spider blogs.

It’s good to be in a community.  As conceptions and expections of journalism change, the since of journalistic duty to the community will always remain.

Urban Affairs staches up Downtown Phoenix Journal blog

Downtown Phoenix Journal announced yesterday its acquisition by Urban Affair, the new marketing campaign for Phoenix.

DPJ, the biggest blog for aggregating info in Phoenix, has been a great source of news for the downtown area since 2006. Its bloggers mix postings about events and issues to produce a solid, hyper-local blog. However, downtown keeps changing; it recently rocketed out of the dull drums and into a world-class urban center. So, DPJ should change too, I suppose. I’m just worried the new renters will corporartize what was a great, independent voice.

A shiny new site is born...I'm a bit jealous.

A shiny new site is born...I'm a bit jealous.

Urban Affair, a recently started campaign, is looking to promote Phoenix in much the same way cities like Las Vegas promote themsleves—by establishing a well known brand and appeal.  In our case, Urban Affair wants to market Phoenix as the “urban heart of Arizona.” (Correction: The “urban heart” campaign is actually the work of Downtown Phoenix Partnership.  Thanks for those who commented and corrected me.)

DPJ’s new look certainly ratchets up the visual appeal — ah, the wonders of professional graphic designers.

Now, this move is probably a good thing in most respects.  Urban Affair shows great promise.  Their moves seem to show they understand why people like downtown—the urban appeal, the independent shops, the unique atmosphere.  Hopefully DPJ and their fan base will help guide them too.