Archive for April, 2009

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Earth Day Festival

April 20, 2009

I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything in a long time. I’ve kind of been having a rough couple of weeks. Beyond it being the final paper rush and the start of the time in which I really need to crack down on studying for finals, I also have a kidney stone which has pretty much been the bane of my existence for the past week in a half. I have been in ER three times and otherwise been in a great deal of pain or distraction due to medication, so things just haven’t been conducive to writing. With that said, I’m feeling a little better now and thought I would check in briefly.

Today (yesterday I guess considering it is after midnight now) was a good break. It will be the fortieth annual Earth Day on Wednesday, and in celebration of the event, the Earth Day Foundation held the Green Apple Festival in major cities throughout the country this weekend, with different musical artists performing to crowds of the “Green Generation.” Not surprisingly, Washington DC got the most sizable and significant lineup: DJ Spooky, Los Lobos, moe., and The Flaming Lips were the musical artists that the crowds got to see on the National Mall in front of the Capitol Building.

The format of the festival was frustrating, to say the least- about half of it consisted of environmentalists and famous people (no less a still completely unfunny Chevy Chase) speaking/screaming about the importance of the “Green Generation” to an unresponsive audience. It is hard to say how much the audience actually cared about the environment, but it is doubtful that any of the speakers really made an impact. For the most part, they spent too much time talking about how importang “going green” and having green jobs are, but they said almost nothing about how people can do their part on the individual level. The exception was a guy who mentioned how much riding bikes can help the environment- fair enough. But in general, the speakers were only tasks to go through on the way to the musical acts.

I arrived a little before Los Lobos came on stage, who played very well. I don’t know much about their legacy, but for a thirty-five year old band, they sure put on a fun, energetic show, and were one of the highlights of the day. DJ Spooky’s thankfully brief set consisted mostly of Radiohead and Jimi Hendrix samples, poor scratching, and footage of Antarctica. I’m not really much for jam bands, so moe. didn’t impress me much, but they had some pretty cool guitar solos. Keep in mind, for all of this, the price doesn’t get better- completely free.

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But all of us knew who we were there for. The Flaming Lips took a long time setting up, but this is pretty understandable; the band is known for their elaborate sets, and ultimately the wait was well worth it. Wayne Coyne came up on stage and talked to the audience during the long setup, which he also apologized for, but I’m pretty sure no one would have held it against him if he didn’t apologize. The truth of it is, I’ll bet the festival setup for the FLips is difficult. There is an awful lot to set up in a short amount of time, the audience has to watch them doing it, and they don’t have the benefits of their typical shows, which include projectors and UFOs which are hard to pull off at a festival.

Even considering their repertoire was probably curtailed, the wait was more than well rewarded: the stage theatrics included the notorious crowd-surfing hamster ball, a lights-flashing gong, dancers in costume, smoke machines, strobe lights, the giant hands and confetti blasters. The confetti was of particular concern, which Coyne addressed right after the band’s first song, “Race for the Prize,” in which they were utilized. According to him, they were told not to use them at the show in spirit of Earth Day and not polluting, but they did it anyway. He made it very clear that he trusted us to pick up the confetti after the show, and if Wayne Coyne tells me to jump, I ask how high, and just about everyone around me did their part afterwards in helping to pick up the confetti.

It might seem like these antics are all frosting on the cake, but I’m a strong believer that audience involvement is a wonderful thing for a live show, and it is hard to pull off. The bottom line is that no one gets anywhere close to audience involvement like The Flaming Lips, and that is a wonderful, important thing. The visual fun of their shows go hand in hand with the music, which was just as impressive as I was expecting. What really struck me in particular was the drumming of Kliph Scurlock, who hammered away at that kit when the opportunity provided and added an important element of energy to the music.

The band played a very rounded set, playing some older tunes as well as some newer ones. Granted, it’s not like I was expecting any really obscure songs, but they played “Lightning Strikes the Postman” off of Clouds Taste Metallic and a cover of Madonna’s “Borderline,” quite nice surprises. And of course they played the hits, such as “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “Fight Test,” and “Do You Realize??” These are singalong classics, which makes Coyne’s decision to make them singalongs at their concerts justified, but they did this a grand total of five times, sometimes for entire songs, and by the last one I was getting a little sick of it. I would have much rather that the band went all out on Fight Test and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but seeing these songs performed live was a gift, and it’s up to them how they want to do it.

In any case, the Flaming Lips are an incredible live band, and I thoroughly enjoyed this show and look forward to enjoying them yet again at the Pitchfork Festival over the Summer. Expect to have a full critique of the lineup once all of it becomes available…I’m thinking we are missing a headliner for Saturday, so I’d like to wait until that is known. Also, I’ll be seeing Spoon next weekend, and that will probably be worth writing about. I wrote down the setlist to today’s Lips show, which is as follows:

Race For the Prize
Lightning Strikes the Postman
Fight Test
Borderline (Madonna Cover)
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
The W.A.N.D.
She Don’t Use Jelly
Do You Realize??

EDIT: Also, I apologize for the lack of Radio Cure last week. I had to cancel the show because of my illness. This Wednesday will be the last Radio Cure of the semester, so make sure not to miss it- the playlist is going to be lots of fun.

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After Midnigt in DC

April 5, 2009

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