My Flaming Birthday
September 10, 2007, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

flaming lips show

As perhaps the fourth person spilled beer on my ankles, I was reminded why I’d said I would never return to the Aragon Ballroom. I’ve seen many a fine show there, beginning with the Kinks in 1977. All of eighteen at the time, I was still living in Peoria and had to ride the bus up for the show, which I attended with a man to whom I was once married. I had to stand on my folding chair to be able to see when everybody stood up, but the show was a peak experience that I subsequently followed up with others by Elvis Costello, The Jam, R.E.M., The B-52s, Iggy, The Ramones, Sonic Youth, and more. After the famous Sonic Youth/Public Enemy show that turned into a riot, I decided I was done with the Aragon. It wasn’t the melee that did it, it was the muddy sound and sordid beer-soaked ambiance that turned me off. I prefer intimate venues, not venues where people are involuntarily intimate because they are pressed up against each other’s nethers.

And I stayed turned off for 17 years with no regrets until Flaming Lips rolled into town last Friday, bringing all their toys with them and generously sharing them with all of us other kids. Seeing Flaming Lips in person was one of my life goals, and now that I’ve done it I can watch their concert video and actually find out what happened. The Aragon is not for us wee ones, at least not in the rear the main floor where I spent the first two songs on my tippy-toes behind a sea of giants, all thrusting their arms into the air and saying whoo. I knew I had a whoo or two in me, but that I would need to relocate myself in order to access my inner whoo and not feel cheated, so I abandoned my friend and sidled up along the far left side of the room where the crowd was more dispersed. Surprisingly, I managed to find a decent vantage point underneath one of the arches, fairly close to the stage and with one step of elevation. I couldn’t dance there because it was too precarious a spot and because the woman next to me was standing still and chewing gum, apart from occasionally swapping saliva with her collegiate boyfriend over my shoulder. But I could see, and I could sing “Yoshimi” to Wayne instead of to the back of some dude in front of me.

But really, I think the ideal vantage point for a FLips show would be to dance onstage with them. This would seem to be the ultimate endorphin rush, if not for the fact that to do it you must wear a costume. This time it was half aliens and half Santa Clauses, neither presumably as sweltering as the furry animal suits that were a fixture at one time, but neither particularly something I would want to wear whilst dancing for 2 hours in extreme heat. They’ve “done,” the suits, so perhaps it’s time for the band to challenge their fans to create their own outlandish costumes. Judging from the nature of the band’s appeal, I believe this would unleash a wave of creativity and a surprise factor that could only enhance the shows.

No set list here, but I will say that the band played everything a casual fan would want to hear, along with a few more obscure numbers and a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile.” Soaking up the joyful crowd singalong to “She Don’t Use Jelly,” I knew the meaning of this song had been permanently altered for me, from something that used to annoy me when it popped up on JBTV back in the day to an anthem manifesting the ferocious transformative healing power of 4,500 voices joined in a tribute to the sublime absurdity of tangerines and vaseline. Looking at Wayne back in 1993, I had no clue of the man he would become and I don’t think he did either. It took fourteen years and a few peeks into the abyss for Wayne Coyne to be transformed from just another singer to the genuinely beatific shaman/healer that emerges from that bubble every night and throws the wildest party known to man, and for that I thank him. Along with Rufus Wainwright and Nick Cave, Wayne Coyne comes across as one of the most fascinating and genuine figures in the music world, and his bandmates Stephen Drozd and Michael Ivins are no slouches either. Seeing this show has just made me want to see them again from a more rewarding perspective, preferably on the stage. I’d give almost anything to see their poolside show at the Palms in Las Vegas on September 16, because for me this would represent a divine convergence in which all my planets and chakras would be aligned and I would ascend to the mothership. I’m just saying. I think my head would explode and spew confetti from excitement.

This is perhaps not a normal aspiration for someone who just turned 48 yesterday, but then I don’t do normal very well. In some respects I’m feeling my years, having been propelled through a couple of weeks that have basically been a blur. No sooner did I get my hearing aid back than I was propelled into deep preparations for an overnight trip to the Kalahari Water Park in the Wisconsin Dells. Amidst all the planning and packing the night before we were to leave, my spouse discovered our car battery had died and corroded. I took this as a personal insult and sabotage from the forces of darkness, not that I’m paranoid or anything. My spouse managed to acquire a rental car that very night through great dedication and personal sacrifice, which was good. Somebody rear-ended that rental car less than half an hour out of the Dells, which was bad. Sitting in the car for well over an hour to file a police report I almost imploded from anger and frustration, which was also very bad because I had to stay cool on the surface for my daughter’s sake. The other guy was charged with Inattentive Driving, which was good, and we made it to the Kalahari and had a pretty good time, which was also good. Somewhat to my surprise, I am grudgingly beginning to acknowledge that water parks can actually be almost as fun as a Flaming Lips show. I am now anxiously waiting for Wet Las Vegas to open in 2011, or perhaps I’m just always looking for reasons to return to my spiritual home.

No sooner did we return from the Kalahari than it was time for me to dive into grad school, not quite so much of a culture shock as it was last year but still fairly cataclysmic in terms of the work load. As much as I would like to think it won’t affect my posts, I know I am easily overwhelmed and school and my daughter consume vast amounts of the psychic energy that might otherwise go into creative endeavors. We’ll see what I can manage, but this platform means enough to me that I don’t want to let it slip away altogether. I figure, if Wayne Coyne can get out in that bubble every night, the least I can do is to babble about what it all means to me and share these thoughts with whomever is patient and persistent enough to hunt for my sporadic but nonetheless heartfelt posts.

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Happy birthday!

I’ve returned to the Aragon twice recently, for the White Stripes a couple years ago, and again last year for Franz Ferdinand and the Hives. It struck me as MUCH cleaner and nicer than it did when we were going in the late 70’s and 80’s.

Comment by Joe

Dude, it looked clean when we got there and the bathrooms have definitely been completely redone. However, by the end of the show the floor was awash with beer and garbage. And as much as I hate to sound like an old fogey, I can’t handle general admission anymore unless I’m right up front or have a seat.

Comment by denalynn2001

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: