Levitation: The Flaming Lips Shower the Crowd With Rainbows at Stubbs

 


Since the Flaming Lips last played in Austin in January, the lead singer Wayne Coyne has become a father. The Flaming Lips played at the Hi, How Are You Festival on January 22, 2019, a tribute for Daniel Johnston’s birthday who passed away in September. The Hi, How Are You Project, inspired by Daniel’s art and struggles with mental health, holds space for conversations about mental health and reducing the stigma of mental illness by doing so.

 

The Flaming Lips drew a crowd of freak folk lovers styled in all fashions. Next to me, a couple with green hair. One said to the other, “See, you can have green hair and still be successful.”

 

The band took the stage, two drummers with green hair, Coyne in a white suit with his black vest/holster and Steve Drozd in a rainbow cape. The set begins with “She Don’t Use Jelly.” With each crest of the melody, confetti cannons release with oversized rainbow balloons. The vaseline chorus and rainbow rain mixing with the real precipitation felt like reality bent Levitation, surrounded by people with green hair, face paints, sequin shoulder pads, capes, berets, tangerines. Meanwhile, a crop-topped man straddling a surfboard of jello shots rides the crowd. They played many of the same songs as they did in January, including the Daniel Johnston cover, “True Love Will Find You in the End.” Since Daniel’s recent passing, one could expect the cover to be melancholy, but, instead, the song rang through as a joyful anthem.

 

As is their staple now, The Flaming Lips toted the huge foil all capital letters 'FUCK YEAH LEVITATION' onto the stage. Coyne threw the letters into the hungry crowd, who disassembled the syntax, and letters surfed through the venue like alphabet soup. Confetti still seemed to trickle from somewhere even though the cannons stopped releasing songs ago. 

 

The encore was a little painful given that Stubbs was sold out, peoples’ bodies are touching, but Wayne rides into the audience on a rainbow unicorn with rainbow angel wings fluttering behind him. The crowd was so dense that event staff had to split the sea of people for his chariot to pass through. I don’t remember the song we sang – edit: it was “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1” –  because I was levitating and seeing Wayne levitate on that unicorn, and really everyone levitating at that point even though unicorn took forever to make its dressage through the audience while the synth endlessly looped. What a lovely Levitation Fest.

 

-Mel Green

Photo: Casey Holder