The Flaming Lips, Handy Park, Memphis, TN – 6/27
Photo by Ellis Jones
The Flaming Lips’ pursuit to break Jay-Z’s Guinness World Record for the most concerts performed in multiple cities in a 24-hour span kicked off in Memphis. This historical journey began on a blistering afternoon at an elemental park tucked away on historic Beale Street. Unlike the seven other shows throughout the delta in route to set the record, this fortunate crowd would enjoy a full set from the band. …but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The boys from Oklahoma recruited many marquee names in order to set the record, although they did not require New Fumes to carry the majority of the musical load at the first show. That honor was bestowed on such established acts as Gary Clark Jr. and Grace Potter who would entertain the masses in other venues awaiting the circus to arrive. With little pressure, New Fumes, a frequent Lips collaborator, delivered a refreshing set. Daniel Hoffman is the sole creative force behind this electronic one man show. His act was an eclectic rainbow of sounds, akin to Keller Williams playing dance music. The guitar playing danced perfectly alongside his loops and sampling catalog. The short set energized the sweaty crowd to dance while further defining the boundaries of what electronic music can accomplish.
The Flaming Lips took the stage around five, a full hour and a half before the scheduled time of the world record attempt to begin. Colorful front man, Wayne Coyne in his usual polar attire, played the orator, explaining the details of their lofty endeavor and what was in store for this show. To set the mark, they had to at the minimum play three songs lasting at least fifteen minutes in each city. To the glee of all in attendance, he announced they would play music until the official ceremony started. If you thought they would phone in an average set, then you’re not familiar with this band.
The performance did not resemble a stripped down Flaming Lips concert in the slightest. Armed with all their bells and whistles, they delivered an inspiring musical achievement. Out of the initial confetti storm, “Worm Mountain” began to take shape with an interesting acid jazz intro. The carnival had officially begun. This psychedelic arrangement shined in large part, thanks to multi-instrumental virtuoso Derek Brown’s precession fingers. Whether picking or manipulating his keyboard, he pushed the jams into interesting terrain all afternoon. Their 1993 crossover hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly” followed, and Wayne led the sing-a-long as the fevered fans rejoiced.
The freak out that is a Flaming Lips stage show was on full display while the eye candy flooded the senses – the band executed coveted songs with purpose. The ritual in which Wayne encloses himself in a life-size hamster ball while he literally rolls over the crowd took place while the band explored aspects of “Dark Side of the Moon.” It transformed the park into madness and was memorable on many levels. The highlight of the set took place moments before things got official, as the band treated everyone with an impeccable version of the seldom performed gem, “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell.”
The clock was fast-approaching 6:30 and the race to break the record was about to begin. Two people dressed in ill-fitting suits from the Guinness Book of World Records watched observantly. Mayor of Memphis, A.C.Wharton ceremoniously introduced the band and proclaimed Jay-Z was going down. Following that sentiment, New Fumes immediately joined the band on stage to start the record attempt with an elegant collaboration in the form of the debut of, “It’s Summertime”. The Flaming Lips concluded the required fifteen minutes with the classic, “Do you Realize”, which would become an anthem en route to establishing the world record.
It was glaringly obvious over the course of the festivities that the band was elevated with the task that lay ahead. The music was fearless and loose as they began their march into history. Rushing into the bus to chase their destiny, they left behind a performance worthy of the record books.