by Adam Reger
Is it a sign of approaching middle age to be basically indifferent to large chunks of pop culture? The Flaming Lips are playing Pittsburgh tonight. I saw that a while back and thought, “Yeah. Maybe.” Then did nothing. My girlfriend just texted to suggest we buy scalped tickets and go see the show. I couldn’t tell if she was kidding or not. (Update: I think she was.)
I saw the Flaming Lips a while ago. I remember it being a pretty excellent show: Sebadoh, Cornelius, and a band called ICU (that was actually one dude with a theramin) also played. It was at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia. I got off the wrong subway stop and wandered through some of Philadelphia’s sketchiest, dirtiest neighborhoods as dusk settled in and I got progressively more freaked out. It was the summer after my first year of college and I had just hacked off this great heinous mane of wavy hair that I’d been cultivating since the summer before my senior year of h.s. During the show, someone kept throwing water at Sebadoh’s bassist and he flipped out and came into the crowd. There were innumerable delays because HBO was recording the show. I came away liking Cornelius, mainly because of their copious use of Planet of the Apes imagery. Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips did a duet, with the theramin-playing guy from ICU, of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
Still: I would rather eat a nice dinner, take a walk, and watch a movie than go to an arena and see the Flaming Lips tonight. If this be middle age, fine. Even at that Philadelphia show, I remember walking to the door and applauding only half-heartedly for the Flaming Lips to come back for an encore. When they did, I stayed out of a sense of obligation. They were touring in support of The Soft Bulletin, which I didn’t love. Nor did I love Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. After that, I stopped paying attention. (Although I did go see Christmas on Mars, which was phenomenally boring and badly made to an extent you rarely ever see on the big screen.) It feels like the Flaming Lips have gone the way of Pearl Jam or U2, where whatever got them to this point—their fantastic weirdness, I’d argue—is alternately forgotten and trotted out as their shtick.
But, that’s just me. I have an embarrassing habit of being lukewarm on most bands’ breakthrough albums. Don’t ask me about The Bends versus OK Computer, because I’ll just make us both feel bad.
What were we talking about?