Since I saw the Kings of Leon back in the day when they made records I like (see Youth and Young Manhood and Aha Shake Heartbreak) I didn’t have any qualms about leaving their set after 15 minutes to get a good spot for the Flaming Lips’ soon-to-be legendary midnight set. I was pretty grinded about missing Chromeo with Darryl Hall, but what do you do?
I arrived 2 hours before set time and camped out for a spot in the middle about 20 yards back from the stage and rested up for what was sure to be a chaotic Lips set. At the stroke of midnight the Lips (virtually) emerged from the womb and Wayne rolled out into the crowd with his hamster ball.
For around an hour the Lips played a set of new tracks from the wonderful 2009 album Embryonic like “I Can Be a Frog”, and “See the Leaves” (but no “Watching the Planets”! curses!) and standard selections from their live catalog like “She Don’t Use Jelly”, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” and “The Wand”. Although everyone was rocking out, I think we all had Dark Side of the Moon in the back of our minds. After another timeless rendition of “Do You Realize?” (grown men were crying!) the Lips took a quick break to set up for Dark Side.
I’m not sure how much of the crowd had previously heard the Lips take of this iconic record, but it was by no means a note for note interpretation. As “Speak to Me” explodes into “Breathe”, the laid back space folk feel of the original track was long forgotten as drums and guitars wailed away into an almost unrecognizable (aside from the lyrics) blaze.
Possibly my favorite part of Dark Side was Steven Drozd’s vocals on “The Great Gig in the Sky”. He did it justice and I had no idea a male would even attempt that! As the song winded down Wayne announced to the crowd that they would now be throwing out balloons full of actual money to the crowd during “Money”, which was slowed down and twisted around an 808 beat.
I will always remember “Us and Them” and how thankful I was to be stone sober at the moment. There was so much smoke in the air and the music had taken me somewhere else. A thick wall of firecracker smoke covered the entire stage and clouded out most of the neon lights, and I wondered what could possibly be next as my legs teetered closer and closer to exhaustion.
As the crowd sang “I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon” along with Wayne we all knew it was coming to a close, and one of the most epic Lips shows in recent memory came to an end. I limped off in awe to catch the 2:30 LCD Soundsystem show and lived to tell the story.