Toronto – That’s right, this concert was so good we’re reviewing it twice. And since Allison did all the hard work of actually writing about the details of the show, I can go off on bizarre tangents and whatnot.
Wayne Coyne is a cosmic prophet of peace and love and good times. I think the man may have special powers. Among these powers is the ability to somehow slow down time so that one song feels like an entire show. Seriously, after the barrage of confetti, balloons, Wayne in the space bubble, and the magically delicious music, I realized after they played “The Fear” that it was only the first song. It felt like at least 3 songs. It was like the opposite of “time flies when you’re having fun” and more like “time stops when you’re having fun and Wayne Coyne uses his mystical wizard powers to shunt you into a pocket dimension where time has no meaning.”
Speaking of time, I will now fold time back upon itself and talk about the opening acts. I arrived during Tokyo Police Club’s set. I think I caught most of it. They were good, but didn’t seem quite suited to playing such a large venue. That said, they put on a pretty high energy show. Too bad they played to kind of a sparse crowd. Spoon were up next and while their stage show was nowhere near as flashy as that of The Flaming Lips, they made up for that in songcraft. Tunes such as “I Summon you,” “I Turn My Camera On,” “Don’t Make Me A Target,” and well, pretty much every song came across great live, even if Britt Daniel didn’t shoot lasers from his eyes while unicorns popped out of oversized wedding cakes. (Note to Flaming Lips: you can totally use those ideas for your next show. I don’t need the credit, seeing cake unicorns in action is thanks enough) They didn’t play “Got Nuffin,” which is one of my favourites from Transference, but I’m willing to let that one slide.
And now back to the adventures of the wizard Wayne Coyne and his band of sonic adventurers. Speaking of wizardry, I began to imagine during their set that Coyne was in fact the great and powerful Oz as I watched his giant head projected onstage behind him. “Pay no attention to that man on stage! He’s not singing, I am! And I can stop time! And summon caterpillar kings and catfish cops and guys in bear suits!” Either that, or Wayne Coyne is Big Brother. Big Brother is watching you … but he’s cool. And he’s smiling. If Wayne Coyne was in charge of Oceania, Winston Smith might not have had a reason to rebel. And Room 101 would be full of videos of naked ladies dancing. Oh, and everyone, I mean everyone, would be wearing orange.
Coyne may be an all powerful being in contol of space and time, but even he can’t stop the war in Iraq. “We know that playing a song isn’t gonna end a war,” he said by way of introduction to a lovely rendition of “Taps” that the band played near the end of the set. But he did encourage the entire crowd to form peace signs and raise them in the air so as to “shoot energy” out into the cosmos or something. It was like we were all part of some awesome magical ritual. I’d like to believe that we did all shoot some energy out of our fingers. Sure it didn’t end a war, but I’m certain it made the world a better place somehow. A place full of confetti and balloons and good vibes.
I’m officially bogarting this review. You heard me right, I’m bogarting this review, which is something I have never ever done in my life before. You’re witnessing history here, folks. I’m clamoring to write about something that does not specifically benefit my self-interested bludgeoning. I’m bogarting something that is not a beer or a j.
Scratch that. Seeing as last night’s Flaming Lips show completely blew away anything I could have previously imagined in terms of concert theatrics, showmanship, and the lustre of Wayne Coyne, this is the precise definition of self-interested bludgeoning.
Two words describe the Flaming Lips’ set: HOLY FUCK. I have never seen them live before, and as much hype as you have heard about them, nothing can possibly prepare you for seeing it yourself, up close and personal. Even if you have seen them 100 times before, I can’t imagine sitting back and not being set on fire by the enthusiasm Wayne Coyne ignited last night. I’m going to run through the elements of why this show was so awesome, despite being environmentally unfriendly:
As someone who is often satisfied with the most lo-fi things in life, the special effects strewn throughout this show was a sensory overload What’s not to like about confetti canons? They make a satisfying cork pop sound, awesome shit flies out everywhere and lands on you. Some poor grounds person ends up having to sweep up tons of shit. It’s a win-win-win situation.\
A ginormous light show screen served as an awesomely bizarre Clockwork Orange-like backdrop throughout the night. Coyne had a camera strapped to his microphone that was projected on the screen inbetween giant dancing topless ladies, vaginas, vulvas, births, intercourse, bunnies, and anything else you can think of.
Dozens of brightly coloured giant balloons floated throughout the audience, reminding me of a gum ball in a dryer paradise. The most joyous part of this whole display was when the balloons volleyed over to someone who would pop it, exploding into a happy confetti show within a confetti show.
The entrance that these guys make is absolutely outrageous in the best possible way. We were treated to a giant vagina pounding on a giant screen before each band member rolled out on a platform board. Coyne got tossed around in his legendary space bubble all over people who got floor tickets, while instructing them to squish super close together so that he could roll around like an American Gladiator. If you need any further confirmation that Wayne Coyne is a performance God, look no further than his efforts in his space bubble.
You would think that after 27 years of recording and performing and 2006′s Virgin Festival abortion, Wayne Coyne and company would be more jaded than the decade that made them famous. You would be a complete fucking fool to think so, though, because this man showed more love and enthusiasm towards us than anyone you can imagine. This is a man who is on the brink of turning 50 years old, and has more bright-eyed optimism than any 3 year old I know. There wasn’t a moment where he wasn’t trying to fist pump us into a pogo-sticking screaming frenzy. And it worked. This is mob mentality done right.
INTIMACY / CONNECTION:
If last night’s concert was the equivalent of a man and my first date with him, I’d be so under his flashy spell that he might be able to con me out of all of my assets in a day and a night. Wayne Coyne did everything in his power to get everyone scream-singing along at the top of their lungs, making various helicopter, weather, and animal noises to I Can Be A Frog, and clapping in unison. We had many conversations with Wayne that night, some involving love (“If you give love, you never have to worry about being loved.”), some involving world peace (“I want everyone to make a peace sign and direct it up into the air, shooting it anywhere for peace somewhere”), some involving dreams (“Have you ever had a dream, only to think you weren’t having a dream? Or thought you were awake, only to think you were dreaming?”), some involving the Bush Administration (“This song is about turning all of the hatred and frustration we had about George W. Bush and channeling it into our support for Barack Obama”), some involving the consumption of weed (“I smell a lot of weed tonight. Let’s pretend that in this section of the city, the Mayor of Toronto has legalized marijuana”).
In other words, there’s nothing Coyne wasn’t willing to share with us last night. Looking at his grinning face whenever he received scream-metre love back, and how genuinely touched he was (“You know hearing that sound, is the greatest sound anyone can ever hear”). It’s easy to fall in love with Wayne Coyne as a performer and a person. I don’t know shit all about him as a person, but I’m going to pretend everything I know about his surrealist, art-loving self is real and true. He has the dreamboat qualities of a real capital M Man. With longish curly hair and a full man beard to boot…yep, I’m completely smitten.
Giant hands that shot out green lasers onto ginormous twin disco balls. Need I say more?
As anyone who has sat in the back seat of my parents’ vehicle before when a Fleetwood Mac song has been playing knows, there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good sing-along. The only show I can think of that, MIGHT surpass this one in terms of singing along would be the Violent Femmes show I went to back in ’98. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Do You Realize?, She Don’t Use Jelly, and The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song all strained our vocal chords.
Silver Trembling Hands
She Don’t Use Jelly
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song
The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine
In The Morning of the Magicians
I Can Be a Frog
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1
See the Leaves
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
Do You Realize??
OK, I realise this has been a completely one-sided schoolgirl crush gushing about how amazing the Lips were, but I should mention that Austin band Spoon was also great (and I now really regret skipping their show with Deerhunter back in March). I was expecting dry, folk laden songs, and I was surprised how great their more electronic songs were. It’s just that after seeing Wayne Coyne and company, none of us could really remember their set. Tokyo Police Club are an even more distant memory, whom Coyne referred to as the “Tokyo Police Chaps”, also complimenting “whoever put this show together”. We missed Fang Island and the first 1/3 of the Tokyo Police Club set, but I’m not sure that it matters.
A solid 4.5 hours of top shelf rock ‘n roll was worth every cent of the $70 we paid. Officially the most expensive, and most satisfying show ever.
Toronto – The theme for my last weekend of the jazz festival was intimate clubs. I chose to spend Saturday evening at Trane Studio to check out Andy Milne & Dapp Theory. I had read their bio and was interested in what was described as a jazz hip-hop fusion. Indeed after the ridiculously amazing show The Roots put on, I was looking for just such an excuse to listen to more hip-hop. With this in mind, I was curious to see what Dapp Theory was all about. They’ve recently garnered some praise in Jazz Times with some lofty words about pioneering a “musical unified field theory”.
Do not have a wedding reception at a club where there is a live show about to happen, unless you are related to one of the musicians.
When I arrived at Trane Studio, I was a little surprised to find a woman in a bridal gown. At first I was under the impression that maybe Andy Milne’s cousin just got married and decided to have the reception at the show. That would have been wicked cool. I was disappointed to find out that the wedding reception and the show were completely unrelated. With the reception butting right up against the live show, it certainly made for an awkward standoff as concert goers waited for the wedding party to vacate the club. Let this be a lesson to our attentive readers: do not have a wedding reception at a club where there is a live show about to happen, unless you are related to one of the musicians.
I was definitely expecting hip-hop to be a prominent aspect of this show. In reality, the needle was pegged at “jazz” on my trusty jazz-to-hip-hop fusion-o-meter. This normally wouldn’t be much of a problem for me, because I like jazz. I just couldn’t identify with the jazz that Dapp Theory was playing. The hip-hop aspects were really more spoken word. On my other trusty instrument, my beatnik-to-hip hop fusion-o-meter, the needle was pretty forcefully pegged at beatnik. Not in a good way. The songs were long and the crowd seemed both stoic and alienated.
I’ll admit that it was entertaining to see some elderly ladies sitting completely still trying to absorb the crazy beatnik jazz going on. Five minutes of repetitive vocal vamp had them really reeling. They looked wide-eyed and perhaps a little scared. Unfortunately the novelty of crowd watching faded pretty quickly, and so I decided to copy Brian’s move from the night before at the very same club and abscond while the absconding was good.
Toronto – If there was one thing that was missing from the early part of my jazz festival experience this year, it was some time checking out some small clubs. This was certainly due to my own designs; there were so many great acts happening at the main stage at Nathan Phillips square that I had difficulty straying from the beaten path. But jazz is a music that works best in intimate venues. It was with this thought held firmly in mind that I embarked on the final weekend of the festival. The mission was clear: spend some quality time at the local clubs in the city.
Friday night found me at The Rex, one of the few institutions left in Toronto. This place is an integral part of the jazz community in the city. It balances great live music with a laid back vibe that welcomes music lovers of all stripes. The Andrew Stew Art Project consisted of the namesake of the band on bass, paired with some excellent Toronto musicians, and a bona fide steel pan player in Gareth Burgess. Tastefully done steel pan jazz is one of my very favourite things, so going to this show was a no-brainer for me. This show gets my top marks this year in my newly created Favourite Jazz Show At A Small Club category. The musicians were into it, the crowd was into it, and the vibes were positive. What more can you ask for?
At one point during the second set, a female vocalist was invited on stage for a few numbers. Unfortunately the result was a little lacklustre, as it was difficult for the crowd to maintain the momentum and sheer groove that accompanied the purely instrumental songs. It was a fun show at a great little club, and would easily earn 4.5 stars in my books if done again sans vocals.