Flaming Lips Kick Off Noise Pop Festival With Big Beautiful Bang

The Flaming Lips bring "The Soft Bulletin" to San Francisco to kick off 20 years of Noise Pop.

Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne Cymbal
Josh Keppel

This is the 20th year of San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival and Tuesday night the Flaming Lips started the week in spectacular fashion by playing a shimmeringly beautiful recreation of their psychedelic pop masterpiece "The Soft Bulletin. "

The Noise Pop Festival runs through Sunday Feb. 26 and includes an overwhelming smorgasbord of today’s top musical talent. Every night this week there are numerous shows going on in multiple venues all over San Francisco. There’s way too many to list here so check out their website at 2012.noisepop.com

Wayne Coyne sure has come a long way since he and the rest of the Flaming Lips were crashing in sleeping bags on my friend’s living room floor after a Kennel Club gig back in 1989.

Back then they were basically a punk band with psychedelic overtones. Now they’re a psychedelic pop band that sells out stadiums.

Their stripped down power trio stage show has been replaced with an elaborate circus-like spectacle of balloons, costumes, confetti, and puppets. Instead of stage diving Wayne now rides over his massive adoring crowds in a gigantic plastic bubble.

They’ve come a long way both in style and sound. In 1993 they scored it big with their breakthrough hit “She Don’t Use Jelly,” after that they’ve pretty much been able to leave the sleeping bags behind as they’ve racked up a number of commercial and critically successful albums.

They’ve had a number of hit singles in England and Europe and have won three Grammy Awards. Albums, such as 2002’s "Yoshimi Versus the Pink Robots" have not only kept them in major label territory but gained them new legions of avid young fans as well. There’s a good reason for this.

Their sound has evolved into a stunningly perfect form of psychedelic pop that is both catchy and intellectually engaging. Nowhere is this on better display than on 1999’s "The Soft Bulletin," which was NME’s Album Of The Year and what they recreated at Bimbo’s Tuesday night. The show was of course sold out and standing room only.

After a pretty opening set by Release the Sunbird, the Flaming Lips took the stage to the sound of a sad piano and loud cricket noises.

Wayne greeted the jubilant crowd while a growing orchestral majesty steadily rose up behind him. Then they got this party started as the balloons, bright lights and confetti began flying as the band broke into the pop bliss of "Race for the Prize."

This was followed by a joyous "Spoonful Weighs a Ton." They just kept the hits coming as the flawless six piece band (two new guys helping with the live complete album duties) played tight yet inspired versions of one of their best loved albums.

The fans just ate it up and why not? It was a great show. It was an achingly positive affirmation of life punctuated by Wayne’s endearingly insufferable hippie blither blather between songs about what it all meant.

When he announced half way through the show that “Music is God. It’s the God I want to follow,” it would have been laughable if they hadn’t had the insanely catchy hooks to back this statement up.

When he completely slays a tune like a staggeringly beautiful "Waitin’ for a Superman" you realize his fragile plaintive voice is actually a potent melodic weapon and you’re willing to listen to almost anything he has to say.

Some of the highlights were "What is the Light" and "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate."

For the encore Wayne read a proclamation from Mayor Ed Lee, announcing Feburary 21-26 to be "Noise Pop Week," before ending with the heavenly pop of "Do You Realize."

Afterwards, everyone left the club with a smile on their face. As Wayne had told us from the stage, “The message of 'the Soft Bulletin' is that we are the ones who make ourselves happy.”

Contact Us