Wednesday, May 18, 2005

How The Flaming Lips Found Me

I saw/heard the Flaming Lips for the first time, as a lot of people did, back when grassroots Chicago fans made "She Don't Use Jelly" a hit and the video played like clockwork on Mtv. Surprisingly, Wayne's orange mane wasn't the thing that grabbed me. I was more fascinated by Ronald's big, bushy black hair. But mostly I was trying to figure out what this guitar player, who looked like he might be from India, was doing with all of these psychadelic white boys....and the song was pretty catchy too.

The next time I encountered them was during my weekly gathering to watch Beverly Hills 90210 with all my roomates. There they were in the Peach Pit, lip-synching to their hit and generally looking out of place. Bold move.

A few years later, I was riding my bike on a hot day and ran in to a guy(Miguel) who had crashed on the couch some time back. He was beaming with joy as he informed me that he and his old lady were going to see the Lips that very evening. He invited me to come along. I declined(doh!). Several years later, after I'd fallen head over heels for the band, I recounted the story to Miguel who had no recollection of the encounter.

Fall 2002. A new woman had entered my life and she asked if I wanted the extra ticket a friend had purchased to go see the Beck/Flaming Lips show at Jones Hall in Houston. As intrigued as I was by the chance to go see them both, I was more curious about seeing a R&R show in the plush surroundings of Jones Hall which normally housed the Houston Symphony and other upper crust entertainment. I was game and bought the extra ticket from my pal. Since tickets had gone on sale early, we had to wait a few months before the show actually came to town. And in that time, the anticipation grew to a fever pitch. Joe had scored us some pretty schweet tickets (13 row center orchestra), so that added to the buzz.

The night of the show(11.13.02) I headed off for the show after smoking as much grass as I could, since there was no chance of that happening inside the venue. I also filled a small flask(a prop for a show I was in at the time) with some cheap-ass Canadian whiskey and away I went. When I arrived at Jones Hall, there was a terrific back up at the entrance. With a little investigation, I decided there was too much of a security shakedown at the front gate to get in with my little flask. So, I walked around the block a few times and drank as much as this non-drinker could handle. After stashing the flask, I headed off to the main entrance. As I approached, I noticed the security guy I was heading toward had a look in his eye as if to say, "This mofo has GOT to be carrying something illegal." Needless to say, the pat down he gave me was so thorough, I could have NEVER gotten the flask passed him. Whew!

Inside the venue, I quickly found my lady and our friends as the electricity in the place mounted. I waved to the Hawkins family up in the mezzanine and settled in for the show. What came next was more than I could have ever dreamed of. Not only was the stage filled with several dozen folks in furry animal costumes having a hell of a time, but it also had 3 giant disco balls projecting beems of light in all directions. But none of this compared to the magical, acid soaked music that came out of the speakers. I must have looked like a fool to all as I stood there, mouth agape and eyes aglow from industrial flashlights. "This must be heaven", I thought. I was wrong. Heaven ain't got nothing on these guys. Beauty, sadness, euphoria, glee, ECSTACY! Wayne's voice was so bittersweet. The music, symphonic in its peaks and valleys. This was everything I had searched for since losing Jerry Garcia seven years before. Finally, the search was over. My faith in psychadelic pop renewed!

I hadn't found the Lips. They found ME. And they had been trying to do so for years. At last I was complete again, after years and years of searching. Phish..naw. Medeski, Martin, & Wood...nope. Widespread Panic...not even close. The Lips had wiped all those bands and years clean away. Leaving this ol' psychadelic warrior with but one word on his lips as he stood. And that was......YEAH!

Aj & Joe, I owe ya big time.

iPod song of the day: The Night Hank Williams Came To Town from "The Essential Johnny Cash"


Blogger Joe Mathlete said...

Any time, man... I'll spread the gospel as long as there's someone around to listen. Probably when no one's around, too.

10:50 PM  

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