While in Asbury Park for the weekend, I just had to catch The Flaming Lips playing a surrealistic fever dream of a jamboree at The Stone Pony Summerstage with a fellow madcap grouping known as The Claypool Lennon Delirium.
Opening the show was Particle Kid, a group project from the spaced-out head of singer/songwriter J. Micah Nelson, son of country icon Willie Nelson. Along with an extensive backing band, he brings to life both densely atmospheric ballads and badass ballin’ rockers alike. He had just released his latest album Window Rock a couple days before the show, and it is clear he is continuing his tradition of mixing psychedelia, folk, funk, and classic rock into a pleasantly chillin’ concoction. It’s a sound that is just as sweet when he’s playfully bouncing through a playground of jangly guitars and sweet bubblegum pop choruses as it is when delving into fierce and expansive episodes of heavily distorted guitar. The set was mostly new stuff, but he also busted out at least a few from his last couple albums including 2017’s Everything Is Bullshit, but it was really especially surprising to hear him turn out a sprawling cover of The Flaming Lips’ “With You” from the headliner’s 1986 debut album.
Next up was The Claypool Lennon Delirium, which is the pairing of two modern rock legends: Les Claypool and Sean Lennon (who Les adorably referred to as “Shiner” throughout the show). Claypool is the madcap singer and bassist of the absurdist proggy funk/metal band Primus, and Sean Lennon is the son of the rock gods Yoko Ono and John Lennon who has been part of several bands and has done a couple impressive solo albums as well, and both of these guys obviously share a taste for the freaky, bizarre and fantastical. It was just a few years back when I saw Lennon’s post-rock band Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger open for Primus and Dinosaur Jr. at Pier 97 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and clearly it was about then that the seeds of a further experiment had been sown. They are now on the road in support of their second surrealistic opus called South of Reality, and although I had heard it described by a few people as essentially Primus mixed with the Beatles, I find they are clearly drawing from a wider number of sources, from 60’s psychedelia to 70’s progressive. They roar like an elaborate opera or concerto that isn’t above some slap-bass driven horsing around. They also put their closest inspirations on open display during their set, as between songs from their two studio albums, they also played funked out covers of tunes like King Crimson’s “In The Court Of The Crimson King” and The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” with additional touches of early Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention throughout, and it was all finished off by a surprise addition of the Primus slammer “Southbound Pachyderm.”
The Flaming Lips have had a long-standing role as the weirdos of the alternative music world, as they started playing way back in the early 80’s, and they grew into their own bizarre skin by the early 90’s, and they finally gained some more otherworldly success around the turn of the Century. They have certainly gone through quite a few members over the years, but the long-time musical nomads of vocalist Wayne Coyne, bassist and keyboardist Michael Ivins, and guitarist Steven Drozd have continued their harmonious evolution and have even gotten progressively more and more trippy (if that’s even possible) as of the last several years, as displayed on their freshly dropped new album King’s Mouth. I found it surprising that their set really only touched on their new stuff once or twice, and instead they started with the classics straight out of the gate, beginning with “Race For The Prize” from 1999’s The Soft Bulletin, which was followed by the illustrious 2002 timeless “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” where Wayne was appropriately joined on-stage by towering inflatable war-bot. The stage set for this tour was a glorious overload of fiberoptic lights, seizure-inducing video effects, giant eruptions of confetti, and every unconceivable effect you could never envision to elicit a stirring sensation in your warped cranium.
For the recent song “There Should Be Unicorns,” he rode around the crowd atop a colorful glowing horned steed as he spewed confetti everywhere, and the “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” was a giant eye and ear ’gasm for the ages, and they then stretched way back to their first 1993 radio hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” while shining more rainbow lights into the night sky than you’d think was possible. They did a rather somber and tender cover of Daniel Johnston “True Love Will Find You in the End” and an epic devolving of “The Star-Spangled Banner” with Wayne’s giant laser shooting hands and “Over the Rainbow” with kaleidoscopic inflatables as he rolled around the stage a giant bubble hamster ball. They may not have played much new stuff, but they definitely pleased fans with a decent chunk of their classic 2002 Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots album including treasures like “Are You a Hypnotist?,” “All We Have Is Now,” and the grand sing-a-long closer of “Do You Realize?” It was an incredible way to end a weekend on the Jersey shore and a concert experience I won’t soon forget.
Article: Dean Keim