The Flaming Lips w/ The Particle Kid• April 26, 2022• The Union
Reviewed and Photographed by Alisha Gregson
On Tuesday, April 26th, Psychedelic Rock band The Flaming Lips brought their colorful show to The Union Event Center in Salt Lake City. I was familiar with a couple of their songs. In preparation for the night I checked out a few videos from their past concerts. With the research I did, I knew that this concert would be one of a kind.
I arrived at 7:00 just as the doors were about to open. Outside stood a line of excited fans ready to be entertained. I was however surprised to see that the crowd for the night was much smaller than I expected. The band often plays to a sold-out audience, including their previous sold-out shows at the Ogden Twilight Concert Series. My guess is that many local fans may have actually traveled to Denver to catch their show the night before. Denver is known for having a bigger psychedelic scene. Or possibly fans are expecting them to return to Ogden Twilight, which is unfortunately not the case this year.
I was excited however to experience their show with a more intimate feel. The feeling that you don’t always get in a crowd of 3,000 or more people. Now I should admit I don’t really fall into the band’s typical target audience. I’m a fairly boring mother of 3. I won’t even eat normal mushrooms, Iet alone mushrooms of the magical variety. I am however a lover of good music and was pumped for the show!
The Particle Kid
Opening for Flaming Lips was Micah Nelson who goes by the name, The Particle Kid. He describes his music as experimental future-folk. I would add that it could also be described as psychedelic grunge. While his music is mostly a solo project, he was accompanied by 3 very talented musicians who helped him shine. Milo Gonzalez was on guitar, Tony Peluso on the drums, and Aroyn Day on the Bass. While they played, the display behind them cycled through photos of mushrooms and abstract designs.
The crowd really enjoyed their songs and were responding really well to the band. The Particle Kid took a moment to ask if the crowd liked to play Super Smash Bros. Which got a huge reaction. He mentioned Milo was especially good at the video game. This happens to be a game I love and play almost daily with my kids who absolutely destroy me in it. After his set, I was chatting with a few people in the back of the venue about how talented he was. Someone said to me “You know that’s Willie Nelson’s son right?” Up until that very moment, I did not know that. Maybe if The Particle Kid had walked out wearing his hair in two long braids I may have been able to put it together on my own.
The Flaming Lips
When The Flaming Lips came on stage I immediately thought the lead singer Wayne Coyne looked like he was a character created by Tim Burton. Who happens to be my all-time favorite artist. Joining him on stage were Steven Drozd, Derek Brown, Matt Duckworth Kirksey, and Nicholas Ley. Wayne then climbed into a giant bubble and warned the crowd that they weren’t going to ease into things. They were going to start with a bang. He was not lying.
As they started their first song “Silver Trembling Hands” confetti cannons went off. The confetti covered their fans in tons of colorful confetti. Now as a mother of 3, my initial thought was “who the hell is going to be cleaning up this mess?” I reminded myself that The Union was not my house, Wayne Coyne was not my kid, and the mess was not my problem. I was then able to enjoy the colorful chaos. During their second song “Do You Realize” they inflated a very large rainbow that stretched across the stage.
They again shot off more confetti into the crowd as the title to the song flashed colorfully on a display behind them. It seemed like the entire audience knew every word to the song and sang along. Then a giant pink robot inflated on stage. Coyne stepped out of his bubble and picked up some small confetti cannons to shoot out over the first few rows.
Wayne Coyne took a moment to address the crowd and explained that they don’t play very many shows. He said that they don’t know what’s going to happen in the world, and they never know when a show they are playing will be their last show. He said they play every show like it’s their last. To be honest this part hit me for a minute. His words made me think of the recent loss of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. I had been personally looking forward to seeing them perform in August for the first time. Now I, and many other heartbroken fans won’t get that chance. It was a good reminder to live life, and get out and see those concerts on your list now.
The lead singer then told everyone that they wanted to make sure everyone was ok. He pointed out that everyone with the band and all venue staff just wanted everyone to feel comfortable and safe. “We love you, we love you” Coyne very genuinely expressed to the crowd. It was obvious to me he was a very kind, loving, and authentic person. Then he got into the bubble again and it was back to the music.
We have all heard those songs that make us think “This has got to be about drugs,” right? Well, it seems The Flaming Lips didn’t want anyone wondering whether their music was about drugs or not. So with a song like “Mother I’ve Taken LSD” nobody had to guess. Throughout the night he encouraged the audience to scream as loud as they could, comparing the feeling of screaming to ecstasy, and said “The more you scream the better we are all going to feel.”
Their songs also included uplifting messages that added to the very positive vibe of the night. When the band began to play their hit “She Don’t Use Jelly” the energy in the room may have doubled. As I watched Coyne jump up and down in his bubble I could tell he was having just as much fun as the crowd. Because fog, laser lights, giant robots, a lead singer in a bubble, and confetti aren’t enough, bubble machines started blowing all over the crowd as they played “Dinosaurs On The Mountain”. A playful song about wishing dinosaurs were still alive.
The Visual elements of the night were unlike anything I had seen at a concert before. For a moment I felt like I had somehow found my way into the “pink elephants on parade” scene from Disney’s Dumbo movie. (That might be a strange comparison, but that’s what you get when a mother of young kids reviews a Flaming Lips concert.)
Before playing their 2nd to last song “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion”, Wayne Coyne brought out a small toy bird that he flew over the crowd. It was at this moment I realized that this night is exactly what it would look like if ADHD was a concert, and I was loving it. The band finished the night with “Race For The Prize,” and they covered the crowd in confetti one last time as they brought out giant balloons that read “F*¢K YEAH SALT LAKE CITY.”
After the band had left the stage, many in the crowd not ready for the night to end, lingered and played while throwing confetti in the air. Someone called me over and asked if I would take a picture of their group. They were there to celebrate two beautiful women who had just been married hours before! Congrats again to that lovely couple! Then security started clearing the room as the staff came out to clean, and I got out quick before anyone could hand me a broom to help with all that confetti.
All in all, it was an incredible visually stimulating night! But without all the confetti, bubbles, and balloons, at the core of the show was an incredibly talented band and the amazing voice of Wayne Coyne. I loved their music and it was so fun to hear it live.