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LouFest 2012 Recap: The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips at LouFest 2012 - 8.26.2012

There’s nothing to be said for The Flaming Lips’ live show that hasn’t been said at this point — it is, in this photographer’s opinion, the greatest live show on the planet. I’ve said so before. Heck, I’ve met Wayne Coyne (as he delivered gummy skulls to our local record store, Vintage Vinyl).

I’ve seen The Flaming Lips five times, and shot them three times. I’m not tired of it, and I doubt I ever will be.

At its core, a Flaming Lips show is about celebrating the weird, wonderful corners of love, joy, loss, and life.

Photo-nerdery

There are two aspects to consider when photographing The Flaming Lips — the wide angle and the telephoto.

The wide angle comes in useful for capturing a ton of the madness at once, and if/when Wayne rolls across the crowd in his famous human hamster ball, you’ll want to reach for a fast, wide lens.

On the other hand, a fast telephoto is perfect to capture individual moments and expressions, of which there are tons — the Dorothys at the side of the stage, Fearless Freaks in the front row, and individual band-members are all interesting subjects in and of themselves.

A word of advice: be prepared to be overwhelmed if you’re in the photo pit. It’s not an easy gig by any means, but it is an experience you’ll never forget — no matter how often you’ve shot them.

The Flaming Lips - I Am The Walrus

Simply shot, but very cool at the same time. Here’s another by the same folks - I Want You (She’s So Heavy), featuring Wilco’s Nels Cline on guitar.

A REAL human skull, covered in dripped chrome, containing a hard drive with a 24-hour-long song.

It’s beautiful.

Only The Flaming Lips could pull this off.

A REAL human skull, covered in dripped chrome, containing a hard drive with a 24-hour-long song.

It’s beautiful.

Only The Flaming Lips could pull this off.

The Flaming Lips at Kanrocksas

Closing out my Friday night shooting at Kanrocksas, The Flaming Lips delivered everything I’ve come to expect from their live show (I’ve seen them four or five times now). The psychedelic video backdrops, the songs that reach deep down inside to find a more innocent state of mind, and the truckloads of confetti were all there, and all wonderful - but after shooting, I found myself lying in the middle of the Kansas Speedway infield, looking to the stars while the band played “Do You Realize?” The band creates moments for crowd singsongs as well as space for soul-searching, and therein lies their magic.

Stage: Stageasaurus Rex
Set time: 9:30-10:40pm
Noteworthy: Wayne Coyne’s smoke-spewing megaphone apparently shot sparks into the photo pit - I didn’t notice it at the time, but I did notice a hole burned through my shirt by the time I got home for the night. Kind of like the softest bullet ever shot…

The Flaming Lips Primus Kid Cudi Jack's Mannequin D12 Fitz and the Tantrums UME Major Lazer

Kanrocksas, Day One

Wayne Coyne and Gummy Skulls

Late on Wednesday night, I received an urgent late-night email from a friend requesting a photo from my shoot with The Flaming Lips last year. This friend had ordered a few photos late last year for Christmas presents, so I went digging through my archives to find the shot he had requested.

When I sent him the file, he told me to call him to hear something cool. Never one to turn down information, I obliged - and was told that Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips was tentatively scheduled to appear at Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis on Thursday to sign autographs and talk to fans, while selling the elusive Flaming Lips 2011 Gummy Song Skulls.

I promptly peed my pants. What can I say, I’m a huge Lips fan, and Coyne seems to radiate positivity — he’s my kind of guy, or rather, I imagined he was. I’d never met the man.

My friend was right on the money, and later Thursday afternoon both Vintage Vinyl and Encor.es officially announced that Coyne would be making his appearance. Pretty cool, I have to say. When I arrived at the record store, there was already quite a crowd lined up inside (including fellow music blogger Louis Kwok of Music Vs. Man, check out his coverage here). 

To be honest, I was most curious about the mythical gummy skull - I’d seen blurry cellphone photos of the items, but even higher-profile sites like Pitchfork seemed to have mediocre photos of the things. One problem - I didn’t have $150 to purchase one of the darn things just to take photos of it. Luckily, I ran into Brian Bauer, who was more than eager to show off his new (gooey) purchase.

Brian, my sincerest thanks - and I hope you washed your hands, buddy. Don’t eat all that skull at once.

While mingling with friends in line, Louis asked that I take his photo with Coyne. I was happy to oblige, and when Louis’ time came, he sucked me into the conversation by showing off a copy of Eleven Magazine with my photos of his band. Coyne signed it (and a print of another shot I’d brought, just in case) and snapped a photo of the print with his iPhone before stating how much he liked the photos.

So, obviously, I peed myself again. It happens. Sorry, Wayne.

It’s a life-sized human skull completely made out of edible gummy bear stuff. It also has a gummy brain inside of it and, inside of that, there’s a USB flash drive that has three new songs on it. It’s pretty outrageous.
- The Flaming Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne, demonstrating exactly how someone can out-crazy Jack White.