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Flaming Lips, Ghostland Observatory, Stardeath And White Dwarf @ Greek Theater 8/17/09

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“Please don’t get the band stoned!”, begged Wayne Coyne about three songs into the Flaming Lips’ set at the Greek last Monday. “I don’t even like to smoke bud anymore… but we like it when you guys smoke bud!” Having just watched VH1’s career retrospective on Cheech and Chong a couple nights earlier, it was hard not to think of Chong alerting his audience, “We’re a lot funnier when you’re stoned, man!” Within moments, Coyne was delivering his lines from atop the shoulders of a giant gorilla. Where have I seen that before? But it's OK. Some gags never lose their charm, especially if, you know...

Coyne’s admitted that the Lips have spent the last twenty years basically trying to compete with the audio-visual mindfuck that the Butthole Surfers, another psychedelic band from the South-Central United States, perfected in 1987. But where the Surfers went for head-splitting trippiness through bad vibes and nightmarish sensory overload, the Lips aim for sheer ecstasy. They’d never subject their audience to the car-crash and genital-surgery films the Surfers used to induce altered states by jolting the senses; their trippy shit is purely of the good-time variety. It’s a rock concert as scripted by Sid and Marty Krofft, with an army of fursuited Yetis on one side of the stage and an opposing army of hot chicks in tight white tops and kitten ears on the other, with trippy woosh-woosh visuals on the giant screens. It’s far-out stuff, but friendly. They invite the listener to come on along. Their whole trip is summed up in the title of one song they did at the Greek: “Enthusiasm For Life Defeats Existential Fear.”