The Flaming Lips take Pondamonium on a familiar trip

The Flaming Lips at Pondamonium
The Duck Pond at Warner Park
Madison, WI
August 9, 2012



There are certain things that one can always expect when catching The Flaming Lips live show: lots of smoke, hurricanes of confetti, so many lasers that it should be contraindicated by the American Board of Ophthalmology and tears of joy… or possibly from the lasers.

All were present when The Lips took the stage on August 9th in the capital of the Badger State as part of Pondamonium, a play on the hosting venue known as the Duck Pond at Warner Park, home of the über-popular Madison Mallards baseball team. On this night though, steroids and baseball gave way to psychedelia and a hamster-ball — with a dude in it.

The Lips were tasked with headlining a day that had begun at 2:30 and one that had seen its share of music. Sets by Dum Dum Girls, Royal Bang and The Congregation preceded a homecoming celebration from the recently regrouped Garbage, the band that sold millions of albums throughout the 90s, pulled Butch Vig out from behind the mixing board and obscurity of producing such gems as Nirvana’s Nevermind and finally found actual talent (with a bonus pretty face) from  someone sporting the name of Manson.

The Lips are known for their dedicated fan base and on this night in Mad Town, their will would be tested. In a drenching twist of fate, the sky opened up and began to cast a torrential downpour just as the veteran ensemble was to take the stage. As it did, a true demonstration of faithfulness took root as the majority of the crowd took to patiently waiting, in spite of the fact that the rain would cause a 30 minute delay. A fortunate few in the crowd were fortunate to be standing on covered portions of ground while everyone else was left standing in inches of mud.

Even so, smiles and cheers were abound and even excited talk about traveling to New York for a succeeding Lips show from the small but omnipresent “Love Pit,” a front row abiding group of nomadic touring Lips fans with painted Rainbows on their cheeks.

By the time that the band took the stage, the audience was fully charged. Opening with “Race for the Prize” and the introduction sequence of late, it became clear that the set, or at least the setlist, would be similar, if not identical to previous 2012 festival outings. After the short a cappella verse of the number, the expected but still exciting boom of confetti began to rain down upon the crowd whose makeup consisted of layers of mud coupled with rain-washed sweat that, as long as the rain held off, would soon be re-drenched in sweat.

Song three, Pink Floyd’s “On the Run, brought about the obligatory bubble-walk from front man, Wayne Coyne, who seemingly basks in playing with his toy as much as he did when the parlor trick was fresh and only reserved for special occasions. As for the fans, well, they basked similarly. There is something that is uniquely special about tearing down the boundary between fan and artist, to the point that it can easily be gleaned that the bubble will be a hit a decade from now.

A standout moment came with a newer tune to the rotation, “Drug Chart,” a track that may very well be found on the forthcoming Lips album (not Heady Fwends in all of its NSFW glory — see NSFW video below and/or read SFW details here) that Coyne has hyped as being what he thinks “might be the best Flaming Lips record that [they] have ever made.” (For now, the only song that will definitely be on the album was premiered in Biloxi during the band’s record-breaking eight concerts in 24 hours stint — watch and listen to the performance below)

Perhaps what was most compelling was the entertaining yet confusing visual presentation that the band has worked up for blending with the drug addled track. It’s hard to tell if the confusion aspect is intentional, but there’s just something disturbing about a large LED screen looping “METH” in boldly large letters.

As the show progressed, so did the setlist that did in fact turn out to be identical to other recent festival lists. This said, there was something comforting about familiarity in the midst of what was an even more chaotic Lips outing than is standard, the mud pushing things over the edge.

Closing with “Do You Realize?” things left on an inspiring note.  Fans that had been raging only moments previous now found themselves kneeling, hugging or even crying. The Lips had managed to once again take the audience on a guided and all too intentional journey. Like puppets, we had been lifted, experienced turbulence and dropped off safely at the gate. All this in spite of the fact that we all saw it coming. And that is the mastery of The Flaming Lips.





Race For The Prize, The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power), On the Run (Pink Floyd cover), Is David Bowie Dying??, Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell, See the Leaves, Laser Hands, Drug Chart, Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung, What Is The Light?, The Observer

Encore: Do You Realize??



Click the thumbnails to view photos from the show by Julie Collins

of Rose Mountain Photo



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