The Flaming Lips Echo Songs into the Night with Mac DeMarco

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Photo by Juan Gonzalez / Staff photographer

Rebecca Lauffenberger
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Mac DeMarco and The Flaming Lips teamed up to give the Santa Barbara Bowl a night of wonder and bursting imagination this past Saturday. With a message preaching the importance of love in a time so devoid of this basic human need, their performances were a welcome respite from the world outside of their creation.

An icon for college-aged, indie slackers everywhere, DeMarco appeared on stage sporting his signature look dad jeans, a faded, tucked in t-shirt, and a grimy baseball capan ironic, eye-roll worthy combination, if not for the sincere goofiness that runs through DeMarco’s music. Discarding the cigarette between his teeth, DeMarco assured the crowd that he was going to “play a few songs,” adding, “Make sure you’re relaxed, make sure you’re hydrated. My name is Mac.”

DeMarco opened with “On the Level,” before easing into “No Other Heart,” with many playful comments in-between. To the audience’s amusement, he managed to perform a quirky stunt during each song. Among the most amusing was a balancing act involving his face and an upright beer bottle, stomping around the stage during “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name,” and perching atop an amp to survey his accompanying musicians as though he was an ape in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Even while delving into his more introspective, soul-searching tunes predominantly found on his newest album, This Old Dog DeMarco maintained a cool, devil-may-care demeanor. Despite his juvenile yet endearing behavior, his performance did nothing to sacrifice theatrics for musical quality, nor did it undercut his depth or sincerity.

DeMarco dropped his guard, if only for a second, during “Ode to Viceroy,” which featured breathy vocals cracking with emotion. “My Kind of Woman” brought the rollercoaster of emotions the crowd was riding to a near halt, and DeMarco invited his adoring audience in with a deliciously sweet, soulful serenade. As soon as the last note faded, he and his antics were back in full swing.

Even with his comically exaggerated movements and stage persona stripped away, DeMarco performed as if he was jamming in a friend’s garage in his hometown in Edmonton, Canada, rather than a 5,000 seat amphitheater.

Maintaining the eccentricity, the Flaming Lips entered the stage to “Also sprach Zarathustra,” (also known as the “2001: A Space Odyssey” theme song) and the night, probably acid-fueled for more than a few in attendance, took off with a blast.

Flaming Lips’ mastermind Wayne Coyne stood center stage and waved his arms around, miming a conductor’s movements. When the melodrama winded down, Wayne landed his metaphorical spaceship and the band unleashed, with full force, their imaginative world upon an unexpecting audience.

In their 34 years, the Lips have been known to put on some of the most wildly entertaining live performances. Despite a considerable age gap between DeMarco and Coyne, the Flaming Lips still had an inexhaustible amount of energy to put on a good show.

In the span of one song, the Lips effectively converted the Bowl into a big-top circus, with Coyne as ringleader. During the opening instrumentals, the Bowl was flooded with intricate patterns of lights on screens filling the entire width and height of the stage. Band members Michael Ivins and Stephen Drozd appeared to be cocooned in light while giant cannons shot out confetti and Coyne hurled giant balloons into the crowd.

Coyne and company utilized everything at their disposal, with giant props such as balloons spelling out “Fuck Yeah Santa Barbara,” and an inflatable robot towering over Coyne during “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1.”

Fuzzy, spacy guitars and tense, dissonant synth announced the arrival of the ethereal Coyne, who came riding into the audience atop a unicorn draped in neon lights a fitting stunt for the heavy, atmospheric “There Should Be Unicorns” off the band’s strange and psychedelic album Oczy Mlody.

In a particularly touching moment, Wayne suited up in a giant bubble for a cover of David Bowie’s “Spaceoddity.” The song united the audience beyond trying to support Coyne as he floated overhead in synchronized claps and loud, unabashed, and out-of-key singing.

The electrifying light show ensuing behind the band perfectly complemented the sonic cacophony, culminating in a four-dimensional show. “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” was particularly powerful. While guitars cried “wah wah wah,” and the bass and drums shook the crowd onto a different wavelength, giant “Yeah”s flashed overhead, along with a few “No”s and “Love”s comically thrown in. Coyne reminded us that with “all your power,” we as the audience are not constrained by anything but the limits of our imagination and our willingness to make noise.

Wayne ended the night encouraging the audience to shout “love” in their own unique vocal expressions so loud that the people in the “expensive houses around [the Santa Barbara Bowl] trying to sleep won’t be able to.”

The Flaming Lips transported the audience into a world all of their own, masterfully melding dazzling visuals, props, and stunts with their psychedelic instrumentals. The entire performance was a flood of information overloading the senses, the Lips completely in sync with the crowd.

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