Since forming in 1983, the core ensemble of Flaming Lips -- singer/guitarist Wayne Coyne, multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, bassist Michael Ivins and drummer Kliph Scurlock -- has been rock's go-to act for genre-pushing reinventions. The Oklahoma City group's live show has come to rival its Grammy-winning music, with elaborate costumes, puppets, mounds of confetti and Coyne's man-sized plastic bubble with which he navigates across the audience. The Lips remain one of the rare bands that has seemingly mastered both the studio and live stage with equal acclaim.
"There's always some catastrophe that we think in our minds is ruining it for everybody, then a lot of times people don't even notice. But we were playing at not-that-great-of-a-little festival opening up for Cake and playing with Modest Mouse in 2002 or something like that. We were playing at Red Rocks, the big prestigious venue in Denver, Colorado, to a sold-out crowd of about 10,000 people. We were working on our smoke machine backstage, and it kept triggering a fuse blowing the electricity.
"We're there all day fucking with our gear and all that, and I went to one of the technicians at the place and said, 'This is blowing a fuse here. I'm worried about when we go onstage we're going to blow the electricity.'
"He laughed and said, 'Look, dude, we had Slayer play here. Give me a fucking break.'
"I said, 'We've played places where Slayer has played a lot, and it's just kind of ramshackle.'
"I put it to the back of my mind. That having been said, we go onstage, the smoke machine goes, and the fucking whole place blows. The whole place. We stand in the dark apologizing best we can because there's no fucking microphones (working). The electricity comes back on, we say, 'Sorry about that. We'll trudge on.'
"Two minutes later, bam, the electricity goes out again. I see this guy who told me Slayer played there, and I’m like, 'Dude, it's just a fucking smoke machine. It's not like we're (Nikola) Tesla trying to get our coil to reignite the stratosphere.'
"Again we trudge on and when the electricity comes back on we apologize best we can. And it happens yet a third time.
"At some point we've used up the allotted 45 minutes for our set just with them mucking around trying to get us working again. And yet it's not really humiliating. You just stand there and think, 'Fuck, we want to present this show and you wanted to see it, and this moment has been messed up by people not being prepared.'
"But I have to say I've run into people who saw us at that show since then, and didn't even know who we were because they came to see some of the other bands, and said, 'You stood there, and just seeing you stand there trying to make this work, I really loved you guys.'
"You never now if it's the music you're playing or the way the light hits you. ... You never know what it is that lets the moment become magical. So I welcome all the calamities that come with performing. Sometimes within the disaster is that elusive magic."
— Wayne Coyne, Flaming Lips
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