Photos by Justin Rodgers
The Flaming Lips’ enigmatic frontman led the group in two sold-out shows at the 9:30 Club earlier this week, acting as a sort of ringmaster, hypeman and ridiculously talented performer all at once. From his psychedelic stage gear to the unicorn that he rode through the crowd, Coyne is every bit the Almost Famous “Golden God” I’d imagined since I was little.
I first saw Coyne as I was standing outside 9:30 Club, waiting to pick up my ticket–that’s right, this superstar, who regularly hangs out with A-listers like Miley Cyrus, casually walked around the front of the venue as the openers were getting started. Coyne rounded the corner next to will call as he helped another band member (whose face I couldn’t see, unfortunately) carry a prop around the building, leaving the few of us still outside gaping at each other.
I grabbed my ticket and ran inside to share the news with my friends, who were, understandably, blown away by Coyne’s antics. We made it into the concert hall just as openers clipping. were wrapping up what sounded like a set worthy of a headlining act. The stage was already somewhat set for the Lips.
The show began with streamer guns, massive bouncy balls released into the crowd and lasers everywhere, and that was only the beginning. I’d never seen the Flaming Lips live before, but I won’t be missing them next time they return to D.C. Having the show at 9:30 Club only amplified the greatness–this group regularly sells out massive shows and could’ve easily chosen a venue like Echostage for this performance, but the smaller venue made it even more special and intimate.
Early on in the night, Coyne appeared on stage with a massive “FUCK YEAH DC” balloon set, holding it aloft before chucking it into the crowd–where it was immediately torn to pieces and tossed around with the bouncy balls.
They also played a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” I was really hoping to get a cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” at this show (which the Lips have performed in the past), but this more than made up for it. The performance was not only a touching tribute to Bowie, but also so appropriate to the Lips’ awesome weirdness. Case in point, Coyne performed this one from a giant bubble that rolled on top of all of us in the audience.
The bubble wasn’t even the wildest prop used, either. During new hit “There Should Be Unicorns,” Coyne appeared in the front of the crowd riding an actual (mechanical) unicorn, moving his steed throughout the pit as he sang. During “Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung,” Coyne played a huge gong throughout the song, echoing the Ancient Roman vibes of the track.
Despite their on stage antics, the band still managed to connect with the audience in a genuine way. Coyne gave a shout-out to their stage crew for managing the inflatables, bassist Michael Ivins donned a Caps jersey throughout the show and they all interacted with the crowd, thanking us and encouraging us to keep the party going during the breaks between songs. Coyne and the rest of the Lips put on a strong show, all while showing appreciation for their fans and somehow managing to seem down-to-earth.