Flaming Lips Up the Freak Factor at Cemetery Shows

flaming lips hollywood forever
David Hall

The eccentric psych-rockers covered Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and played their seminal 1999 album, "The Soft Bulletin," in its entirety during a two-night stand at L.A. landmark the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

If you were at either of the Flaming Lips shows in Los Angeles this week and didn't enjoy yourself, you were probably dead.

That's not just because the veteran psych-rock band delivered on all cylinders during their two-night bow -- the first: a front-to-back performance of the band's seminal 1999 album The Soft Bulletin; the second, a run-through of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (with nods to the Wizard of Oz, 'natch). No, it's meant literally. The Lips' venue of choice for two nights of musical ecstasy? The eerily magical Hollywood Forever Cemetery, whose many famous permanent residents include Cecil B. DeMille, Marion Davies and members of the Ramones, who no doubt enjoyed their side-stage spots.

The Lips have long had a reputation for insane happenings (look no further than their annual March of 1,000 Flaming Skeletons, held every Halloween in their hometown of Oklahoma City) and this two-night party was certainly no exception. Credit the group's chief freak, frontman Wayne Coyne, who flew to LA months earlier to scout the location. His vision resulted in several art installations, including an LED-display dangling from a willow tree, and an upside-down mirror ball that seemed to defy gravity. He also appeared in the plastic bubble that's become a signature of Lips shows -- the bigger, the better.

Filling the air with confetti and a sense of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed hope throughout two bountiful 120-minute sets, the band was flanked onstage by nubile fans in Oz costumes (Dorothy, the Tin Man, Luke Skywalker?) dancing -- sometimes absurdly -- through both sets.   

While the Lips were the only draw (opener Marnie Stern was filler, nothing more), the gathering had the feel of a mini-festival, with drastically different vibes each day, and even a Bonnaroo-esque early-morning "surprise set," which found the band delivering their carpe diem anthem "Do You Realize" at 6am at the cemetery's bell tower. In other words, it was exactly what you'd want a Flaming Lips show to be: a life-affirming, joyous experience, with the specter of death hanging on every moment.