Dancing mushrooms, laser lights, giant toads, and a whole lot of confetti. This is just how The Flaming Lips like to roll. Recently, the Memorial Weekend Blowout took place at White Oak Music Hall near the Heights on Sunday. This was the venue’s first attempt at an all-day, outdoor “mini-festival”, before its final completion date set in July. With dual stages placed out on the lawn areas, music lovers were able to transition smoothly between sets, so everyone could enjoy their favorite bands and artists perform with a stellar view.
Among the openings acts were bands like, Moving Panoramas, DIIV, Nada Surf, Roky Erikson & The Hounds of Baskerville, Adia Victoria, Lucero, Title Fight, and The Flaming Lips as the headliner.
Upon arriving, I was able to catch a part of 3-piece Austin band, Moving Panoramas. Right away, the raw distortion and angelic melodies of the band had audience members swaying and swirling to their songs with eyes closed. “It sounded like a thunderstorm”, I overheard in the crowd. The steady groove and punk element of their music gives off a “Best Coast-meets-Sleater Kinney” kind of vibe. Last October, the band released their first LP, “One”, about overcoming the struggles on their journey. As their set concluded, you could hear their harmonic voices wash away into the infinite. It was a great performance to kickoff the “MWBO”, and prepare listeners for the acts to come.
Next, was NYC shoe-gaze punk outfit, DIIV. These guys sure know how to put on a show. Front man Zachary Cole Smith playfully teased the audience with anticipation. “Ok, we’re gonna play now…. starting…now….and now.” Once we heard the click of the drummer’s four count, things quickly turned into an adrenaline filled electric current. The sound of the heart pounding bass drum, shrill guitar leads, and wailing vocal shrieks had the crowd instantly engaged. The dynamic of the songs blew in like a sea breeze, and shot like a blood rush to the head. The band was quick to please by playing fan favorites like “How Long Have You Known”, and “Doused” off their 2012 album, Oshin. DIIV also played a few tracks off their new album, Is the Is Are, including “Dopamine”, and “Under the Sun”.
Pioneer of Psychedelic Rock, Roky Erikson, made an appearance with his backing band, The Hounds of Baskerville. Erikson was one of the founding members of the 60’s Austin psych band, The 13th Floor Elevators. When word got out that Roky was playing at White Oak, a flock of die-hard fans came out to join the fun. The set they played were like the soundtrack to an old western film, as the themes were “Tarantinoesque”. The earthquaking, earsplitting, grit of Roky’s vocals had the audience churning. It reminded me of an early “Stooges”, proto-punk kind of energy, so primal and raw. The songs were rebellious, ghoulish, growling and downright headbanging in nature. I saw huge parts of the crowd chanting along with the lyrics, playing their air guitars, and beating their chests in an outlaw manner. It was a refreshing feeling to see people of all ages come together in the name of rock n’ roll.
Last, but certainly not least, was The Flaming Lips. Truly one of the most transcendental experiences of my life, this performance brought a new found spirit of light and energy to the crowd. Tears of joy filled spectator eyes, as the band started with “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”, a quiet metaphor for a young woman battling cancer. I asked one audience member, outfitted in a silver space suit and golden headdress, to describe what The Flaming Lips are in one word. “Love”, she replied. Her friends next to her also commented in the same spectrum. “The Flaming Lips is energy, truth, and color. It is spiritual, wonderful, triumph and devastation. It’s a very humbling feeling their music brings.” One person mentioned how the discography of The Flaming Lips was like a human life, each album being a different stage. “There is birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and eventually death.” said the enthused spectator. The band capped off the night with a cover of the late David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and fan favorite, “Do You Realize??” The performance as a whole was a sonic landscape of bursting emotion, as each song was played so intimately. One of the most memorable parts of the night was when front man, Wayne Cohen, stopped the show to conduct a grand birthday song per request of an audience member’s sign. I sincerely hope this isn’t the last time they perform in Houston, and that they continue to spread their message of love to audiences all over the world .