Live Review, 2/21/12: The Flaming Lips Explode The Soft Bulletin Into a Confetti Orgasm at Bimbo's

Categories: Last Night

Christopher Victorio
The Flaming Lips performing at Bimbo's last night.

The Flaming Lips (performing The Soft Bulletin)
Release the Sunbird
Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012
Bimbo's 365 Club / Noise Pop 20th Anniversary Opening Night

Better than: Any other Flaming Lips show. Possibly any other show.

"Race for the Prize," preceded as it was by a long, tension-building wash of piano and noise, did not start like a mere song. It erupted into being, like some tantric climax: A perfect, immaculate feeling rushing the blue-blackness inside Bimbo's into a hurricane of confetti and a bright carnival of colored light. That bendy little melody -- humble, a little wounded, but hopeful -- washed over the room; Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne grinningly bashed his baton into anything nearby; and the 20th Anniversary of the Noise Pop festival, San Francisco's best showcase of independent music, began in ecstasy.

Last night's show never got better than those first few minutes of raining colored paper, balloons bouncing overhead, and the thundering optimism of The Soft Bulletin's first track. But it stayed great. Faced with the challenge of performing a beloved but deeply melancholic album on a happy occasion (at least for those who got tickets!), the Flaming Lips struck an ideal balance. They demanded a noisy celebration, but were frank -- maybe too frank for some -- about the fact that the evening's entertainment consisted of "songs born out of despair and sadness," as Coyne put it.

Christopher Victorio

The Soft Bulletin is a landmark for the Lips, its 1999 release marking their transition from a psychedelic but more or less conventional rock band into iconic purveyors of weird, emotional electronic pop. The album was written and recorded during a difficult time in the lives of all three of the band's original members, and its themes reflect that.

But even the saddest songs couldn't suppress the obvious joy felt last night by those who got to see a band this big -- a band that headlines major festivals in front of tens of thousands -- perform in an intimate club for about 800. The happiness in the room was palpable on big tunes like the earnest "The Spiderbite Song," the near-grunge of "Buggin'," and "The Gash," which was one huge bacchanal of Bonham-esque drums and soaring choral voices, punctuated by Coyne banging the large gong at the back of the stage.

Clad in a white dress shirt and thick fur collar, with a spray of gray and brown hair shooting out of his head, the singer occupied the front of the sage like a fiery misfit preacher, constantly making demands of the crowd. "You all got to act like you're having a loud fucking orgasm, okay?" he implored before "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton." "It'll be a great moment that we all fake this orgasm together." And it was.

Christopher Victorio

There were also displays of quiet, vivid melancholy: Coyne and multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd performed a gorgeous, languid version of "Waitin' for a Superman" with just two voices and a keyboard, drawing out the song's modicum of hope into a resigned bleat. Coyne gave a long speech introducing "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate," the album's darkest moment: Saying he'd concluded that "life is more horrible than it is beautiful," the singer was met with shouts of "Nooo!" from the audience. But he quickly offered that this feeling "gives a lot of value to the time that we have together," and was applauded.

No one wanted to be bummed out, and the performances themselves were hugely uplifting. Even when "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate," the last major track on the album, finally climaxed, the impact of its existential reckoning couldn't quite penetrate the intoxicating vibe of the evening. Inside the privileged space, "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate" seemed to mean losing oneself to the poignancy of the occasion, not dying forever. Yes, these moments are fleeting; The Flaming Lips and Noise Pop are no longer young; and we are all marching inexorably toward our respective ends, whatever we think they are or aren't. But being there last night as the Flaming Lips wrestled with these truths was so overwhelming that it almost made us forget them.

Christopher Victorio

Critic's Notebook

Big boys: The band had to pare down its normal live performance to fit into Bimbo's, and yet even still its presence felt almost too big -- balloons bashing the lines of lights overhead and confetti blasting into a ceiling that wasn't all that far from the end of the cannon. The band sounded huge, too, with six members onstage playing, a harp, a violin, timpani, a gong, and a battery of keyboards and guitars.

Quotable Wayne: "Motherfuckers talk about God," he said at one point. "They got it wrong. Music is God."

Christopher Victorio

Personal bias: Too much and too personal to list. So, plenty.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at

Location Info



Bimbo's 365 Club

1025 Columbus, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

My Voice Nation Help
Sort: Newest | Oldest

  Are you single?Do you want to make friends?Or do you want to find true love? you answer must be yes!please pay attention to---- [TallLoving.c./0/m]


   I met the man of my dreasms on the place mentioned in my pic ==--TallLoving.c'0m---it gives you a chance to make your life better and open opportunities for you to meet the attractive young man and treat you AS a queen!


Such a great show last night. The sound the lists. The interaction with the crowd.  The Proclamation of Noise Pop week.

Now Trending

From the Vault



San Francisco Event Tickets
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.