In an undisclosed rehearsal space somewhere in Bricktown, probably not far from the alley that's named after them, The Flaming Lips have been earnestly relearning songs from the album that redefined them as a band going into the 21st century.
1999's â€œThe Soft Bulletinâ€ already is considered a contemporary classic in the experimental pop idiom, right up there with works such as Pink Floyd's â€œThe Dark Side of the Moon,â€ a profound influence on the Lips, who covered that 1973 diamond in its entirety after midnight last New Year's Eve at Cox Convention Center.
Tonight, same time, same place, Oklahoma City's masters of the neo-psychedelic rock universe will perform their own album masterpiece from start to finish, live onstage for the first time ever.
And to hear Wayne Coyne tell it, this year's musical leap is every bit as daunting as last's.
â€œYou know, some of the songs we've never played (live) before,â€ the Lips leader said during a break in show preparations last week.
â€œSo it's kind of thrilling from a musical standpoint, but also kind of nerve-wracking from a musical standpoint, 'cause it's difficult music. I don't know, some people wouldn't know â€˜The Soft Bulletin' that much, but some of the tracks are just, they're these humongous, strangely played (songs).â€
Having already taken broad steps into the realm of the untried and outrageous with 1997's â€œZaireeka,â€ an album made up of four discs designed to be played in synchronization on four different players, the Lips took another giant stride into a wide, wild world of symphonic and melodic eccentricities, a world of skewed musical beauty that was light years beyond the punk- and noise-pop territory where they'd begun.
â€œWhen we were doing â€˜The Soft Bulletin,' I mean like we do all our records, you don't consider can you really play this stuff (live). You just make music any way you can (in the studio) and get on with it,â€ Coyne said.
So, to sonically bolster the onstage lineup tonight, the Lips are bringing guest multi-instrumentalist Ray Suen (The Killers) onboard, turning the band into a sextet when you count frontman Coyne, multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, bassist Michael Ivins, drummer Kliph Scurlock and newest member Derek Brown, a local all-purpose player who's toured with The Starlight Mints, Liz Phair, Steve Burns and The Chainsaw Kittens, among
Brown also serves as Business Development Center manager for the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma, established by Lips manager Scott Booker.
Tonight's show will open at 8:30 with Stardeath and White Dwarfs, fronted by Wayne's nephew, Dennis Coyne, before the Lips take the stage for their regular set, followed at midnight by the â€œSoft Bulletinâ€ performance.
â€œI believe I'm gonna go over to the Thunder game at halftime and then tell everybody to come on over to the Cox Center when they get done, and probably have a special ticket price for the people that come in later,â€ Coyne said. â€œThat's just to kind of include everybody. ... And if you're loaded at the Thunder's game, you only have to walk 20 feet to go to a Flaming Lips show.â€
As for â€œThe Soft Bulletinâ€ late show, fans can expect note-perfect readings of the album's most popular tunes, including the exhilaratingly anthemic â€œRace for the Prizeâ€ and the heart-meltingly hopeful â€œWaitin' for a Superman,â€ along with more obscure and complex numbers such as the dreamlike â€œSlow Motionâ€; Coyne's moving, autobiographical message of friendship to his partners Drozd and Ivins, â€œThe Spiderbite Songâ€; and the sublimely trippy â€œBuggin'.â€
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The Flaming Lips New Year's Eve Freak-Out
â€œThere was this strange mixture of very vulnerable and yet very brave at the same time. And you know, art and music allows that. Because you really just go into your deepest emotions and fears, and that's where your music comes from.â€
â€” Wayne Coyne on the writing