In a year of mad merchandising experimentation involving six- and 24-hour-long songs and almost-monthly music releases packaged in gummy fetuses, light illusion toys and real human skulls at $5,000 bucks a head, nothing should come as a surprise from the fearlessly freaky Flaming Lips.
So the news that Yoko Ono would be helping Oklahoma City's own acid-damaged psych-rock pranksters ring in 2012 with a two-night stand in Bricktown was almost anti-climactic. So why make a big deal out of it, right?
OK, let's make a big deal out of it.
“Well, we had played some shows with Sean Lennon's group, the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger,” Lips leader Wayne Coyne said in a recent phone interview. “We only played like five or six shows together. But you know, you travel around together, you do sound checks together, you're in each other's hotels partyin' and stuff. And they're just really wonderful, you know? Especially to think of all the people in the world who could be (screwed)-up sons and daughters of very famous, iconic people. He's just a normal, real sharp, cool, you know, fun person to be around.
“And his girlfriend, Charlotte (Kemp Muhl), is in the group with him. And they sing and they play, and they're just great. So we got to know them, and (Lips manager) Scott (Booker) had seen the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band perform earlier at South by Southwest in March, which Sean also is kind of the producer of. He's kind of the guy who gets all of that together, and so after getting to know them it was really Scott's idea. ‘Why don't we see if we can get the Plastic Ono Band to come out here for New Year's?'”
Score another coup for Mr. Booker, who was also instrumental a couple of years ago in bringing the first U.S. branch of England's prestigious Academy of Contemporary Music to the University of Central Oklahoma, now headquartered on Flaming Lips Alley in Bricktown with Booker serving as its CEO.
“And the minute they kind of started to hint that they were going to be able to do the New Year's Eve shows with us, I immediately thought, well, let's do a recording that we can just put out at the same time,” Coyne said. “Because you know it has to be a songwriter's dream in a sense, to be able to do a Christmas song where, again, you're the person with Yoko, doing this great message of peace and love to the world.
“And I don't want anybody to say it or to write about it, feeling like we're the entity of the John Lennons in the song with Yoko. To me it's just a song, especially a Christmas song with such an iconic entity who's always been about this message of tolerance and peace and love and all that. That's just in another realm. You just don't think that's gonna happen.”
The Christmas song, called “Atlas Eets Christmas,” is part of a four-song collaboration similar to the team-ups the Lips have already released in 2011 with Neon Indian, Prefuse 73 and Lightning Bolt.
The new recording will be on sale at the New Year's Eve and New Year's Day shows, which this year will be at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center instead of the much larger Cox Convention Center, which has hosted the “Freakout” shows in years past. The admission price — $100 for a single show, $150 for both shows — is a new wrinkle as well, which has brought complaints from some Lips fans online.
“I would say, to some people that is gonna be a lot of money and they're not gonna be able to afford it,” Coyne said. “But I would also say that just because there are things in the world that you can't afford, that doesn't make them bad. We know that we're playing to a smaller audience by playing at the Coca-Cola Center, and it almost demands that you charge more money, but I think it's a better show. Everybody gets great, great seats, everybody gets to be there at these shows and at these parties.”
He was referring to the all-night after-parties that are planned at the Womb, the art gallery co-owned by Coyne at 25 NW 9, following each night's show.
“Sean and Yoko Ono and all of our friends, and all of Oklahoma City that deems music and getting together important, will be there,” Coyne said. “And it'll be wonderful. ... The Flaming Lips will play other shows, perhaps, but I don't know if they'll ever be able to play again with Yoko Ono and Sean. You know, to play Christmas songs together and stuff, it's a pretty special moment.”
The Flaming Lips
• With: Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band.
• Special guests: Phantogram (New Year's Eve only), Neon Indian (New Year's Day only).
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
• Where: Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center, 425 E California.
• Tickets: $100 per night or $150 for both nights.