Imagine if the Flaming Lips headlined Sun God this year. Instead of some boozed, semi-famous hip-hop crew slurring through uninspired verses, we’d stand in awe of Wayne Coyne — the crazed and beautiful, silver-haired, LSD-fried Lord of the Cool Dads — slowly emerging from a gigantic computer-generated vagina in his signature giant hamster ball, just before the rest of the band rips into the triumphant orchestral stabs of “Race for the Prize.” On our way out, we’d swing by the merch table and pick up a copy of the band’s latest release: a tiny flash drive containing a three-song EP wedged into the translucent green center of a life-size, marijuana-flavored gummy skull.
Most importantly, it’d be some of the best songwriting, and likely the greatest performance, to grace the historic festival since whenever it was that Modest Mouse allegedly played (though such a phenomenon remains difficult to believe).
For fans of one of modern music’s few classic bands, what could be more exciting and outrageously unexpected?
If you said, “A musical based on the Flaming Lips’ psych-rock opus Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots that stars the members themselves and is directed by the guy who did Jersey Boys,” then it’s time to get very, very stoked.
If you haven’t heard the news, the Lips’ ambitious theatrical project, which has been in the works with Tony Award-winning writer/director Des McAnuff since 2007, is being rehearsed and set for debut this November. And if that wasn’t extraordinary enough, the musical is opening in UCSD’s own backyard, the La Jolla Playhouse.
This is something to celebrate for a number of reasons, with the first being that it’s just a perfect fit for the band. The Flaming Lips have always been theatrical. The band’s live performances have gained a legendary renown for their technicolor spectacle of confetti, nudity, teletubbies and an array of bizarre props that contribute to the psychedelic on-stage narrative. And of course, there’s “Christmas on Mars,” the “Eraserhead”-meets-“2001” sci-fi feature film the band made in Coyne’s backyard along with Fred Armisen and Steve from “Blue’s Clues.”
But with a seasoned musical theater veteran at the helm, the Lips have someone to keep “Yoshimi” from sinking into the kind of spazzy — albeit delightful — psychosis that may not fully succeed on Broadway. Still, it will be interesting to gauge the reaction of the Playhouse’s dedicated congregation of rich and elderly patrons.
On a more general level, the notion of the Flaming Lips taking a break from studio recording to jump into musical theatre seems to verify the band’s absurd genius. The Flaming Lips’ entire career has been a testament to the fact that serious music doesn’t have to be so serious — a concept taken for granted amongst the Radioheads and Arcade Fires of modern music’s exclusive high throne. They’re a hefty injection of whimsy and naive wackiness that music, theatrical or otherwise, needs right now.
Is it what UCSD needs right now? That sort of goes without saying.