All photos by David Fisch

It might seem odd at first to pair a guy who often sings acid-tripped songs in their purest and simplest ways with another guy (and band) who often sings about battling robots and warding demons in sings at their most gargantuan, but their quest for love and continually morphing forms of psychedelic rock easily tie them together. Mac DeMarco and The Flaming Lips on the same bill, in hindsight, makes so much sense, and though they didn’t necessarily share the stage together, the wavy flows of their energy were combed together across three hours at The Shrine Saturday night.

Last time I had seen either of these bands was at SXSW in 2013. Mac was slowly on the rise and The Flaming Lips had just released The Terror. I had seen them in much smaller capacities and in entirely different circumstances – Mac supporting his album 2 to a crowd of maybe 100 and The Flaming Lips performing Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots in its entirety without the zaniness of their usual live performances due to the smaller setting. While I might consider myself spoiled in those respects, it was great seeing Mac dominating the stage at a much larger venue and witnessing the intense aura and exploding confetti and Wayne Coyne-in-a-bubble happenings that the Lips promise. They owned the night as proper co-headliners.

Both bands played 75-minute sets, which I could get behind regarding Mac, but considering the incredible three-decade lifespan of the Flips, their set felt short by comparison. Either way, with Mac up first, he played right to his audience when he opened his set with John Williams theme from Star Wars – not performing the actual theme, mind you, just literally playing the theme from a recording as their entrance. Though the staging wasn’t nearly as epic, Mac and his band played with pure-bred fun in the way you’d probably imagine the Cantina Band.

In support of his new record, This Old Dog, Mac got everyone comfortable with his brand of boozy lovelorn indie/jam rock, from the start of the synthy “On The Level” to the end of the communal guitar mashup of “Still Together” and a cover of Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With The Devil.” He played a nice spread of tunes across his three major studio albums and his recent mini-LP, performing and absolutely nailing fan favorites like the jangly “Ode To Viceroy” and trippy “Chamber of Reflection.” He made the most of his stage presence with his interactions with his band, oftentimes taking pictures between songs and raging into the microphone when it called for it.

Perhaps the peak of the set was “Moonlight On The River,” which in its studio version features a wild and endless jam, but performed live was extended for what felt like an eternity. It was full-on Floydian in its execution, a moment where you could easily lose yourself in the jammy bassline, melding effects, and guitar melody. It was that moment that you realized the next band up was their equal in that respect, and that you would be further subjected to that kind of psychedelia, though on a much more visually visceral level. Mac DeMarco’s simplicity, though, matched with his honest lyricism, was never lost on me in this set.

The Flaming Lips were, almost by construction, unpredictable and predictable at the same time. Confetti cannon’s burst out from the sides into the crowd and giant bouncing balloons lifted in the air and down again as streams shot out from behind the LED light set as “Race For The Prize” banged on. Though the attention was diverted, ringleader Wayne Coyne insisted everyone keep screaming when noise was low, to keep momentum going as he led on their astounding and wondrous musical pieces matched with complimentary visuals.

Just as that was over, a giant pink robot inflated over Wayne as he and the entire crowd sang “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Part 1.” With that imagery towering over him and the enormity of the LED lights that synced in tune, the colors absorbed and matched the energy of the room, which was met by Wayne on a unicorn with “There Will Be Unicorns” from the Flips most recent record release, “Oczy Mlody.”

Songs like “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” again utilized the LED lights to great effect, and the sing-a-long nature gave more bounce to each balloon and more vocoder drive to Steven Drozd’s vocals. “Are You A Hypnotist??” transformed a giant disco ball into a gamma-ray burster of light and, what has since become a staple since David Bowie’s death last year, the band performed “Space Oddity” while Wayne was in his trademark bubble, crossing through the middle of the audience with ferocity.

Ending with “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton” and “Do You Realize??” in tandem was weirdly poignant, perhaps because this was the first concert I had been to since the events of Vegas last week, and the overwhelming amount of color and people and ideas of “love” being bright and imaginative as the Flips know best tugged at the heartstrings. The guitar strums of “Spoonful” seared as they should, the community singing “Do You Realize??” on full display, and the pronounced rainbow at the end was wonderfully glowing. Though admittedly short, this was the Flips as I understand them, and after thirty years they continue to have the lasting impact and array of imagination that leaves with you from the stage.

This was the second-to-last tour with the two acts, and I am pretty thankful for having been witness to the spectacles.

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The Flaming Lips
Mac DeMarco