The Flaming Lips, Midlake, Stardeath and White Dwarfs
North Texas Fairgrounds in Denton as part of NX35 2010
March 13, 2010
Better than: any other concert I've ever seen, maybe?
As the crowds filtered in to the North Texas Fairgrounds last night, Norman, Oklahoma's Stardeath and White Dwarf's powerful psych-rock welcomed them in. And, about an hour or so later, the hosts of the affair, Denton's own Midlake, formally thanked the audience--an impressive if not altogether overwhelming number had gathered on the grounds--for its arrival.
"Good evening, Denton!" an ecstatic Eric Pulido (Midlake's guitarist) shouted over the field's PA system. "It feels so good to look out and see all of you here!"
After a mind-blowing show of musicianship in a set that culled the bulk of its material from Midlake's most recent release, The Courage of Others, Pulido again took the mic--this time, even more triumphantly.
"Visit often!" he shouted, as his and his bandmates' spouses and children danced in the field to the left of the stage. "This is an amazing city and it's so good to be a part of it! Thank you so much!"
Even at that point, the night felt like a rousing success. But headlining act The Flaming Lips had yet to take the stage. And what turned out to be the most memorable show the evening, the weekend, and likely all of 2010 would indeed blow minds.
First, though, it would blow the stage's power generator.
Before his band even took the stage, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne appeared on stage, blasting confetti cannons into the crowd and, eventually taking to the microphone to prepare the crowd for what was about to come. Within minutes, Coyne said, his band would appear on stage and he would too--albeit in a human-sized gerbil ball, which, he implored, the crowd would carefully use to carry him around for a bit at the show's start.
And after a high-budget video screen showcased a woman dancing and then giving birth--at which point each member of the Lips walked out from a door in the screen to enter the stage--things went just as Coyne said they would. Until, once he was already out among the raised hands of the audiences, the band's music stopped and the stage lights dimmed.
All was going so well. But the power had gone out. Coyne and his bandmates blushed with embarrassment. But, as they did both at this point and again later in the set when the power went out for a brief second time, the Lips members handled the situation professionally, calmly and, really, quite charmingly, promising to continue no matter what and keeping the crowd in good spirits with its off-handed remarks--many of which involved Coyne announcing to the crowd that the members of Midlake had said it was totally cool to smoke marijuana publicly on the fairgrounds.
When the power was turned back on, Coyne explained what was originally to happen in the opening sequence--essentially, more ball-surfing, really. "Just pretend all that happened," he said with a laugh.
And then the show began for real--and gloriously. Baloons shot out onto the crowd and confetti blasted into the sky and fell onto the reaching hands of the exuberant audience. And over the course of the next 80 minutes or so, the band continued to dazzle, offering up a high-octane, visual and auditory spectacle never before scene in this rather quaint college town. To its credit, the crowd, which could've been dismayed by the production errors, remained unfazed and unfettered.
Coyne's pleas surely helped: "C'mon, Denton!" he shouted after electricity was re-applied after the second outage. "We're trying!"
The crowd cheered in appreciation at that point--just as it did throughout the evening at pretty much anything and everything Coyne and Company offered. At the set's end, no one seemed ready to leave.
"I don't want anyone to think that, because of all this, it was any less of a great night," Coyne said to an eruption of applause, before he called out the potential naysayers as "cynical motherfuckers."
After the band closed with yet another rousing--and, again, confetti-filled--performance, this time to an offering of "Do You Realize??," few could argue with him. A great night, indeed.
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Maybe Denton's greatest.
Personal Bias: None, really, as far as the bands are concerned. I've seen them all before and enjoyed them all before, if that makes for a bias. I don't think it does, though. I'd be lying, however, if I said that being in the press pit right in front of the stage didn't add to this incredible experience. Granted, I also blame that fact for the ringing that remains in my ear some 20 hours after the fact.
Random Note: It was a nice touch to hear DFW product The Secret Machines blaring over the PA between sets at one point.
By The Way: I spoke with NX35 organizer Chris Flemmons after the show. He swears that the power generators being used were brought in according to the Lips' specifications. It was just a fluke, he said with a shrug. Not that it mattered. Still quite the show, no doubt.