The moon had just begun to set over a sold-out show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre when Primus took the stage. It seemed an appropriate setting for a show co-headlined by The Flaming Lips performing Pink Floyd’s seminal 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon. As lightning flashed in the far-off distance, Primus delved into their set of California-bred psychedelic funk-metal.
Supporting the two headliners was the Oregon-based band Morning Teleportation. The quartet played a mixture of psychedelic-infused riff-rock, rustic country-rock and synthesized electronic ballads from the band’s 2011 album, Expanding Anyway.Though visibly excited to be playing on such a high-profile bill, (something the band has become accustomed to since their formation in 2005,) Morning Teleportation seemed cramped on stage surrounded by the headliners’ elaborate lighting systems and strange stage props. With two massive concentric semi-circles of LED lights and two gigantic astronauts sharing the stage with them, the band played their hearts out to the eager crowd before yielding the stage to Primus.
Opening with the song “To Defy the Laws of Tradition” from their 1990 album Frizzle Fry, Primus proceeded to dazzle the audience with extended jams of nearly every song they played. Diving into their set with the lesser-known “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers,” Primus followed immediately with fan favorites “Tommy the Cat” and “Southbound Pachyderm.” Frontman Les Claypool paused briefly during each song to address the crowd, commenting on the glory of the venue’s monolithic rocks, and praising the aforementioned light system, which Claypool referred to as their “new toy.”
He then ran off stage while drummer Jay Lane and guitarist Larry LaLonde engaged in a brief jam before Claypool re-emerged wearing a chimpanzee mask and wielding his favorite plaything, “the whamola” — a large metal stick with a single bass string and a lever to augment the pitch. They played a song from one of Claypool’s side projects, Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade’s “Whamola” from the 2002 album Purple Onion.
Primus continued with intermittent jams and drum solos, and peppered in tracks from their forthcoming album, Green Naugahyde, due out in September. The band played other crowd favorites such as “John the Fisherman” and “My Name is Mud,” as well as deeper cuts like “Over the Falls” and their lysergic boogie “Over the Electric Grapevine” before leaving the crowd in what Claypool called “the fine and capable hands of one of the best bands around today.”The crowd waited in anticipation while the stagehands organized The Flaming Lips extravagant stage props, which included whitewashed stacks of speakers and colorful confetti cannons. Balloons were brought to the top of the venue and unleashed upon the crowd as the band took the stage.
In typical Flaming Lips fashion, the band emerged from a giant LED screen, which was lit up to look like a flashing fluorescent vagina, as frontman Wayne Coyne stood inside a rapidly inflating “space bubble.” The rest of the band played an untitled introductory song as Coyne walked out into the crowd and was promptly lifted by the audience towards the middle of the venue. After a few minutes Coyne was delivered back to the stage and the band opened their set with Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.”
As confetti and streamers filled the amphitheater, The Flaming Lips masterfully played through the first few songs of Dark Side of The Moon before Coyne presented the crowd with several giant balloons filled with what appeared to be American currency. The audience promptly popped the balloons, showering the crowd with the bills as the band continued with the song “Money.”
The show was themed on The Wizard of Oz, with psychedelically altered images from the movie sharing the LED screen with colorful naked women. On both sides of the stage there were several dancing women dressed as Dorothy. The band also covered several songs from the movie, notably, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “We’re Off To See the Wizard” and “If I Only Had a Brain.”The Oklahoma band finished off all of The Dark Side of the Moon, unleashing massive amounts of confetti, balloons and streamers during the finals songs, “Brain Damage” and “Eclipse.”
The Flaming Lips briefly left the stage, only to re-emerge and perform a single-song encore. The audience sang along in unison as The Flaming Lips played their original song “Do You Realize” from their 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
As the confetti settled upon the ground and the 9,450 patrons slowly filed out of the venue to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” there could be no doubt that what had transpired had been something full of magic, beauty and good, wholesome rock ’n’ roll.
Photos by Dane Cronin