Wayne Coyne, the lead singer and guitarist of American band the Flaming Lips, during the Optimus Primavera Sound music festival in Porto, Portugal, in 2012.
I recently attended the La Jolla Playhouse Gala featuring some of San Diego's finest philanthropists and supporters of the arts. With its top-dollar donation, the event was a bit out of my league, but, thanks to the nice people at the La Jolla Playhouse, I was able to attend.
The big reason why? The Flaming Lips would be performing as part of the night's entertainment, along with presentations and a donation scenario that garnered more money for the LJ Playhouse. In attendance were members of the Jacobs a.k.a. Qualcomm family and San Diego Congressman Scott Peters. Needless to say, the environment was already surreal, even before the band played.
After cocktails, appetizers, dinner and while dessert was being served, the Flaming Lips hit the stage with a seven-person lineup (Steven Drozd, Derek Brown, Daniel Huffman, Kliph Scurlock, Jake Ingalls, Wayne Coyne, Michael Ivins); it's supposedly a rarity to see the band with that many people performing. Opening with "Fight Test," the band looked relaxed with frontman Coyne playing some sort of percussive instrument. Not sure I've seen anything like it -- it looked sort of like an oversize tambourine but without the small cymbals.
The band swelled to nine people when playing a song with Kimiko Glenn and Paul Nolan, who starred in the LJ Playhouse musical Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots as Yoshimi and Ben. During the set, Coyne thanked Yoshimi director Des McAnuff and the Playhouse and made reference to a scene in the musical in which the main characters are smoking pot. The band played for about 30 minutes, with the rest of the set featuring "One More Robot," "Sunshine Balloons" (with Glenn and Nolan), "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots," and "Do You Realize?" closing it out. That song always gets me.
The set was short and sweet, but a treat nonetheless. The small crowd of just over 350 people mostly stayed in their seats, only moving to get directly in front of the stage at the end of the performance. By the end, streamers were shot and a new vibe took over. I'd like to say Peters was dancing in the aisles, but to be honest, I wasn't paying attention -- my focus was on the Flaming Lips. The theater had been transformed into a cabaret-like environment with huge video walls on three sides that complemented the band's performance. It was certainly a unique and memorable experience. The only thing missing was Coyne going over the top of the audience in his big clear ball! I also had the pleasure of interviewing Coyne, which will appear on a future episode of SoundDiego. It should be noted that the band donated their time for the gala.
Tim Pyles, a longtime local who grew up in La Jolla, is the unofficial mayor of local music who hosts The Local 94/9 via FM94/9 every Sunday from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. He also books local acts at the Casbah, hosts the weekly Anti-Monday League, books/hosts the monthly Maryjane's Underground at the House Of Blues and is an entertainment writer for Pacific San Diego Magazine. Check out his website thelocalpyle.com and and follow him on Twitter @thelocalpyle. You can reach him directly here firstname.lastname@example.org