Full Circle with The Flaming Lips: 2012 In Review
By Jaime Lees
Thu., Dec. 20 2012 at 11:54 AM
Editor’s Note: The end of 2012 is upon us (also the end of the world, if you believe in that sort of thing), so we thought we’d put a cap on things by sharing some of our personal favorite shows, albums, events and general shenanigans. Join us as we indulge in some navel-gazing!
When I write articles for RFT Music, I’m not just reporting on music happenings — I’m writing about my life. One day my priorities might change, but for now what matters the most to me is music. Maybe that’s wrong or unhealthy or something, but it’s true, and luckily most of my favorite music moments of 2012 have been documented in some way on these pages.
I’m lucky in that I have a lot of freedom in this space. It’s curated not only by people who give a crap, but by people who value what I have to offer. After seven years of writing for this publication, I’m still grateful and excited for the opportunity. I absolutely adore my job here at RFT Music. My life is my work and my work is my life, and I’m honored to share it with you.
That said, here was my life in 2012:
I rang in the New Year in Oklahoma City. My sweet old dog, Ruby, had just passed and I was in the middle of some serious grief. I ran away for the weekend to hang out with old friends and see two shows with the Flaming Lips and my spirit animal, Yoko Ono. At the stroke of midnight, I was tipsy on pink lemonade moonshine, bathed in kisses and standing inside a massive sonic blast fortified by a fog of rainbow confetti, flashing lights, jumping lasers, hundreds of bright balloons and the twinkling reflections off of a giant disco ball. The Lips played Beatles covers with Yoko and Sean Lennon and Nels Cline; it was absolute bliss and served as a strong reminder of the healing power of live music.
I’ve been saved again and again by amazing music — most of it local. I’m a huge fan of so many of our local bands. Many people wait years for their favorite bands to tour, but for me, my favorite bands play all the time. As an extra treat, I get the opportunity to write about these St. Louis music makers: Lion’s Daughter, Prince Ea, Jimmy Griffin, Jans Project, Demonlover, Roland Johnson, Fred Friction, Nelly and the list goes on and on. I know that a lot of what I write reads as love letters to St. Louis, but I just can’t help myself — St. Louis just makes it too easy. Stop being so awesome and I’ll stop writing about you. Until then, the locals have my heart. (Extra double shout-out to people that I’m proud to call my friends, the hard-working folks at Big Muddy Records, Tower Groove Records and the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra.)
I’m not sure why, but this year I felt particularly productive. I was given space to write about music-minded locals who inspire me creatively (Dana Smith), about St. Louis music history (STL 2000) and I got to hype the touring bands that I was the most excited about (Future of the Left, R. Ring). I’m still not quite over the fact that I actually get paid to get drunk and watch Guided by Voices, to eat pizza and listen to Taylor Swift, to try to convince readers that Heart is badass, to watch classic bands like Kiss and Mötley Crüe, to review Madonna from the second row, to jump into the world of Juggalos, to get Sinead O’Connor‘s take on St. Louis (and Chuck Berry) and to praise my personal heroes like Bonnie Raitt and Henry Rollins. If you can find a girl that is luckier than me, I’d sure like to meet her.
Under the advice of my very favorite punk rock couple, I attended a show with a band I’d never heard before: I saw Useless Eaters at CBGB and it was the best damn show I saw all year. These kinds of happy accidents only occur when you actually listen to the suggestions of others, so try keep some cooler-than-you friends around.
And though I was stoked on the lineup this year at our big summer festival, LouFest, I had originally declined to do any LouFest coverage. I wanted a weekend of fun, without having to spend all night writing reviews. But there was a last-minute rescheduling and Kiernan came and found me right before Dinosaur Jr played. He needed someone to write about Dino’s set. I said sure, knowing that it would actually be easy– on some level I’d been prepared to review a Dino show for at least half of my life. Kiernan hunted down an empty beer box for me to write on and then he went back out into the crowd, off on his next mission. I found a pen, ducked under a friend’s umbrella and wrote my notes out on the cardboard. Improvising ain’t just for musicians, you know, and the Dino review turned out to be one of my favorite things that I wrote all year.
The second night of LouFest, I again found myself at the emotional mercy of the Flaming Lips live show, but this time as a participant. I danced onstage with some of my favorite people, and I absolutely rocked that slutty Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz costume, if I do say so myself. It was one of the best days of my life and it’s far too personal to write about here, but trust me, it was a good time and I felt absolutely smothered in love.
Since then my life and routines have gotten back on schedule, and this fall has been one great event after the last, and with the upcoming holiday season is bringing tons of shows that I’m excited about– I predict that I won’t get much sleep through the end of the year.
As for the future, who knows? I’m excited about the new crop of weirdness on the South Side. Magic City, Black James, Syna So Pro, Demonlover, Bug Chaser and Horsey Drawers have my interest right now, but nobody can predict what insanity will come in 2013. I, for one, can’t wait. Bring on the New Year. I’ll be lurking in the many venues, festivals, dark basements, loud practice spaces and fancy recording studios around town. See you at the barricades.
link: Riverfront Times
When you open for Kiss you have to put on a hell of a show, and Mötley Crüe delivered. From the displays camaraderie to the set list full of hair metal hits, Crüe brings brotherhood onstage and encourages it amongst the audience. With four-way fist bumps and sly “we got this” smiles, Crüe really does seem to be in it together and working as a unit to get you pumped.
If you’ve been hurting for some ’80s glam rock, “Shout at the Devil,” “Dr. Feelgood,” “Kickstart My Heart” and “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” bring you the party that you’ve been missing for the last twenty years. “Girls, Girls, Girls” was a particularly misogynistic good time, with the huge screen behind the band flashing photographs of scantily-clad ladies that looked like they were ganked straight from the Nude Photo Hunt bar video game. (Spliced in that sequence was a photo of Justin Bieber–nice one!) “Home Sweet Home” brought a little feeling back in the game, with low lights, a lovely full-audience sing-along and dudes holding their ladies tight.
The band members are exactly as you might remember them. Tommy Lee is still skinny and surfer-dumb goofy. His solo strapped-in upside down rollercoaster drum performance is impressive, but the medley of terrible strip club music in the background is distracting. (And I hate Rush, but Neil Peart totally did it better.) Nikki Sixx still has Joan Jett hair and wears the makeup under his eyes. Vince Neil is still smarmy in his shiny cargo camouflage bell-bottoms. (For some reason he reminded me of the “young girls in white cotton panties” scene in Wayne’s World.) And, yes, Mick Mars still looks like a goth catfish.
Is it weird that I hope for a Guns ‘n’ Roses-style riot every time that I’m at Riverport? (And I’m from St. Louis so I’ll be calling it Riverport forever, thankyouverymuch.) I had high hopes that Kiss would incite the crowd to such a degree that the barely bolted down rows of chairs would go flying in a colossal mess of a fight that would leave me terrified and with a great story to tell my grandchildren.
I was not blessed (or cursed, really) with this scenario, but I did see something else of note: my very first Kiss show. The band members have been cultural icons for nearly 40 years, so I really have no excuse. And their face-painting styles are so iconic that it doesn’t even really matter who is behind the makeup anymore, if you wear the star or the kitty whiskers, you’re a proper member. More than a few people in the crowd rocked the Kiss gear, including some possibly coerced children.
The stage show is as big and loud and complicated as you could ever wish for, with pyrotechnics, moving pieces of stage floor, drooling/spitting blood, aerial lifts, a perch for Gene Simmons up in light rig scaffolding and a spinning platform for Paul Stanley out in the audience. (He used some sort of automated zip line to zoom there straight from the stage and it was my favorite part of the night.) Before tonight I already knew that Stanley was my favorite, but he reinforced that bias all night with his obvious love for the fans. He threw out guitar picks at every possible moment, waved at kids and made kissy faces at all of the ladies in the front rows. Dreamy.
The songs the band played were pretty predictable, and that’s just as it should be. “Detroit Rock City,” “Shout It Out Loud,” “War Machine,” “Lick It Up” and “Rock and Roll All Nite” all got huge responses and even the new single, “Hell or Hallelujah,” was well received. My favorite song of the night was “Black Diamond” (more familiar to me as “that Kiss song that the Replacements covered”) because in the beginning Stanley tried to encourage the crowd to clap along, but unfortunately most of the audience suffered from the very common disease known as Caucasian Rhythm Disorder and eventually Stanley gave up the fight.
All in all it was a great first Kiss experience, but I think next time I’ll go out on the lawn with the really real folks. That’s where all of the fun was happening. I could see them from my seat near the front. It was a party back there. There were rivers of spilled beer and ladies on shoulders flashing their ta-tas. I gotta get in on that action.
- “Raise your hand if you like sex!” – Vince Neil
- “I don’t see your goddamn drinks! Put your drinks up!” – Tommy Lee
- “I need some fuckin’ bass, Nikki!” – Tommy Lee
- “I can smell a lot of fuckin’ weed out there… If you’re smoking weed and covered in tattoos and you’re drinking, you’re at fucking Mötley Crüe tonight!” – Nikki Sixx
link: Riverfront Times
Our Song: In Defense of Taylor Swift
My favorite thing in 2009 has been teenage country cutie Taylor Swift. Normally my music radar sweeps shamefully closer to the underground, but it only took one encounter for me to fall in love with Swift’s undeniably hooky, magnetically charged songs.
Swift was hired by Sony/ATV at age fourteen as a staff songwriter, and since then her accomplishments and accolades have just kept on multiplying. The willowy powerhouse with blond tendrils has become the hottest thing to hit country music since Garth Brooks. True, the majority of Swift’s songs are hardly “traditional” country: Except for the occasional fiddle or lilt in her singing, she almost exclusively plays pop songs. And although her image is that of a young Faith Hill or Shania Twain, her talent is on par with classic artists such as Lucinda, Reba and Dolly.
Her stadium tours sell out months in advance, and she’s been nominated (and won) pretty much every music award possible. But don’t hate the playa, children. Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s bad. (See: Nirvana, the Beatles.) Homegirl’s self-titled debut is the longest-charting record of this decade, and to date she’s sold more than 10 million albums. (Swifty even outsold Michael Jackson this year. Dang.) Songs such as “You Belong With Me,” “White Horse,” “Love Story,” “Teardrops on My Guitar” and “Our Song” are freakin’ scary-good. Not good for a country star. Not good for a girl. Not good for someone her age. Just plain good.
Swift is also at least partially responsible for the greatest pop-culture moment of 2009: the Kanye West Interruption Incident from the MTV Video Music Awards. This misdirected outburst of attention-whoring introduced Taylor to a whole new group of fans she wouldn’t have reached otherwise. Miss Swift’s composure, grace and subsequent roof-blowing song performance was more than enough to silence any haters. Oh, snap. Don’t mess with her; I think she’s in it for the long haul. — Jaime Lees
Greatest Taylor Swift pop culture moments captured on video:
— TS and T-Pain, “Thug Story” – link
— TS speech, hugging Dave Grohl (start at 5:45) – link
— TS SNL musical monologue (La La La) – link
— TS pranked by Ellen DeGeneres – link
— TS being awesome (see 1:30) – link
— TS as Ace Frehley from KISS – link and link
— TS with Def Leppard, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” – link
— TS music video, “You Belong With Me” – link
— TS vs. Kanye West on MTV – link