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
The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra is consistently among the most interesting and talented groups in St. Louis. This tiny orchestra (comprised of former members of the Baysayboos, Whole Sick Crew, etc.) takes old silent films and writes a score to accompany them. Then the group plays the score live as audiences watch the film.
Aside from providing quality entertainment, the Orchestra also forces an education on younger film fans. The mostly-forgotten silent films of yesteryear are now vital and alive in the minds of anyone who has seen a Rats & People show. The group has done Go West, Die Bergkatze, Nosferatu, Strike and others. As accidental historians and educators, it has brought a bit of classic cinema to all of us fans, and we are thankful. Rats & People Motion Picture Orchetsra performances are beautiful and get a huge positive response from audiences. (Each show I’ve seen has ended with a standing ovation.)
But the group does have one problem: too much talent and not enough money. It’s a common complaint here in town, but in this case it seems especially unfair. The members of R&P MPO are hard-working, ambitious and sweet. They take each task very seriously and wish to do the best job possible. They are diligent to the point of obsession when studying, scoring, editing, practicing and playing a new project. It is their attention to detail and love of their work that makes their performances so special for audiences. They work to the point of exhaustion, and it shows.
The group was very interested in touring (especially after being so well-received among the film community in neighboring Columbia, MO), but the tour van needed work. In order to raise money to go on tour, Rats & People set up a residency at El Leñador (an El Leñadency, as it’s called) and performed a different piece every week, usually presenting one full film with a short or two included.
The last week of the El Leñadency was to feature Go West, but the performance was protested by the copyright holders of the Buster Keaton classic. They wanted $250 for the screening of the film. Already having promised free shows and Go West, in particular, the Orchestra decided that they wouldn’t back out on its fans. The group would, however, accept donations to pay for the Go West screening so that they wouldn’t have to borrow from the van fund just to have the show.
The band set up a website to take donations on a Sunday night, and they had all the money they needed before noon the next day. Donations were made not only by locals, but by fans and friends out of state — ones that wouldn’t even be able to see the performance — just because they wanted to contribute. Upon reaching their goal, the band took down the donation link and sent out a polite update which read: “We’re gonna Go West on the 26th! Thank you so much. We’re… speechless, humbled, so very grateful for your help and support.” And because they are so damn classy, they even mailed hand-written thank you notes to each of the donors.
But the night of the performance wasn’t all smiles and victory at first. The news was bleak that day: St. Louis visionary and rogue developer Bob Cassilly had been found dead that morning at the construction site of his newest project, Cementland. The mood out on the crowded sidewalk pre-show was gloomy. This particular audience seemed to be comprised of tons of young artists — many living in the neighborhood on Cherokee Street — and everybody seemed to be just a little upset. There were whispers, rumors, a few tears.
We were all kind of lost that night until the R&P brought us back together — both as an audience and as humans. The visuals co-mingling with the beautiful strings is, at times, too much for a wee heart to take. Go West can produce quite a swing of emotions in the viewer, and it’s interesting to go from crying to laughing in the span of just a few minutes.
Sitting there watching Go West that night (for the 5th time, I believe), I had one repeating thought: It’s silly that we’re watching this at El Leñador. This should be in a museum. This should be at the Sheldon. This should be at the Fox. I mean, I’m glad that we get to watch it there for free, sipping on cheap drinks at our favorite place, but R&P deserve the grandest of stages. And it deserves more money.
Its members did raise enough money that night to get their van fixed and they went on to play Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago and Farmington, before coming home to begin work on yet another project. Thankfully, Cassilly’s fearless, inventive spirit lives on.
Oh Shit Moment: When Friendless straps deer antlers on Brown Eyes so that she can defend herself against the Bull. (If that reads like code, you’re missing out.) Audiences always gasp. That scene gets us every time, we’re not sure if we’re going to laugh or cry and we end up doing both. ‘Bittersweet’ is a hell of an emotion.
Highlight of the Night: Watching all of the smiling, tear-stained faces after the show. Everyone was just a little lighter and more loving as they left the venue. People who had been closed off and numb earlier were hugging and kissing after the performance. Everyone seemed to have that sort-of magical post It’s a Wonderful Life glow.
- link: Riverfront Times