"As Coyne taught the audience how to karate chop a large silver balloon with the words "Fuck yeah Hobart" was bounced about the crowd."
As one of the most unmissable live music spectacles in the world, Oklahoma psychedelic rock vets The Flaming Lips were a fantastic choice by the MOFO festival team as a headline act.
The boutique Tasmanian festival has hit their stride and its audience and artist selection continues to expand all over the world. This year is the first year the majority of it's wonderful weirdness has moved to the Mona museum (touted as "Weekend At Walshy's" in tribute to festival creator and Mona owner David Walsh) with the festival usually spilling out to take over the guts of rarely used spaces repurposing them for a weekend of music and art. It's a festival that doesn't pin itself down to a particular style and has never been afraid to take large risks, its success earned in no small part by its boundless imagination and adaptability. These are traits that The Flaming Lips also embody. Wayne Coyne wears many hats — the mad scientist, innovator of countless stage gimmicks, the musician, who has done quadrophonic albums, 24-hour songs delivered to your door on USB sticks lodged in skulls, and penned one of the most stunning fizzy-make-feel-nice songs, the low-key folk tune Do You Realize??. Both the MONA team and Wayne Coyne have seemingly limitless capacity for reinvention.
It's always something different and is not your typical gig, an audiovisual extravaganza of lights, confetti and harmonies that dazzle and entertain you like few other performances can. An extravaganza that almost did not happen as the Spirit Of Tasmania was torn from its mooring in Melbourne the night before by fierce winds with most of the band's gear on board.
"...How lucky we are that our stuff got off that doomed ferry, otherwise that werewolf and this thing that I'm wearing would have been trapped at the bottom of the boat — we should be screaming all night, we are doing great!" Coyne says to the crowd, wearing space leggings and an orange parka with rubber ducks as lapels while a man inside a seven-foot inflatable Santa suit dances behind him. The Flaming Lips never forget the audience for a moment and as such expect total engagement which was possibly lacking from the sun-drunk and possibly drunk-drunk crowd who, while blissful, were not as vocally supportive as the band would have liked. Frontman Coyne will often talk to the crowd about his various life-positive philosophies and in doing so would consistently try to rile up the audience out of their quiet and into a fervour.
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Confetti cannons blasted into the air above a setting sun as hundreds gathered about the lawns of the MONA grounds crowding the balcony of the restaurant upstairs for a better look.
The Flaming Lips delivered a set with the kind of tight musicianship you'd expect from a group that has been playing together for the better part of 30 years. A touching rendition of Bowie's Starman as tribute to the late artist lead into a crowd singalong of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt 1. As Coyne taught the audience how to karate chop a large silver balloon with the words "Fuck yeah Hobart" was bounced about the crowd and it was not long until Wayne, microphone in hand, got into an inflatable Zorb ball rolling himself atop the hands of fans.
Still grinning at the end of a nearly two-hour set that spanned from the recent work with Miley Cyrus to early cut She Don't Use Jelly the band announced that the show was over. The applause didn't stop until the inevitable encore as the band trooped back out under the long white tubes of lights that hung over the stage like Andy Warhol's fringe. Thanking the crowd and clutching his hands together in gratitude Coyne nodded to the band who launched into their final song Do You Realize?? as the crowd sung along, hugging strangers and kissing friends on a floating ball in space.