In the summer (august 10th) of 2003 I quit my job pushing shopping carts around a parking lot in the Cedarville part of my hometown of Plymouth, MA so that I could attend the Berkshire Mountain Music Festival. It was like a lot of festivals I ended up going to during my festival career because it was held on a ski resort during it’s off season, if my memory serves me correctly it was in Greenfield, MA. The debauchery of what went on the woods there was so depraved that the festival was never allowed to be held again after that year.
This story isn't about polysubstance abuse, or my friend pate getting fronted at least a quarter ounce of ketamine to sell (by a kid named Felix of all names) , and us doing the whole thing. It isn't about my friends who convinced a non festival going civilian to drive them to the festival, and them climbing the mountain to sneak in, and it isn't about the 20+ C and D list jambands that we saw (although Percy Hill was very good).
This story is about Wayne fucking Coyne.
If you don't know what a wook is, I'm just going to bring you up to speed real quick: wook is short for Wookiee, the furry race of creatures from the planet of Kashyyk that Han Solo’s best friend Chewbacca belongs to. If you have no frame of reference to any star wars lore, then I don’t really know what to tell you, go watch the original trilogy and get back to me. Anyway, being that wookiees are very furry, the dreadlocked white kids of Phish and Grateful Dead tours, and jam festivals are referred to as wooks. Berkfest was a wook free for all, and the only band that wasn't a wook jam band was headlining Saturday night on the main stage. The Flaming Lips were touring to support their “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots” concept album, and somehow they got booked to appear in front of a decidedly very hostile audience. the wooks wanted to see Warren Haynes sing “eyes of the world” (again), or some other token wook shit, they didn't want to see a band that was was as much acolytes of punk rock as they were an art rock psychedelic skullfuck.
I don’t know why I decided to be at the main stage that Saturday night, as i was a wook in training at the ripe age of 17, having just come off of the Phish IT festival… I’m sure i was more interested in c list jambands than anything like what the flaming lips were doing, but there I was, positively FACED on psilocybin. Next thing I know the two big screens on each side of the stage are showing footage of open eye surgery and people dressed as stuffed animals are filing onto the stage with confetti cannons. The trust fund hippies were booing loudly, and Wayne Coyne appeared fearless.
“Man, I don't want to be doing my job, I want to be out in the fuckin woods with you guys” He exclaimed, like any of the wooks wanted him out in the woods huffing nitrous balloons with them.
“Hello my name is Wayne, and we are the flaming lips. I’m gonna sing some songs about love, and life… and DEATH”. I’m pretty sure Wayne knew how retarded on mushrooms I was, and he was going for it, with tongue firmly placed in cheek. He had one of those boxing nun puppets on one hand and a microphone in the other, and it didn't make any sense, because nothing about anything made any sense. In a weird way, everything made so little sense that it actually made perfect sense. Nun puppets, mobs of big walking stuffed animals, confetti, bubbles, surgery stock footage and songs about a karate kid who was out to save the world from evil robots, I was going from being horrified to unbridled elation on a dime, and all possible thoughts and emotions were invoked. I do believe that Wayne won over the closed minded audience that night, he certainly made a fan out of me.
If I had to summarize what a Flaming Lips show was in 2003 it would be: a psychedelic multimedia freak out fuck show on a budget of things purchased at party city and spencer gifts. This was before Wayne Coyne started walking on the audience in a giant hamster ball. I really don't remember any of the other shows at that festival because I’ve seen so many jambands since, but I will never forget the flaming lips. Coming back from the show to our little hometown was like we were Muhammed coming back down the mountain to spread the gospel of Wayne Coyne. It is still one of the best concert experiences of my life. The Flaming Lips are one of the great American alternative bands, and have been for at least 30 years.