Friday, 27 August 2010

374 THE FLAMING LIPS "BOOM BOX" EXPERIMENT NO. 13, London Kentish Town Forum, Saturday 16 May 1998

It was Tim's 21st birthday today, so how better to spend it than a day's shopping in London and a completely different aural experience in the evening! Tim organised the hire of a spacevan which I duly offered to drive, as everyone else got drunk the night before! So, after a trundle up to Kentish Town, we parked near the Forum at 1-ish and went off to Camden! I did some shopping then watched the FA Cup Final in a pub, Arsenal beating Newcastle 2-0. We then met up back in Kentish Town, and were first in the Forum at 7, gaining good vantage points by the mixing desk for this very strange musical experience. 40 chairs occupied by beatboxes were laid out onstage, and by 9 pm, they became occupied by guest operators, including Miki of Lush, Martin Carr of the Boo Radleys, 18 Wheeler's Sean Jackson, and Wannadies' bassist Frederick! The Flaming Lips vocalist Wayne Coyne, our "compere" for the evening, then explained the procedure for this event; he and Steven Drozd of the Lips would "conduct" pre-recorded tapes played by the beatboxes to the operators, for an experiment in sound!

Coyne was a very personable and entertaining compere, as he conducted proceedings with a, "1... 2... 3... G... Go!" to cue in each musical "piece". Following the test, the first musical piece was a huge and awesome cacophony of white noise, which with various sounds resembling screaming angels and earthquakes, sounded like the soundtrack to a planet being devoured! Galactus in the house? Other "songs" were less cacophonous but no less intense, as Wayne and Steven took on the roles of conducting one half of the operating participants each, creating as visual a spectacle as the sound was awesome. Some of the "pieces" were a little repetitive, and the sound, pushed through 40 tapes on 40 old beatboxes allegedly procured from Oklahoma City pawn shops, was a little fuzzy and impure, but as a sonic experience it was unusual, unique, nothing less than intriguing and at times very enjoyable and even emotionally moving. At the end, after which we ran into some other Wannadies for a brief but nice chat outside the venue, Wayne Coyne thanked us, "for coming along with open minds." That summed it up really - a great way to spend anyone's 21st!

2010 recollections - it's quite interesting to look back on this gig, given how these "Boom Box" experiments contributed to the changes the Flaming Lips subsequently made to how they produced their music, resulting in the massively influential "The Soft Bulletin" CD in 1999. A significant step along the way!

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