The Flaming Lips’ quest to break the Guinness World Record for most concerts played in a 24-hour period brought the sonically adventurous Oklahoma rock band to the Varsity Theatre at the north gates of LSU Thursday afternoon.
Following quick stops and shows in Memphis, Tenn., and Clarksdale, Oxford, Jackson, Hattiesburg and Biloxi, Miss., the Flaming Lips’ police-escorted caravan of four buses and one Mercedes-Benz van pulled in front of the Varsity Theatre at 2:21 p.m.
A crowd was gathered in front of the Highland Road music club as the vehicles arrived, but maybe not so much to greet the record-seeking Flaming Lips as to take a massive smoke break following the show’s opening act, Lafayette’s Givers.
With the clock ticking and the final, record-clinching show still to do at the House of Blues in New Orleans, band members and technicians covered the Varsity stage by 2:25 p.m.
Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne got a hero’s welcome as he entered the Varsity at 2:30 p.m. The graying, curly-maned singer-guitarist made his way through the crowd like some beloved prizefighter, with a cameraman broadcasting his entrance live.
The Lips’ concert marathon, along with O Music Award presentations honoring achievements in the realm of digital music, were streamed live on the Web.
Cheers went up as Coyne stood center stage, saluting the sold-out house with a right hand covered by a big gray furry mitten. A quick, efficient sound check followed for mics and instruments, including Coyne’s acoustic guitar covered in a plastic bubble.
“Are we in Baton Rouge already?” the amiable Coyne asked, prompting another cheer.
“As soon as we’re done, we have to run out of here,” he explained apologetically. “It doesn’t mean we don’t love you.”
Linear Downfall, a neo-psychedelic rock band from Nashville, performed with the Flaming Lips at the Varsity. The group looked the part, especially Charlee Cook, a singer-bassist dressed in trippy candy colors and glitter.
Coyne introduced the first of the set’s three selections as one of the Flaming Lips’ favorite songs of all time. Not one of his own songs, “21st Century Schizoid Man” is the head-splitting opening track on King Crimson’s classic prog-rock album from 1969, “In the Court of the Crimson King.”
The Lips’ and Linear Downfall’s guitar-heavy rendition of “21st Century Schizoid Man” suggests it’s a cornerstone song for the heavy-metal movement that erupted in the decades that followed.
More schizoid music followed in the form of “I’m Working at NASA on Acid,” a song from the new, guest star-filled Flaming Lips album, “The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends.”
The quiet acoustic melancholy the song begins and ends with got blasted and shattered by a furious freak out of a middle-section jam. Expect the unexpected when the Flaming Lips are on stage.
Meanwhile, a tuft of orange yarn that had been passed and unwound from person to person through the audience, symbolically connecting the assembled concert goers, reached the stage. With plenty of yarn still to be unwound, Linear Downfall’s Cook dropped to her knees, wrapping it around her head.
“I wish we could stop here and just blow the rest of it off,” Coyne announced. “But we can’t.”
Faced with navigating through Baton Rouge traffic, the troupe left the stage shortly after 3 p.m.
By 5:20 p.m., Coyne was on a mini-Mardi Gras float in the French Quarter, surrounded by revelers and a brass band. As he handed out Mardi Gras beads, the world record for most concerts played in a 24-hour period, previously held by rapper Jay-Z, and the House of Blues were easily within his furry mitten’s reach.
A short time later, a new record was set and officially recognized by Guinness World Records.
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