I don't know if I have it in me to be one of those following-the-Grateful-Dead-in-a-smelly-van types, but if there's any band that brings out my Deadheadish nomad tendencies, it's the Flaming Lips. I've participated in their "Boombox Parking Lot Experiment" at South By Southwest, sailed the seas with them on a jam-band Mexican cruise, laid on a floor with fellow Lipsheads while Wayne Coyne played all four discs of Zaireeka simultaneously, and watched the band rock out in various atypical settings (in a Texan bank basement, backed by a full orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl, co-headlining with Gnarls Barkley at a pre-New Year's Eve extravaganza in San Francisco, at a Yahoo! Christmas party for an audience of Silicon Valley suits, etc). And yes, if the Lips' Christmas movie or Broadway musical ever finally come out, I'll be there on premiere night, too.
I've stopped short of volunteering to dance onstage at a Lips show in one of their furry-fuzzy costumes (I hear they're not dry-cleaned too often and basically smell like death from the inside). But when I received a recruitment email inviting Lips fans to join their "March Of 1,000 Flaming Skeletons" Halloween weekend parade--a "spectacle celebrating the mysterious, the supernatural, and the otherworldly" and "a symbolic procession glorifying the beauty of death and the boundless flame of love and life"--here was my chance to enjoy some costumed revelry with the Lips. Naturally I stopped everything I was doing, got on Yahoo! Travel, and booked the cheapest red-eye flight to Oklahoma City I could get, before I had a chance to get all rational and talk myself out of it.
So I arrived at 5am last Saturday morning, slept for about six hours, and then it was time to explore Wayne's fair city. This Halloween march happened to take place just two days after an alley in Okie's Bricktown district was officially rechristened "Flaming Lips Alley," so of course that was my first (and, come to think of it, ONLY) sightseeing pitstop upon arriving in Lips-land. Then it was off to the Lips' Halloween headquarters, to pick up my skeleton costume and my "beautiful, one-of-a-kind, weird-ass" commemorative T-shirt, and get my face done up with greasepaint that will probably cause my complexion to break out all the way through Halloween 2008.
Then the master of ceremonies himself, Sir Wayne Coyne, got me all revved up by a pre-parade pep talk (in which he also offered helpful advice on how to paint my face and where to find the port-a-potties--Wayne's the best!). And finally, once properly skeleton-suited and skull-faced, I joined my 999 fellow fearless freaks (well, supposedly it was 1,000 freaks--the exact number that the Fire Marshall permitted is still up for debate, but if Wayne said it was a thousand, then it was a thousand, a'ight?). And we were off, stomping through the streets of Oklahoma City, brandishing fiery tiki torches and somehow managing not to burn each other beyond recognition in the process.
As the Lips' original Wagnerian death march penned just for this occasion blasted out of a technicolor-painted, dry-ice-smoke-spewing soundsystem on wheels, Wayne trailed behind the marchers, rolling along in his famous clear plastic "space bubble." Meanwhile Michelle (aka Mrs. Wayne Coyne, aka the Luckiest Woman In The World) followed alongside photographing the proceedings, looking mighty foxy in her Wonder Woman costume.
After the parade was over and the torches were finally snuffed out, Wayne thanked us all, repeatedly, for "being brave" and then ordered us to "go party and freak people out!" (FYI, Wayne's nephew's band, Stardeath, was playing the official afterparty at Lit, a club with with raddest address in club history, 209 Flaming Lips Alley.)
But before I went off into that good night, I told Wayne about my long journey from L.A. for the march; he was impressed enough to hug me so tight I could barely breathe. I was tempted to never wash again, but really, that pore-clogging makeup had to come off at the end of the night...