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When news broke that the Flaming Lips were going to play eight separate shows in 24 hours in an attempt to eclipse a Guinness World Record set by Jay-Z, the collective response was something along the lines of, “Well, of course they are.”
The Lips have done so much bonkers shit up to this point in their long career—from releasing a live album on a USB drive encased in a bubblegum-flavored gummy fetus to the release of a 24-hour long song available for sale on a hard drive stuffed inside an actual human skull—that few things they do can really be seen as surprising.
But when I received a press release announcing the world record attempt and the fact that the whole thing was going to be livestreamed, I knew that this ridiculous and gimmicky thing deserved, nay begged for, a ridiculous, gimmicky response: I was going to watch the whole thing, livetweeting the whole way, and keeping notes on my thoughts and what was sure to be my mental collapse around hour 18.
What follows is culled from those notes and my tweets, and timestamped (in PT) for your entertainment and edification. You can surely find videos from the eight Lips shows and everything in between to, I guess, play along at home. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. Even though it involved a band I generally admire, it was one hell of a slog.
4:30 p.m.: It’s already promising to be a long 24 hours. The stream takes far too long to get loaded and running. When it finally does, the Lips are onstage in Memphis, halfway through “Girl, You’re So Weird,” a track from Heady Fwends. A dozen girls on either side of the stage are dancing in Dorothy costumes. I just finished my first Red Bull.
4:52 p.m.: First rendition of “Do You Realize??” and first blast of the confetti cannons.
5:00 p.m.: I found out much too late that the Lips aren’t the ones controlling the livestream. They’ve partnered with the O Music Awards, Viacom’s attempt to maintain their relevance in the music world by “honoring” musicians and web developers for doing important stuff. (Sample awards: Hottest Music NILF, Too Much Ass For TV, Must Follow Artist on Twitter.) So instead of interspersing concerts with screenings of Christmas on Mars or footage of people in animal costumes dancing, what we get instead is a Coyne and relentlessly chipper host Alison Haislip on a bus uncomfortably chatting, and then quick jumps to comedian Jim Florentine hanging out in New Orleans (the final stop of this adventure) with a burlesque dancer and a fortune teller. Y’know?! Cuz it’s N’awlins!!
5:07 p.m.: For those of you who care about such things, Wayne wears pink boxer briefs.
5:12 p.m.: First stop: Sun Studios. Haislip asks with a straight face what the place “is all about.” In the main room, Karmin.
5:17 p.m.: Tweet: Karmin is Best Web-Borne Artist… is that like a Web-Borne Disease of some kind? From the sound of the music, I’d say yes.
5:46 p.m.: Second stop: a fireworks stand. And, hey, who’s working behind the counter but none other than Jackass star Chris Pontius! This whole thing has the feel of a really shitty variety show.
6:03 p.m.: The OMA website offers up three channels to watch, including one that is just a static shot of the livestream’s control room. I’ve become instantly obsessed with Ivan, who looks like a skinnier Anthony Rapp and seems in a constant state of distress.
6:18 p.m.: Jim Florentine asking the important questions of this fortuneteller: “Will someone drop a deuce on the bus?” Cut to the bus: “We were just talking about Bigfoot.”
6:25 p.m.: Alison wants to play “Phone-A-Friend,” where everyone tries to get a famous person on the phone. Wayne looks understandably uncomfortable at the idea. Pontius talks about the worst celebrity he ever met, pronouncing her name: “Ellen Dee Gen-air-us.” Alison eventually gets Chuck star Zach Levi on the phone for some uncomfortable banter.
6:47 p.m.: Ivan: “Trevor, we need music on the bus. It feels really flat. You may become a character on the bus who plays music. If we have 23 hours of bullshitting it’s going to get really boring.”
7:22 p.m.: All of the fun of standing around watching a band do an interminable soundcheck from the comfort of your home!
7:41 p.m.: The band finally performs “2012” from Heady Fwends with the singer of HOTT MT standing in for Ke$ha, a great version of “Be My Head,” and the second run through of “Do You Realize??” That last song gets me emotional every time. After hearing it six more times, I might feel much different.
8:03 p.m.: 30 Seconds To Mars win for Best Online Concert Experience. Jared Leto films an acceptance speech as a long Brando impression. I picked the wrong time in my life to stop drinking.
8:45 p.m.: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals doing their… thing… in Oxford, Mississippi. Already fighting to stay awake.
8:55 p.m.: Ivan keeps mentioning finger puppets. This does not bode well.
8:59 p.m.: And there it is: a Kanye finger puppet. With Alison doing a terrible Kanye impression.
9:41 p.m.: The Lips on stage with Grace Potter doing Led Zeppelin covers (“The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song”). Wayne’s withered croak of a singing voice sounds particularly croaky right now. Another version of “Do You Realize??”
10:01 p.m.: Second Red Bull of the night. Headache looming. Annoying comedian on screen not helping.
10:12 p.m.: Alison has been replaced by McKenna, who says things like “Jam sesh!” and “I think we should take shots!,” and who refers to Wayne as “Wayneee!”
10:30 p.m.: Grace Potter is on the bus, getting everyone to paint and color masks as she talks about putting Pop Rocks in her vajay.
10:59 p.m.: Stream cuts to New Orleans. Comedian Jim McCullough bantering with a drag queen and then… OH SHIT! BIG FREEDIA PERFORMANCE!!
11:07 p.m.: Ivan is standing up in the control room, grinning stupidly and dancing to Big Freedia. Adorable. And kind of creepy.
11:47 p.m.: The folks on the bus are coating each others’ faces and lips with glitter now. It’s like a sorority sleepover.
12:02 a.m.: The bus stops at an abandoned gas station to set off fireworks. Wayne looks beatific, his hands together as if praying and smiling wildly as the sparks fiy.
12:27 a.m.: McCullough interviewing a burlesque queen in New Orleans. Click over to the control room, where Ivan is losing his shit: “I need somebody to tell the story of what’s going on the bus!”
12:48 a.m.: Fading fast, but saved by Neon Indian playing in Jackson, Mississippi.
2:02 a.m.: Have to rub my eyes to make sure I’m not hallucinating that Wayne’s acoustic guitar does really have a big plastic bubble grafted onto it that he has to stick his hand into to strum. The Lips with Neon Indian do the best song from Heady Fwends, “Is David Bowie Dying?”, and then a meaty version of Bowie’s “Heroes.” “Do You Realize??” sounds as elegiac as ever.
2:27 a.m.: A peppy redhead named Shira Lazar takes over hosting duties on the bus. She interviews a visibly uncomfortable Jackson Browne, who is going to be playing with the band in Hattiesberg, Mississippi.
5:38 a.m.: I wake up to the sound of Shira freaking out lovingly on some Lips fans. The band does some horrible sounding versions of Browne’s “These Days” and the song “Ashes In The Air.” And a snippet of “Do You Realize??”
6:18 a.m.: First cup of coffee. A young country up-and-comer named Hunter Hayes is on the bus playing. I make this joke on Twitter: “Hunter Hayes is the Hayden Christensen of modern country.” Shira reads it out loud on the bus, and says, “I don’t know who that is. Probably some awesome musician.”
7:47 a.m.: MTV Spring Break is alive and well in Biloxi, Mississippi. Neon Trees is playing on a stage in front of a swimming pool. Eight women in bikinis are lined up, dancing behind the stage.
9:15 a.m.: Lips finally onstage doing a long formless song with Phantogram. I’m hoping some sleep-deprivation hallucinations kick in soon to liven this up, but on the stream, bikini-clad ladies are still finding a way to bump-and-grind through it. Kudos to you, empowered females!
10:19 a.m.: Shira: “We should go jump in the pool? Do you want to go jump in the pool? Is it too crazy?! I am wearing extensions!! Oh my God!!!”
11:21 a.m.: Ivan inadvertently hits on a perfect motto for this whole thing: “Milk it a little longer for me.” They bringt three of the bikini girls on the bus and the new host—a dude whose name escape me—is holding a Miss Flaming Lips competition. One contestant does The Worm. Let’s leave it at that.
12:13 p.m.: Wayne discusses the Erykah Badu stuff briefly. Blames Erykah’s fan base for not “getting” the video and forcing her hand. Says they are talking about remaking the song and video with Amanda Palmer.
12:41 p.m.: Third or fourth wind kicking in. I might make it after all.
12:45 p.m.: The Lips play with Nashville band Linear Downfall, which is an apt description for the outfit worn by that band’s singer. They run through “Working At NASA On Acid” and a cover of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”
1:32 p.m.: Third Red Bull. Some surprisingly coherent thoughts about this whole thing: These awards are reflective of the amount of work a musician has to do these days to not get lost in the deluge of content that consumers have at their fingertips. I don’t envy them having to embrace idiot conceits like receiving Best Artist With A Cameraphone awards with a smile.
2:10 p.m.: Finish line in sight. McKenna is back asking the important questions: “Do you think there might be pelvic thrusts involved in the final show?” Wayne amazingly gracious and Zen about the whole thing. There has to be a terrifying flipside to that calm, cheery demeanor.
3:13 p.m.: MNDR performing now in place of Grimes. My best summation of her sound: The party episode of Girls distilled into one desperate, drunken sext. I tweeted that and the OMA people replied, “Lighten up, bro.”
3:47 p.m.: Ivan, freaking out about Wayne Coyne not being on the move in some silly parade: “Push the float! Push the float! Push it! It’s not going to move on its own!”
4:00 p.m.: The Lips busting out final version of “Do You Realize??” and it is still managing to give me goosebumps. The record has been broken, and the sexy Dorothys are back on stage. Order in the universe has been restored. And now, I sleep.