Take the most disappointed you’ve ever been, combine it with what you love the most, throw in an unprecedented level of douche-baggery and you have what happened last night at the surprise Flaming Lips show at the Observatory in Orange County. As a massive fan of all parties involved, I’ve been nothing but generous and grateful regarding the Miley/Lips collab, but I have to be honest with myself now: It’s turned into a dick-riding selfie circus of the most nothing proportions. My favorite band left me for my favorite pop star and now they both suck.
Spoiler alert: Miley Cyrus would not be performing her Dead Petz album at the overpriced, last minute, 75 minute concert advertised as their first time playing the material live. Do you feel cheated having clicked on this article? It’s not like I ever said Miley Cyrus was for sure going to be here, so don’t be mad at me. Are you irritated? Like maybe the circumstances under which I lured you here were deliberately calculated? Do you feel like you were baited with great promise and delivered something rather underwhelming? Me too, fam – welcome to the last 13 hours of my life. Would you have even clicked this link if you thought Miley wasn’t going to be here? Me neither…me neither, y’all.
Flaming Lips fans are a special breed. We’re philosophers, stoners, hedonists in the purest form of the word on a mission to produce joy in every weird way imaginable. We’re forgiving too, we’d have to be – our favorite singer can’t sing. Wayne’s never been a technically good musician, but that didn’t matter because he’s a creative genius who’s quite charming so we all let it slide. But the last 5 years his singing voice has become painful to listen to. As a professional musician, I feel like it’s your job to be cognizant of the fact that people are paying real money to see you perform. It would not be difficult to make some adjustments to production to mask the fact that he sounds like a wheezy, broken squeaker horn, especially because they’ve been playing the exact same set for the last 7 years.
Miley’s a fan too, she’s one of us. She’s also one of the most famous pop stars in the world, which can get weird sometimes. When she brought Wayne out to perform ‘Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robot’ at her LA Bangerz Tour stop last year, my stomach fell out of my butt. It was like God was looking straight at me, but I was too close to see what was wrong with that picture. After they sang the song, Wayne explained that he felt like he didn’t sing it as well as he could have and asked to sing it again. Of course she said yes, he’s her fucking hero. In retrospect, that was incredibly rude to her fans. This sentiment is a recurring theme I’ve seen echoed in countless fan comments. No one besides me even knew that song, much less who that old guy was onstage with her. In true Wayne fashion, he seized the opportunity to make it all about him.
I say that with love and years of firsthand experience. When you’re a Lips superfan, you have easy access to your musical heroes – they are very down to Earth and make themselves incredibly available to talk to at shows. There’s a breed of Southern gentlemen I’ve observed over the years who believe what they have to say is the most interesting shit anyone’s ever heard so they never shut up. Wayne is one of those. To his credit, he’s a very good listener too, so it’s not just a one way street. It’s more like he has 5 lanes and you have 1, maybe more depending on how interesting he thinks you are. Miley is probably one of the few people in the world Wayne allows himself to be energetically dominated by. I thought this would be good for both of them, I’ve changed my mind. Get out of here with that joint Wayne, you didn’t even smoke weed til you start dick-riding Miley.
Between Spring 2014 and Christmas of last year, I spoke with Wayne and his girlfriend Katy each individually about the Miley bromance. The first time was in New Orleans at Buku Festival, The Lips had just put on the worst show I’d ever seen them do. It was right before Wayne fired their old drummer Kliph Scurlock, who in turn wrote a scathing letter to Pitchfork about his insane behavior. I ran into another Lips superfan backstage who was crying, a boy of about 22. He told me he follows the band any time they tour, he sleeps in his van and they let him into all the shows for free. Wayne separated from his wife in the summer of 2012, the divorce was getting ugly, and according to this fellow superfan, the band wasn’t the same.
“Wayne is not ok,” he said. “Everyone’s angry, no one knows what to do. I think I’m just going to drive back to Oklahoma tonight.” I found Wayne shortly thereafter, standing by the bar. He looked like the loneliest man on Earth – dead behind the eyes. I offered him some protein cookies and asked him about Miley, he brightened up for a minute. I asked how it happened, he said it came out of nowhere – that she’d tweeted him on his birthday and he found out she was a fan, just like me at the Oklahoma van-dweller. He said next thing he knew she was asking him to perform with her so he came out to LA.
I talked to Katy at Outsidelands in August of 2014, they’d just been on their first trip with Miley to visit her grandmother in Tennessee. She was telling me about meeting grandma and riding 4 wheelers through the forest, her attitude reminded me of Wayne’s a few months before. It was some form of, “OMG we can’t believe it either, she’s just so rad” and that was ok with me. It was genuine. In December 2014 I went to the Flaming Lips Christmas party and their attitude had done a complete 180. Granted Miley was there and when she’s around everyone seems to act like a fucking idiot so maybe they were just being vigilant, but it was the first time I found the band to be completely unapproachable.
I’d bought Miley and Katy Foria’s THC lube for Christmas. That’s the kind of thing I’d been doing for the Lips for years, I didn’t think it was weird. When I approached Katy and Wayne to give them their Christmas present, they looked at me like I was leper. By the way, Miley turned around a bought the entire Foria stock of that shit a few days later so YOU’RE WELCOME, FORIA! I assume my free weed lube is in the mail. Anyways, it was impossible for Miley to even be at this 200 person party because everyone turned into selfie-zombie psychos. There was this one moment where I was screaming at Wayne in my head, begging him to tell people to stop. At that moment, he reached for his phone and snapped a selfie of her. She left.
I’ve spent almost 10 years hanging around Wayne, I’ve talked to him more in that time than I’ve talked to most members of my extended family, so I’d like to think I know him a little. I believe he’s traditionally the kind of guy who sees a bunch of people acting in a deeply unconscious way, like turning into selfie zombies attacking his friend at their Christmas party, and tells them to chill out. The fact that he didn’t do that makes me think he’s tailoring his behavior to what he thinks she wants or what he perceives to be appropriate behavior inside the pop culture machine. Where’s your head at, man? The whole scene was horrific, she was playing a DJ set topless and ended up having to run for her life essentially because the selfie zombie apocalypse closed in. He’s the adult in the situation, he’s the one with the power to get on the mic and tell everyone to be cool.
The one moment I did get with Wayne that night, I told him he was Cosmic Santa. He liked that and we got to talking about UFO’s, over his shoulder Miley was yelling for him. He asked her to hold on a second and she’s just going, “Wayne, Wayne, Wayne” over and over and I’m like uh, you’re welcome to come over here. Or not. This is not something that I’m used to as a fan, but all the usual fan/artist dynamics change when she’s around because people just act like assholes in the presence of a People-magazine-level pop star. The plot twist is Wayne is the biggest asshole of all. After his bullshit last night, I’m sure of it.
In an 800 person capacity venue, less than 400 people showed up last minute and paid $60 to see what was essentially a Flaming Lips rehearsal. I predict 100 people or fewer would have turned up had there been no mention of Dead Petz in Wayne’s promo. The fact is he had to pull a bait and switch to get people out to that show, no one’s dropping everything their doing on a Sunday night to schlep to Orange County to hear a band you’ve probably seen 600 times play the same set plus 3 butchered Dead Petz songs. The only thing redeeming about the project besides the 3-4 tracks on the album that are actually listenable, is hearing Flaming Lips-esque material sang by a strong vocalist. Us, the fans, have indulged this ridiculous album because our hero(es) made it, because the energy behind it is so distinct and special. Wayne has officially worn out my good graces so now I can finally admit to myself that I’ll probably never listen to most of those indulgent, nothing songs ever again because they’re not worth my time.
And the way he broke the news at the show was SO ANNOYING. “We just performed this song last week on SNL, and the person who sings this song is here tonight, but she’s a little too fucked up backstage.” (EXCESS SCREAMING!!!! THIS IS THE MOMENT WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR!) “Normally that doesn’t stop her but, tonight it does. Just kidding, she’s at home.” Silence. The worst silence I’ve ever been party too. This is after he’s mentioned about 6 times that the show has to be over by 9:30 so he’s going to hurry, then there’s 10 minutes between songs of him yammering underhanded apologies for juggling our collective Miley-balls or insisting another inflatable alien be brought onstage before he can sing whatever song. It was SUCH BULLSHIT. Thank God I wasn’t drunk, other people started screaming out things like, “Fuck yea, Lenny Kravitz! EDDIE VAN HALEN, WOOOOOOHHOOOOOOO!” I’ve never heckled before but a Molly full of whiskey would have gone black forest ham.
Lester Bangs, a more loyal hero to me than this fucklehead, said, “Be merciless,” at least he did in Almost Famous, and I’m taking that advice to heart right now. This is a big day for me, I’m turning my back on my heroes and telling them to keep their selfies and concept albums – call me when you’re ready to get fuckin’ real. Miley is ready to get real, Wayne, that’s why she called on you. But she’s the 22 year old celebutant and you’re the grown-ass man who’s supposed to be wise and empathetic. Get your head out of your ass, the selfies will come out better.