The Flaming Lips at Mission Ballroom

By Emily Faulks

I remember being at home during the Fall 2020 quarantine period and discovering The Flaming Lips’ Pitchfork documentary of their 1999 album The Soft Bulletin. I did not know them outside of some of their classic songs like “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” and “She Don’t Use Jelly,” that were conceptually and aesthetically different from this album- this was something special. I hung onto every song on the album for dear life, as its messages of grief and existential dread felt particularly salient during the pandemic. Now that COVID’s presence seems more of a backdrop to “normal” life, I have moved through the Flaming Lips discography to compliment the laughter and joy that has flowed back into my day. The Flaming Lips concert, even with an emotionally varied setlist, captured the loving relationship between the band and their fans- we all celebrated life and celebrated music.

It has been a long time since I have been to a concert alone in Denver, but it seemed fitting as I alone traveled through the stages of grieving with The Soft Bulletin as my guide. I entered while the opener, Particle Kid, started their set. The lead singer, Micah, trotted around stage with a long black cape and cried out with a Kurt Cobain-ish rasp. I couldn’t help but imagine myself being at a reincarnated Nirvana concert until I heard the psychedelic synthesizers and reverb in the guitars drill into hypnotic freestyles that would last for several minutes. The most intriguing part of the set felt more like a performance art piece, something like a “Happening” piece in the 50’s where the last song turned into another long jam after people backstage tossed confetti over Micah’s head in celebration of his birthday while he continued to scream “LIFE- LIFE…” I thought I was witnessing a manifestation of a quarter-life crisis as the drums and guitar patterns started to deteriorate into amorphic static. Micah crawled around the stage continuing to repeat this word for several minutes, playing with the tone and frequency of his voice behind the blaring instruments. The crowd also moved through waves of discomfort and awe watching the performance. It seemed like his mic eventually got cut off, and the band did a short sign off before getting off stage. The opener got me more excited as Particle Kid was clearly a group of performers that revered the interactive nature of The Flaming Lips’ concerts.

After standing around for some time, the lead singer of TFL, Wayne Coyne, walked around the stage getting all the props and goodies for the fans prepared for the show. Finally, the whole band came onstage in the dark, while Wayne stepped in the spotlight with a large robotic red bird. He opened the show by talking about how in previous tours they used to have a different bird that Wayne would pretend to fly around the stage in tandem with the bird noises from “My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion.” Unfortunately, long story short, the original bird broke but now they have this new bird that ACTUALLY flies. Wayne started the set by throwing the bird up to the sky and grabbing a spotlight to cast a magical beam up while the bird fluttered around before landing in front of the mic. Everyone was singing along, even if they did not know the “bird song” (like myself) from the brilliantly animated lyrics on the fluorescent panel of lights.

It was not uncommon for Wayne to stop singing through the set and encourage everyone to scream and dance for the sake of spreading love for each other and for having live shows again. “This could be the last concert ever, for all we know,” Wayne said once, “so we might as well make it the best fucking concert ever!”  And that it was. After the first song, the tech crew came onstage with a leaf blower and started to fill a clear plastic ball with air, while Wayne stepped inside the orb. This would be his temporary home, he would rock back and forth and roll around while singing in his perfect, inhuman voice. I was not expecting him to sound exactly like his recorded songs because of age and production edits, but it was so uncanny seeing him and hearing him the same as I would imagine.

The first time he stepped out of his clear ball was to move to a different inflatable structure: the infamous pink robot. Standing at about 20 feet tall, this massive giant danced with air to “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” with Wayne playing hide-and-seek under its legs. The whole concert seemed like a return to childhood; we were encouraged to move freely and inspire each other to be fully immersed in the music. A few songs later another massive inflatable structure, a rainbow, arched over most of the large stage with Wayne in his ball singing underneath. Streams of confetti would fly out from the stage or from Wayne’s confetti cannons. Halfway through, the whole band played happy birthday to Particle Kids, Micah, and Wayne praised the band for their passionate opening set. Throughout the show, Wayne exuded the most positive energy both through his singing and his actions. In the jam section of “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell,” Wayne picked up a spotlight attached to a cord and lassoed it manically around, inciting the audience into a dance frenzy. A few songs later, a medical team had to go into the audience and Wayne stopped the show to make sure everyone was safe.

After the band finished playing some of their classic songs like “Do You Realize??” and “She  Don’t Use Jelly,” They finished their set with my favorite song: “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate.” I screamed in surprise because it is such a sad song- there was no way, I thought, that they would play that! But it is also one of the most beautiful songs ever. Wayne played “Waitin’ For a Superman” earlier in the show, another song from The Soft Bulletin, prefacing that it was a sad song but we would all create a supportive environment. No such warning was given for this song, but I think it was because he knew we would be ready. I felt the love from the people around me and from the band as they blended their guitars with surreal ease. In a lot of ways, the only verse from “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” encapsulated the message from the show: “Love in our life is just too valuable/ Oh, to feel for even a second without it/ But life without death is just impossible/Oh, to realize something is ending within us.” Wayne and the rest of TFL underscored throughout the show, especially in the wake of COVID, that our bodies are impermanent, but love is infinite; “if you give someone love you will receive it thirty fold back,” Wayne preached between the song. The band went off briefly and then played four more songs for their encore, ending with “All We Have Is Now” and the classic hit from The Soft Bulletin  “Race for the Prize,” again, highlighting their message of love and human mortality. The show was a cathartic experience for me as well as insightful. With prosaic musings similar to that of Dead & Company’s Bob Weir, Wayne opened up with personal stories and feelings that made me feel like I knew him a little better.

I hope that The Flaming Lips return to Denver sometime in the future, but Wayne left the set with a big question mark over the prospect of another tour. Whatever happens, we both left knowing that this show touched the lives of so many fans. I walked out of the venue with exceeded expectations and a long drive ahead.

The SoCC Favorite Albums of 2021

Check out what some of our DJs and writers consider their favorite albums of 2021.

Whole Lotta RedPlayboi Carti

(Although it came out in 2020, it’s been considered a 2021 album since it came out at the very end of 2020). This album made me respect Playboi Carti as an artist. The experimentation on this album, both vocally and production-wise, is like no other hip-hop project of the past year. On Whole Lotta Red, Carti does everything outside of the box. While maintaining his simple, often repetitive lyrics that have made him such a polarizing artist, he pushes the boundaries of hip-hop even further by introducing distorted production and chaotic, punk-inspired vocals. This album is unpredictable in a good way. At one moment he could be screaming over a WAKEUPFILTHY beat while in the next song we see Carti hinting at his Die Lit/Self-Titled era with much mellower vocals over Pi’erre Bourne’s iconic production. The influence of this work of art is already being seen, with WAKEUPFILTHY producing more and more songs and similar vocal experimentation emerging in the underground Hip-Hop world (see Turban by Yeat). This album was very divisive when it came out (understandably), a common trend in albums that subvert expectations and break barriers. This album may not appeal to you on the first, or even second listen, but give it some time and you’ll understand why this album is going to be so important for hip-hop in the years to come. -Oliviero Zanalda

Home Video, Lucy Dacus

In Home Video, Lucy Dacus artfully talks about the parts of youth that only make sense in retrospection. An intimate and honest look at young and naive love, coming to terms with her sexuality and grappling with religious beliefs weave the songs together. A combination of the usual ballads that Dacus writes and a new look at some poppier songs with background vocals from her boygenius bandmates Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker creates the perfect album. – Margalit Goldberg

It Won’t Always Be Like This, Inhaler

Talk about a smashing debut! Inhaler, a four-piece indie rock group based in Dublin, came out with their first record in July, 2021 after a series of singles and EPs scattered over the course of the last couple years (some oldies and goodies of which are on their new album). Inhaler succeeds in proving their emotional and technical range on this album, drifting back and forth between grittier, higher-energy alt. rock tracks and slower, melodic, passionate ballads, all with strong guitars and punchy hooks. The titular song, “It Won’t Always Be Like This,” as trite as it may sound, provides a lot of hope for those stuck in old routines and patterns as of late, wishing to move onto something fresh and new, making this the perfect album to ring in 2022 with! – Jane Harris

Inside Every Fig is a Dead Wasp, Lunar Vacation

Lunar Vacation fully delivered after their 4-year hiatus, with some of their most layered and beautiful production. They’ve stayed true to the indie rock genre but just mastered their sound. Each song keeps you on your toes and it’s a lovely 30 minute listen. -Sadie Fleig

Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Little Simz

This album felt like listening to a coming of age story, with every song sounding like an epic outro that made me savor the album from beginning to end. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert was a big departure from minimalist rap common in her 2019 album GREY area, now sprinkling musical motifs and whimsical interludes throughout- creating a fairytale-land of Simz making. The instrumentals drew from the African diaspora, with Afro-Caribbean heavy beats and West African inspired chorus’ behind her grimey bars, which speaks to Simz’ British-Nigerian background and tied into the album’s theme of contemplating her current identity. The lyrics were introspective and poignant and made the album an emotional and spiritual experience to listen to. I have been listening to it on repeat! Honorable Mention: Call Me If You Get Lost- Tyler the Creator – Emily Faulks

Any Shape You Take, Indigo De Souza

I haven’t stopped listening to this album. De Souza’s sophomore album experiments with synth pop while still having just as much crunch as her 2018 album I Love my Mom. New sounds, new energies, and a really good listen -Tim Smith

Ok Orchestra, AJR

OKO is a pandemic anthem! It conveys so many raw emotions with alternative sounds. I would highly recommend it- everyone can relate to some of these lyrics! – Tess Rittenberg

Sidetrack My Engine, Nora Brown

Short listen – Appalachian folk songs as haunting as the hills they come from that have never been mixed this well. -Connor Rogers

Concert Review: Madeline the Person

By Tamar Crump

A blue-haired fairy girl grazed the stage with her guitar on a cool Saturday night in Denver, Colorado at the Marquis Theater to tell a few stories about herself. Neon purple light eliminated the stage, which was covered in colorful drawings and various stuffed animals, signaling both the growth from child to adult but also the stories and experiences that shaped the girl and the music. Madeline is a 19-year old sing-songwriter from Bellaire, Texas embarking on an exciting journey telling her stories of growth and pain to the world. The melodic singer gained fame after sharing videos of her singing song covers on Tiktok gaining thousands of followers and even getting recognition from singers such as Lizzo and Billie Eilish. 

My friend and I attended the show, excited especially since both of us were concert deprived since the pandemic. The crowd was small and intimate and were really able to feel as though Madeline was just a friend speaking to us about her experiences growing up. She opened the night singing songs from her EP CHAPTER 1: Longing, such as” As a Child” an ode to her late father, and “Gladly” a song that delves into the aching pains and the grieving process of losing someone you love. The EP has a more stripped-back instrumental and soft vocals, emphasizing the stories being told. Madeline did sing a cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” a Queen classic with a melodic twist. Madeline’s soothing voice singing the chorus really highlighted her ability to express herself through tone. The crowd proudly sang along to the words, waving phone lights as she sang “nothing really matters”, the song really showcased how powerful her voice range is as well as her versatility. She introduced a few new songs from her latest EP Chapter 2: The Shedding, which takes on the idea of growing up moving forward, playing songs “Unrecognizable” and “Growing Pains” which were my favorite from the set. This show being the last of her tour seemed extra special,  Madeleine was often overwhelmed with the excited and interactive crowd as we sang along with her songs. My other favorite song showcases at the concert were “August” a song about a person this blue-haired fairy had a crush on that unfortunate moved across the country. The song detailed the lovesick feeling and completely losing oneself when missing someone, the dreamy piano really stands out in this song. She has a unique knack for building worlds within her songs and creating a sense of nostalgia and longing. Madeline’s soft bubbly demeanor is so sweet and magnetic you’ll instantly feel as though you’re just chatting with a friend. If you ever see that Madeline the Person is playing at a show near you, I encourage you to take the chance to listen to a fairy’s story.

The SoCC DJs’ Best Albums of 2020

Here are some of the SoCC DJs’ favorite albums of 2020 year in no particular order:

Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition- Your Old Droog

I was introduced to Your Old Droog by a close friend of mine that often shares with me notable Jewish artists. YOD excels when it comes to storytelling, lyricism (especially in freestyle), and samples. Remaining completely independent, Your Old Droog tells his own story as a Soviet Ukrainian born Jew growing up in Brooklyn, which is undoubtedly unique. The samples on this album give a real soviet feel, utilizing staticky classical Russian samples and featuring instruments like the oboe or the accordion. He even raps some whole verses in Russian which is just so exciting to hear. This album was recorded starting in isolation back in March, and serves as another monument to YOD’s storytelling of his unorthodox and marginalized upbringing. Any fans of New York classics like NAS or MF DOOM could easily get down with a record like this. My favorite tracks on the album would be “Malchishka Krutoy” and “Babushka III”. – Nic Santucci (Tucci)

Bonny Light Horseman- Bonny Light Horseman

Practically every song on the album is a cover/ reworking/ uses a motif from folk songs ( mostly Celtic, Appalachian, and Gospels ). BLH is a trio- Anaïs Mitchell, Eric Johnson(Fruit Bats), and Josh Kaufman. I really only listened to them for Anaïs though… she performs most of the vocals for the album and sounds HEAVENLY n COOL. Fave song: “The Roving”. Anaïs takes this Celtic folk song and changes the lyrics a little and then suddenly it’s my queer anthem of the year?? 2nd place: “Bonny Light Horseman” bc of Napoleon. Basically this album is some good folk music. P.S. Anaïs wrote a FOLK OPERA, “Hadestown”. 👀👀👀 -Lauren

Punisher- Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher reminds me of a large, old, and most-likely haunted mansion perched on the edge of a cliff. Each room in the house is complete with its own ancient, hand-painted peeling wallpaper and skeletons in the closet to match. These rooms are the songs on Punisher— songs with hauntingly specific, but relatable, lyrics and mesmerizing, almost apocalyptic music. Bridgers blends musical and lyrical motifs alike together to paint a picture of an escapist and welcoming wasteland. The album and its journey through Bridgers’ psyche left me disoriented in a way I kind of enjoyed. It made me want to cozy up, light a fire, and stay with Phoebe in her haunted house for a little longer. – Jane Harris (DJ Harris Bueller)

Galore- Oklou

it’s just soooOo delicious -Augie Voss

Miss Anthropocene- Grimes

Miss Anthropocene – a double entendre on “misanthropy” and our ecological Anthropocene – is a self-produced concept album about a malevolent goddess who personifies climate change; each song is a different embodiment of human extinction. Picture a dark fairy with augmentations, and you have the Grimes vibe. Bubblegum princess meets Cyberpunk 2077. It’s pop, rock, and techno, in one sound; bold, brash, and reaaaaally gay. This album followed me everywhere. In March, staying up late at night swaddled in my high school sweats, 4ÆM teleported me back to rave nights in crowded queer spaces. September had me reflecting on revolutionaries. When it comes down to it, Grimes fits a handful of artists, by my criteria, who carry substantial enough weight in pop-culture by their wildly eccentric and otherworldly projects while actively rejecting conformist notions. These rebels have never asked for a space in influence; they make some for themselves. Miss Anthropocene’s concept cemented enough ideas, including pop music’s inevitable evolution into today’s “experimental,” to write an actual essay expanding on tomorrow’s role in art. Jonathan Lee, if you’re reading this, thanks for responding to eight pages on cyborgian feminist futurism. For all these reasons and more, Grimes completely captured my 2020. Her self-published Spotify biography states 2020 is the year of “her final earth album.” This might be a dramatized retirement announcement of quitting music to raise her and Elon’s child. I think the phrase is meant as a bold foreshadowing of her next level. As the reigning queen of the SpaceX – Tesla empire, Grimes very well could pioneer music in the cosmos. And I hope she does. Honorable Mention to Arca’s “KiCk i.”

-Joseph Raiti (DJ LuvIt)

Flower of Devotion- Dehd

I thought that the overall mood of the album captured my 2020 experience, where at surface level, the upbeat guitar and twang of Emily Kempf’s voice felt jovial- maybe to the point of mania. But the lyrics that are mainly centered on lonliness and disconnect is something that I definitely related to. I also appreciated the bands development towards a very unique sound that I hope we hear more of in 2021. -Emily Faulks

NEW PLAYLIST: Cardiac Passages

Last weekend I took a road trip to Nebraska through Colorado and Kansas. All the states blended together with white rolling hills and the occasional windmill cluster, perfect for a naturally-induced ego death. My mind cleared into nothingness as the song “Sensitive” by Mr. Twin Sister came through my headphones. The ambient instrumentals and Andrea Estella’s eerie voice washed over me as I drifted into a trance. The chorus repeats the lines “Is this romantic dreaming?/ Is this just an illusion?” and then concludes the song with “A memory?” 

The theme for this playlist is romantic dreaming, where you feel out of touch with reality because you are entranced by a memory or by a creation of a future memory. The lucid instrumental passages in the songs take you out of time; through romantic dreamings, illusions, and memories that leave you with all the fuzzy side effects of brooding for for an hour. Enjoy.

Playlist cover art courtesy of Kate Planting.

 

Interview with Chastity Belt’s Julia Shapiro

By Emily Faulks

Julia Shapiro. Image courtesy of Hardly Art.

I reached out to Julia Shapiro, indie rock singer and songwriter, as she prepares for Chastity Belt’s American Tour for their self titled album released in September. Shapiro is most known for her solo album she recently released as well as her lead vocals and guitar for all-girl garage bands Chastity Belt, Childbirth, and Who is She?

After Chastity Belt cancelled their tour last April due to “health concerns,” Shapiro ventured into introspective songwriting and mixing that resulted in her first solo album titled Perfect Version that captures Shapiro’s discontent with personal imaging and searching for self growth through musings of change and stagnation simultaneously. She then continued working with Chastity Belt and the band later released their self titled album on September 20. Capturing similar sentiments and instrumentals as Shapiro’s Perfect Version, Chastity Belt wanders through foggy terrain of a mental landscape of dissatisfaction while combating it with surreal optimism. I asked Julia some questions about her experiences with creating Perfect Version mostly alone and being back with Chastity Belt after a much needed break.


What have you been up to since the release of Chastity Belt’s album and getting ready for the anticipated U.S. tour in February?

We tour quite a bit over the fall. In October we did a European tour and then in November we played the East Coast. We’re also working on writing some new stuff.

How are you feeling about touring with Chastity Belt again?

I sort of have a love/hate relationship with touring. It can be really fun, but also super exhausting. It’s all about getting the right balance. I’m excited about this upcoming tour because we’re taking our Australian buddies Loose Tooth with us. It’s also our last tour for a while, so that makes it feel a bit more manageable.

What are the things you do to stay centered when you’re struggling on tour or dealing with the frustrations of the recording industry?

Take a walk, call a friend, try to remember to take some alone time. It can be hard to find the time to take care of yourself on tour.

Did your solo album and emotions you unpacked in Perfect Version influence Chastity Belt’s self titled album?

All the lyrics are coming from me, so yeah I suppose so. Some of my solo songs probably could’ve been Chastity Belt songs if the timing had been different — there’s not a huge distinction between my songwriting process when I do solo stuff and when I do stuff with my band, except I was maybe a little bit looser with the way I wrote lyrics for my solo album. It was a little bit more stream of conscious.

How does mixing and composing music alone compare to the process with Chastity Belt?

It’s a lot quicker cause there’s only one person to consult. It’s also hard cause you sort of have to trust yourself more, since you’re the only one making decisions. It’s harder for me to get as excited about songs when I’m by myself — it helps to have my bandmates around to encourage me.

How did you all start Chastity Belt and overcome gender barriers in garage rock? Any advice for college students (specifically, girls) trying to start a band?

Trust yourself, and don’t just blindly follow others advice, especially men who are out of touch haha. Check in with yourself and your bandmates every once in a while to make sure what you’re doing feels good, and ask yourself why you’re doing it.

Do you think Chastity Belt has evolved since you all started making music in college?

Oh definitely. We started out just joking around, we never thought the band would become this serious. We’ve learned a lot along the way. There’s no way to really learn how to make music other than just doing it and learning from your mistakes.

What kinds of music inspired the conception of Chastity Belt? What are you listening to right now? 

Growing up I was really into Elliott Smith, and I still think he was an amazing songwriter. I also listened to Fiona Apple and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in high school. Recently I’ve been really into the new DIIV record. Those guitars sound so good.


Chastity Belt is touring the United States starting early February and will be performing in Denver at the Bluebird Theater on February 23.