Flaming Lips stage unique ‘space bubble’ concert in Oklahoma

(BBC) – The Flaming Lips have staged a unique pair of gigs in Oklahoma, with both the band and their audience inside individual inflatable balls.

Each show accommodated 100 bubbles, holding up to three people each, with the band inside their own capsules.

The concept came from frontman Wayne Coyne, who often rolls over the crowd in a Zorb ball during the band’s gigs.

Speaking ahead of the concerts, Coyne said they would be “safer than going to the grocery store”.

Inside each bubble was a high frequency supplemental speaker – which helped prevent the sound being muffled – as well as a water bottle, a battery-operated fan, a towel and a “I gotta go pee/hot in here” sign.

If it got too hot, the bubble was refilled with cool air using a leaf blower, and fans who needed the bathroom were escorted by venue staff once they had put on a mask and stepped outside their cocoon.

The shows were postponed from their original dates in December due to a spike in coronavirus cases in Oklahoma before Christmas.

The band held a test run for the concerts in October after debuting the idea in a one-song performance for Stephen Colbert’s US chat show last June.

“It’s a very restricted, weird event. But the weirdness is so we can enjoy a concert before putting our families and everybody at risk,” Coyne told Rolling Stone last month.

“I think it’s a bit of a new normal – you might go to a show, you might not, but I think we’re going to be able to work it out.”

Friday’s show saw the band play classics including Do You Realize, She Don’t Use Jelly and Race For The Prize alongside tracks from last year’s American Head album.

They also played a cover of Daniel Johnston’s True Love Will Find You in the End on what would have been the singer’s 60th birthday.

The gigs were filmed by a professional crew, and cameraman Nathan Poppe documented the process of putting the show together on Twitter.

He explained that the ground floor of The Criterion theatre was divided into a 10×10 grid, with a space bubble inside each square.

Poppe added that, because the sound of the audience was muted, clapping was replaced by people “punching the top of their bubble”.

The success of the concerts raises the question: Could other bands replicate the experience?

The answer seems to be yes, as long as the right venue is found and staff and audience members take reasonable precautions.

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