PHOTOS: The Flaming Lips perform The Soft Bulletin to kick off Noise Pop 2012 at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco

The Flaming Lips perform "Do You Realize?" at Bimbo's 365 Club on the opening night of Noise Pop 2012

I think I swallowed some confetti.

For the first night of the 20th annual Noise Pop festival, organizers had The Flaming Lips bring their entire overwhelming, homemade stage show inside Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco. This isn’t the first time the Oklahoma City band has exploded like a rainbow all over North Beach’s red velvet lounge, but it’s still somewhat of a shock for a band that normally sells out amphitheaters to play in a 700-person-capacity club.

The clincher for me was that the band would be playing its 1999 masterpiece The Soft Bulletin in its entirety. I set my alarm for the Saturday morning that tickets went on sale, and they sold out shortly thereafter.

And Tuesday night was just as awesome as I was hoping/expecting. A few highlights:

  • Release the Sunbird, the new project from Oakland musician Zach Rogue of Rogue Wave, did a fine job warming up the crowd with some folky indie pop. “The Flaming Lips are up next. I’ve always wanted to say that,” said a clearly thrilled Rogue.
  • My brain seriously short-circuited when “Race for the Price” happened, even though I was fully prepared for what was going to happen.
  • Classic Wayne Coyne: “There’s a difference between screaming because you love music and you’re with your friends and having the best orgasm of your life.” He ordered the crowd to make the latter sound when he got to the final lines of “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton.”
  • “The fucking guitar’s got to get over my fur,” Coyne announced with a smile after a guitar tech handed him an instrument with the strap adjusted too short.
  • Unsurprisingly, things got increasingly philosophical as the album went on. “Without music … fuck, how would we make it?” Coyne said.
  • I got a little teary during the stripped-down version of “Waiting for Superman,” featuring just Coyne on vocals and Stephen Drozd on piano. No lie.
  • Before playing “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” Coyne expounded on what he thought the message of The Soft Bulletin was. We all start out being in love with our beautiful world and curious about what’s going on, Coyne said, but at a certain point we realize the world is also full of horrible misfortune—maybe more misfortune than good. But we have to be curious about that, too, he said, and realize that “we’re the ones that make our world beautiful. … It’s just enough to get us through. And that is the bulletin.”
  • Coming out for an encore of the non-The Soft Bulletin (but thematically appropriate) track “Do You Realize?,” Coyne first called the Noise Pop organizers on stage and read from Mayor Ed Lee’s proclaimation declaring this Noise Pop Week in San Francisco. “Why isn’t he here?” Coyne asked. “What’s he got to do on a Tuesday night.”

The notice I got before the show told me there was no photography allowed, but there were about 10 gazillion cell phones snapping pictures of the stage throughout the show—including mine. Here’s photographic evidence of the evening:

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 14

"Do You Realize?," Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 13

"The Gash" with light-up gong, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 12

"Suddenly, Everything Has Changed," Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 11

Hand in the air, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 10

Please note the couple making out in the foreground, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 9

The full stage, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 8

Wayne Coyne riling up the crowd, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 7

Steven Drozd concentrating, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 6

MIchael Ivins rocking the Soviet T-shirt, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 5

Chaos ensues, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 4

"Race for the Prize," Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 3

"Race for the Prize," Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 2

The band setting up, Bimbo's 365 Club, 02.21.12

The Flaming Lips @ Noise Pop 1

Marquee at Bimbo's 365 Club before the show.

Or in gallery form, if you prefer:

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