As the COVID-19 pandemic keeps many venues shuttered across the country, it has forced bands, venues, promoters, and fans to get creative. The rise of the drive-in concert format has been bringing safe concerts across the country and, ironically, brought a boon to drive-in theaters as other industries suffer. Then the recent advent of socially-distanced “pod” concerts has allowed both artists and fans to take another step toward normalcy.
Always one to push the envelope, The Flaming Lips may just have the next step forward in sterilized concert production. Frontman Wayne Coyne is known for entering a plastic bubble to ride over the heads of audience members at the band’s concerts, and now he has a similar idea for fans. In an interview with Brooklyn Vegan, the far-out frontman detailed the group’s plans to hold a “bubble” concert in their home of Oklahoma City, OK. Earlier this month, he also posted a picture of the band’s preparations with no explanation that drew the curiosity of fans and music industry professionals alike.
While Coyne has typically been the only one to don the “space bubble,” as he refers to them, since the advent of COVID-19 the rest of the band has also been quarantined—so to speak—during appearances on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and a recent Tiny Desk (Home) Concert appearance.
In speaking with Brooklyn Vegan, Coyne expounded on the idea and somehow made it sound like it wasn’t the craziest thing you’ve ever heard.
Now we’re starting to set up a show downtown even as we speak, where we have people in these space bubbles and do a show where the audience is in space bubbles and wearing space bubbles. I mean, it seems absurd, but we at first were just doing it as not a joke, but just as a kind of funny thing, and now it’s becoming kind of serious and real. I think that’s kind of the dilemma we’re all in is that are we waiting for it to go back to normal or are we starting to plot, “What’s the future look like?” What is the future of live music…
I mean, we’re setting it up as we speak. I mean, we have these hundred that were made for us, but they were made in China, so it took a long time for them to get here and we didn’t really know if they were going to arrive. I mean, and there are no shows happening. I mean, these venues that we’re setting it up in, I mean, we’ve played shows there, normal shows there a couple of times. I just sort of feel like, “Well, this is…” I keep thinking we’re going to do it, but the vaccine will get here and it’ll just go back to normal. But I thought that in June, and it didn’t happen. I thought that in August, and it didn’t happen. So I don’t know. But we’re starting to get ready to do an actual show where yeah, there’s three people in each of these space bubbles, and we play… We think maybe playing two shows a night, and getting a big audience in there each time.
The photo posted to Coyne’s Instagram shows the bubbles all set up in a uniform pattern, positioned between two rails. While the bubbles may appear stationary, Coyne confirmed that they are the same ones he uses to crowd surf in the most sanitary way possible.
Yeah. I mean, you fill them up and people can be in them for quite a while. I don’t think people quite realize that. Since we have some here, we’ve played with them and messed with them for quite a while. I mean, even back in 2006, I would get in one of the space bubbles at the end of our big Halloween parade here, and I would walk down the street for almost an hour in one. Yeah. You know what I mean? It holds a lot of air. I mean, you can be in there for quite a while. I just don’t think people quite realize what it is as a mechanism. But we’ve just messed with them for so long, we kind of know that it can all work and how it can work and all that…
Yeah, I mean, we’ve done little things where there has been two and three people in there, and it’s… I think it’s more fun for people, because then they’re kind of in there and they can drink and they can talk and they’re not just kind of stuck in there, having their own experience. I mean, they’re not jumping around too much. They’re kind of put in a spot. Because the bubbles really are… They’re quite tight together. I mean, they’re big bubbles, and so a hundred of them will fill up a quite big place. The place that we’re at at the moment, it holds almost 4,000 people, but it only holds a hundred space bubbles. So it’s a lot of space in there.
All in all, a Flaming Lips concert where the entire audience is encased in plastic bubbles still wouldn’t be the strangest thing we’ve seen in 2020.
I know it sounds crazy. I was literally just messing with it 30 minutes ago, and just figuring out little things that are uncomfortable about it. There’s a zipper that you have to zip and it gets a little difficult, and we have lubricant that we put on the zipper. All these practical things that you would just start to mess with. We’ve already rehearsed music in them quite a bit. We did it for the Colbert show and we did it for the Jimmy Fallon show. We’ve done it for the Tiny Desk performance. So we’ve done quite a bit of stuff where we’re in the space bubbles. I guess it’s going to happen. Who would’ve thought.
See Coyne’s Instagram post below, and click here to read the full interview.
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[H/T Brooklyn Vegan]