Tag Archives: Red Rocks

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The Shins Shine as if They Were Still Brand-New at Red Rocks

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The Shins play at Red Rocks, October 5, 2017. (Photo: DenverThread)

The Shins play at Red Rocks, October 5, 2017. (Photo: DenverThread)

James Mercer belied his twenty years as the frontman of New Mexico’s The Shins last Thursday night in Morrison in front of a packed Red Rocks amphitheater, showing off their unique pop vitality to the packed amphitheater as if they’d just perfected it. In fact, the entire band showed off what seemed like limitless happiness and energy throughout their nearly two-hour set. But for some wrinkles and a subtle stiffness from time to time, you’d never know that Mercer’s been constantly active in rock for more than two decades.

Keeping up with an unofficial tour tie-in to David Hasselhoff (they covered the theme to “Baywatch” in Oregon recently), the band came out onstage backed by the theme to the ’80s hit tv series “Knight Rider,” and dived right into “Caring is Creepy,” followed right on by “Australia” and “Name for You,” before Mercer addressed the ecstatic crowd. His choice of sustenance had to be pure happiness, because he never stopped grinning all night, and kept his energy level – and the band’s – high and strong.

As they launched into the brilliant “Kissing the Lipless,” the crowd was moving with the band in earnest, screaming every word at the top of so many lungs. After “Mine’s Not a High Horse” things settled somewhat, but only slightly, as Mercer and the band flowed through hits and new songs like “Cherry Hearts,” “Mildenhall,” “Saint Simon,” and “Painting A Hole.”

As the set began to peak, they launched into a medley of “Girl on the Wing” and “Turn a Square,” bookended by the pieces of a cover of The Outfield’s “Your Love,” which seriously re-activated the crowd yet again. Almost perfectly mimicking Tony Lewis’s high-pitched voice, Mercer belted out the first few lines of “Your Love,” and then the band led into the medley, creating a veritable “rock block” for nearly 15 minutes. They wrapped up the main set with emotional, yet refreshing versions of “Phantom Limb” and “Simple Song.”

Before the audience really even had a chance to catch a breath, The Shins were back onstage for an encore that started with “The Fear,” and the popular “New Slang” – truly a highlight of the night. They ended the show with a long, jammy version of “Sleeping Lessons,” which featured a satisfying snippet of the recently deceased Tom Petty’s “American Girl” – no doubt bringing out a few runaway tears and deep sighs in the stands.

Austin iconoclasts and Television aficionados Spoon filled a satisfying opening slot for The Shins, playing their minimalist punky rock while the crowd continued to assemble in the stands, and the sun set behind them. Through tunes like “Inside Out,” “I Ain’t the One,” “Hot Thoughts,” and “Can I Sit Next to You,” they ushered in the excitement early on, a foundation for the rest of the night.


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Thievery Corporation Slays Red Rocks, as Usual

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Photos by Sandisz Thieme

Last Saturday, I found myself at Morrison’s very own Red Rocks Amphitheater listening to what I thought was the soundtrack to “Hollywood’s Top Ten Drug-Induced-Orgy Scenes.” Just over a week ago, I had never heard of the band I was there to see, Thievery Corporation (so much for suspense, but you read the title), and wasn’t exactly excited to see them. I liked what music I had heard, I was just worried the concert would be a total snore-fest for your average 19 year old millennial, frequenting punk/rap shows with mosh pits (me) and I couldn’t find a plus one (most of my friends are the same sort of aforementioned millennial).

All of that said, I was pleasantly surprised! After a brief weather delay, Thievery Corporation took the stage to play their drug-induced-orgy-soundtrack-type music, which makes for a damned good soundtrack. They played in a number of different languages, spanning a series of genre from reggae to rap to an acoustic/techno sort of thing.

The venue was taken over by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton’s hecka beats, the beautiful voices of Loulou Ghelichkhani, Natalia Clavier, and Frank ‘Booty Lock’ Mitchell and some remarkably sick raps by Mr.Lif, while Jeff Franca took the drums, Ashish Vyas was on bass, and we were even treated to the occasional sitar solo by Rob Myers, plus a few extras now and again on things like trumpet, saxophone and a second drumset with bongos and a xylophone.

The music made for a great night on the rocks and the entire venue was full of love, a little of that dank-kush, and all that good shit, though there was an unsurprising lack of shoes in the audience, as well as on stage (look for photos of Ashish Vyas).


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Wayne Coyne exudes a constant, and constantly enlightening, positivity. (Photo: Michael McGrath)

The Flaming Lips deliver Pink Floyd like no other – in their soundtrack to a hell of a life

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Wayn Coyne during a Pink Floyd meets Wizard of OZ freakout at Red Rocks, August 3, 2011. (Photo: Michael McGrath)

Wayn Coyne during a Pink Floyd meets Wizard of OZ freakout at Red Rocks, August 3, 2011. (Photo: Michael McGrath)

In January, ’95 or ’96 (who can say for sure?), after a Flaming Lips show that (despite the fact that they’d opened for, of all bands, Candlebox) remains one that shaped my world view, my friend and I approached an open side door, shivering and giggling as we continued to find bits of confetti in our hair, pockets, gloves and (we would find out later) underpants.  Wayne Coyne – the Lips’ visionary front man – was onstage as the roadies cleared out their equipment. On a whim, I called, and he came as if he’d been expecting us, then spent a good 30 minutes just shootin’ the shit with us.

Coyne made us feel like it was his honor to stand and shiver with us in the snow and laugh about how ridiculous and strange that incongruous Candlebox tour was, along with an appearance on “Beverly Hills 90210,” and how all of it seemed so, so surreal.

… there may not be any other band in the world that carries the psychedelic pedigree of Pink Floyd more aptly than the Flaming Lips. Stylistically, and in stature, the two bands form a perfect progression, from progressive progenitors to psychedelic punk superstars.

Not too long before that night, the Lips had begun to explode their shows into “universal birthday parties,” now their signature act. The intent was that everyone – in the building as well as in the surrounding neighborhood – become a part of the huge party. It was that time that the Flaming Lips became an inextricable part of life for me – a part that wrapped up my whole family in its wild embrace.

And then came the glitter, balloons, bullhorned lyrics and confetti. Birthday parties – universal – fit the bill.

Vitamin' vocalist Lizzie Allen takes on exquisite vocals for "The Great Gig in the Sky." (Photo: Michael McGrath

Vitamin' vocalist Lizzie Allen takes on exquisite vocals for "The Great Gig in the Sky." (Photo: Michael McGrath

Last Wednesday night’s explosive tribute to Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” turned out to be another triumphant groove in the Lips’ giant party history.

See the Reverb review of last Wednesday’s show, and a tremendous photographic retrospective, at HeyReverb.com!

Coyne’s inflatable ball antics – already legendary around the world – reached new heights that night (quite literally), as he walked across the heads and outstretched hands of the sold out crowd, stopping easily halfway up the amphitheater. He stood up inside the ball, and pumped his fists triumphantly before perilously wandering back down to the stage. Meanwhile, confetti cannons shot their loads out from the stage, while 100 Dorothy Gales danced on either side of the stage to Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse,” before the band led us all in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” from the classic “The Wizard of Oz.” Look at the video here.

The mixture of the classic film and Pink Floyd’s classic record is the stuff of pop psychedelic stoner history – reportedly the two synch up miraculously when played beside one another – and Coyne and co. took full advantage of their relationship. They interspersed masterful renditions of Pink Floyd classics – that actually did more to update them than merely copy them – with often hilarious versions of songs from the beloved film soundtrack.

A clear highlight was Coyne’s attempt to get the entire sold out amphitheater to sing a call-and-response version of “If I Only Had A Brain,” which didn’t fair too well – but not for his lack of trying.

Just like the show had a soundtrack tie-in, so did my life develop one as I grew to follow the Lips over the past two decades, starting in early 1992, when began to build the foundation of my family.

I’d just recently bought my first copy of “Hit to Death in the Future Head,” and was mesmerized by it. As I headed into my last (as in final) marriage, hits like “She Don’t Use Jelly,” “This Here Giraffe” and “Bad Days” appeared and confirmed that the path my partner and I were on met the Lips’ approval.

Wayne Coyne exudes a constant, and constantly enlightening, positivity. (Photo: Michael McGrath)

Wayne Coyne exudes a constant, and constantly enlightening, positivity. (Photo: Michael McGrath)

The Flaming Lips formed the soundtrack to my life then, and they still do.

As a family, we still re-tell Coyne’s story about how hard the band wanted their cover of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” on “A Priest Driven Ambulance” to be THE sardonic punk anthem they heard. It did nothing but re-legitimize the song’s poignancy to a generation of adult punkers about to step into their lives, and the story remains prescient.

Later, when my wife’s father fell ill, and eventually passed away, “The Soft Bulletin,” that year’s soundtrack, gave us “Race for the Prize,” with its fitting search for a cure. “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” produced “Do You Realize??” just at the time my father-in-law died, and that song has been heard at so many weddings, funerals and family parties in our community ever since.

Coyne and the Lips’ music, lyrics and attitude has done nothing if not try to remind us where we are – really are – now, and how fantastic it all is, despite what our eyes might be telling us.

That Red Rocks show continued to wind into that early August night, much to the chagrin of a surprising number of “Pink Floyd Purists,” reportedly complaining heavily about betrayal in the urinal lines. That in itself is interesting, considering that there may not be any other band in the world that carries the psychedelic pedigree of Pink Floyd more aptly than the Flaming Lips. Stylistically, and in stature, the two bands form a perfect progression, from progressive progenitors to psychedelic punk superstars. The only difference may be in Wayne Coyne’s endless optimism and infectious smile, in comparison to Roger Waters’ and David Gilmour’s – maybe all the Floyd-members’- mostly dour outlook.

Wayne Coyne scrambles back down Red Rocks, atop the heads and hands of the sold out crowd. (Photo: Michael McGrath)

Wayne Coyne scrambles back down Red Rocks, atop the heads and hands of the sold out crowd. (Photo: Michael McGrath)

I’m a superfan – of the Lips and of Pink Floyd. I saw the beauty of the re-telling of “The Dark Side of the Moon,” by the band most qualified to retell it.

More than that, I follow the hallowed rock ‘n’ roll ground that Coyne and the Flaming Lips both create and tread on enough to have given my son Oliver the name “Coyne” as one of two middle names. The other one is mine.

We did it because we wanted there to be a remnant of Coyne’s philosophy alive and attached to him always – in case the wave of positivity the enigmatic singer espouses ever subsides.

So far, the plan has worked.


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Ween @ Red Rocks, 09/06/09 – Reverb

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Ween @ Red Rocks. Photo: Brian Carney

Ween @ Red Rocks. Photo: Brian Carney

Ween have . . . aged well (only too evident in Gene’s now-grey, newly short hair), and comfortably wield many varying musical styles with aplomb. Their tight grasp on the building blocks of so many genres, arguably born out of a deep-seated irreverence for all of them, has given them the ability to create true-sounding originals full of wit, charm and sarcasm, with mere hints of mockery.

See the entire live review at Denver Post Reverb!


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The Flaming Lips bury Red Rocks with confetti, lasers and peace

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FlamingLips_082309

Wayne Coyne heads back to the stage in his giant ball, after a romp over the heads of ecstatic fans at Red Rocks.

LIVE REVIEW: The Flaming Lips, Red Rocks, Sunday, August 23, 2009

Having seen the Flaming Lips some 12 times over the past 15 years, the question I kept pondering before their next appearance was “How are they ever going to be able to top the last one?”

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