The Kansas City Star’s Back To Rockville blog
By Joel Francis
Bubbles, confetti, lights, super heroes, Santa Claus, space aliens, streamers, balloons and smoke.
We’re only halfway through the Flaming Lips first song and it already feels like the greatest party ever thrown.
The Lips closed down the main stages at Wakarusa on Saturday night by bombarding their audience with happiness for 90 minutes. The props might have seemed like a gimmick if the songs and their performances weren’t equally incredible. Thankfully, they were.
Lips singer Wayne Coyne played the role of merry prankster, shooting confetti, singing with puppets, asking to be pelted with glo-light sticks and rolling over the crowd in a giant bubble.
The heat of the day was gone and a cool breeze had settled in from a storm that was still a few hours off. Maybe Coyne himself put it best: “I don’t want to exaggerate, but this might be the most perfect moment of the whole festival.”
Setlist: Race For the Prize, Bohemian Rhapsody, Free Radicals, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (part one), Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (part two), Vein of Stars, The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, The W.A.N.D. , She Don’t Use Jelly, Do You Realize, (encore:) A Spoonful Weighs a Ton
The undeniable highlight of Les Claypool’s 80 minute set was when heavy metal guitarist Buckethead and funk keyboard legend Bernie Worrell jumped onstage about an hour into the set.
If that pairing sounds eclectic, consider that Claypool’s five-piece band comprised a xylophone, sitar, saxophone, bass and drums. Under the leadership of Claypool’s dexterous bass playing the ensemble was a simultaneous homage to Ravi Shankar, Ornette Coleman and the Violent Femmes’ Brian Ritchie.
The songs averaged 10 minutes in length and there were several head-scratching moments, including a brief sitar/xylophone duet, but most seemed to work.
Other high points included “David Makalster,” “One Better” and the bluegrass inflected “Iowan Gal,” which Claypool performed alone on a bass affixed to a banjo head.
Bernie Worrell and the Woo Warriors
Bernie Worrell is the consummate sideman. A major architect of George Clinton’s P-Funk sound and hired gun in the Talking Heads’ live masterpiece “Stop Making Sense,” he somehow managed to sound like a sideman in his own band.
From behind his elevated rack of six keyboards at extreme stage right, Worrell pounded out everything from Atari noises to “London Bridge Is Falling Down” while his lead guitarist sang the majority of songs and worked the crowd. The six-piece band laid the funk on heavy for just over an hour and even managed to make “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” sound cool.
P-Funk was only represented sonically, while the Talking Heads “Burning Down the House” closed the set.
Twenty minutes after dismissing Camper Van Beethoven, David Lowery was back onstage with a new outfit and guitarist, keyboard player and fresh catalog.
Cracker is heavier and wants to be played on the radio more than CVB, but it also hasn’t changed its sound much in the past 14 years. Earlier gems like “Eurotrash Girl” and “Low” sounded great alongside later works like “One Fine Day,” “Brides of Neptune” and even material debuted from Cracker’s just-released seventh studio.
The oppressive mid-day heat thinned out some of the crowd, but for every person who left, another one, intrigued by the sounds from afar, took his or her place.