The Flaming Lips & Tame Impala deliver a Halloween Bloodbath at Bill Graham Civic

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

Photos by James Nagel // Written by Mike Frash //

The Flaming Lips & Tame Impala with White Denim //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
October 31st, 2013 //

In many ways, the triple-bill event that took place at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in SF was the ideal Halloween gathering. The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala and White Denim all deal in the realm of psychedelic, weird music and the creation of lasting, memorable impressions.

Members from all three acts got into the spirit of the ghoulish holiday by getting into costume, with each band donning drag wear in some way. The crowd followed suit, displaying a variety of costumes from pink robots to requisite zombies and happy hippies.

Spending Halloween with one band on the rise, another that is fully realizing their potential and a headliner in the midst of artistic evolution proved to be a wonderful mental mind-fuck for the ages.

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

White Denim performed an abbreviated 7 p.m. set that featured tracks off their new LP Corsicana Lemonade. “At Night in Dreams” was a delight to hear live, but the Austin-based group could have used another 30 minutes to flesh out a couple more new songs and jam out to a couple favorites like “Street Joy” and “Drug”.

The Flaming Lips, meanwhile, have abandoned the cheerleaders, the oversized hands, the hamster ball and many of the elements of spectacle Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne and company have become known for over the years. The Heady Fwends release strongly hinted at a new direction last year, but their 2013 LP The Terror made it official — gone are the euphoric, melodic hyper-happy songs that illustrate visions of dancing on puffy clouds in the sky with Care Bears and unicorns, hello drone-filled soundscapes and slow building intensity!

A Halloween Bloodbath was promised and literally delivered by Coyne. Appearing to the “Halloween Theme” from John Carpenter’s films, Coyne took to his Matrix-style pedestal dressed as Carrie, pre-blood bath. After getting the bucket from a scantily clad woman on a bear, Coyne had a cinematic Jesus look for the rest of the show. Huge red balloons were unleashed and a visual stage production consistently delivered ‘wows’ that could likely surpass any dance show in the eye-candy department. The big red balloons didn’t quite fit the intense, drone-filled cuts the Flaming Lips played, but they served as a veil for all the folks who came for Yoshimi-era Flaming Lips.

Tame Impala

Tame Impala

Overall, there is much more audience member internalizing with songs like “Look…The Sun Is Rising” and “The Terror” and less singalong numbers at a Flaming Lips concert these days. But when songs like the encore ballad “Do You Realize?” show up, they are much more effective.

Since the previous 30 minutes of music could have lent itself to a horror movie soundtrack with its intense, stressful sound and effect, “Do You Realize?” delivered an imprinting, memorable moment. The same thing happened mid-set during “Race for the Prize” — placing happy, positive songs after a half hour of intense, repetitive sound truly allows for a strong feeling of release. Kevin Parker from Tame Impala joined for the beginning of the Lips’ set, adding a hypnotic electric guitar layer.

This new sound allows Coyne to take advantage of technology to modulate his vocals, which helps him play to his strengths as a passionate frontman. The drone-filled, intense mind-melting chaos can be surprisingly peaceful if it’s expected and embraced. In many ways, the Flaming Lips have come full circle as an introspective, psychedelic freak out of a live act.

Tame Impala

Tame Impala

If Tame Impala were to tour forever on Lonerism, it would be understandable and acceptable. They might be one of the best touring acts on the planet at the moment, and the project seems to be in the midst of realizing its full potential. This particular show marked the fourth time that the Australian band has performed in the Bay Area since last summer, and constant touring has made Parker and company better each time they come back to visit.

The grim reaper came on stage to introduce Tampe Impala as the Spice Girls, and sure enough the five guys looked the part. The set began with “Half Glass Full of Wine”, a song the group often encores with, signaling things weren’t quite normal. The group still play five or six cuts off InnerSpeaker live, and songs like “Solitude Is Bliss” and “It Is Not Meant To Be” have evolved magnificently over the years, allowing some of the riff heavy sound on Lonerism to spill over into earlier music.

“Elephant” got the Halloween treatment, transitioning a bit of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” into the mix. The set highlight had to be an extended acid-psych section in “Be Above It” that could officially be called a mind melter. The weird jumped another level when an octopus-like costume made its way on stage. If you ever have to chance to witness Tame Impala perform live, I implore you to go.


Halloween Theme
The W.A.N.D.
Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast
Silver Trembling Hands
Look…The Sun Is Rising
The Terror
Race for the Prize
Try to Explain
Gates of Steel (Devo cover)
Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die
Turning Violent
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton

Do You Realize?
Always There, In Our Hearts


Half Full Glass of Wine
Enors Toi
Solitude Is Bliss
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Why Won’t They Talk to Me?
Desire Be Desire Go
Mind Mischief
It Is Not Meant to Be
Elephant (Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” snippit)
Be Above It
Feels LIke We Only Go Backwards
Apocalypse Dreams


  1. Wow! Amazing photos! The first picture is so good. Great job showbams.

  2. That “scantily clad woman on a bear” was supposed to be Miley Cyrus… You know, from that infamous VMA performance. Surprisingly no one in LA got that. Yay for Flame Impala fans! : )


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