Given conservative state liquor laws and its innate resistance to pedestrian traffic, Oklahoma City may not be the epitomic locale for traditional New Year's Eve debauchery.
But this year, maybe that's perfect, because The Flaming Lips may not be the traditional band for anything, and once again, the twain shall meet tonight as the Lips ring in the New Year with a show at the Cox Convention Center downtown.
"It's gonna be hopefully as big and as crazy as the laws of Oklahoma City will allow us to do it," said Lips front man Wayne Coyne. "I've spoken to some of our city coordinators about how we could relax some of the pot-smoking and things like that. Downtown Oklahoma City is miserable that way. You have to drive down there, and they want you to get drunk and drive home? What is this? In a lot of big cities, this isn't the case; there's public transportation. There's all kinds of things. We want to see if we can transform Oklahoma City, especially on New Year's Eve, to be something that's a little funner and not so restricted all the time."
It's common knowledge by now that Coyne dreams larger than life and always with his audience at least somewhere in mind. As the spectacle idea man behind the band " which is also comprised of the less-spotlighted Steven Drozd, Michael Ivins and Kliph Scurlock " Coyne's 'Wouldn't it be cool if "¦?' mentality in years past has resulted in his rolling atop crowds in a plastic bubble; a stage-sized UFO rig; a Broadway production of 2002's Grammy Award-winning "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," currently in the planning stages; and a feature film, "Christmas On Mars," released on DVD in November after seven years of production.
Those who've seen the film will recognize Coyne's character " a benevolent alien set out to inspire " as perhaps not too far from the truth. From Coyne's perspective, the character's image is a result of the man.
"I think you could meet me and think, 'This is that weirdo who pours blood on his head and walks in a space bubble with giant hands,' and yet it could all be true," he said. "I never thought I was that great of a singer. I would never stand up there (on stage) and say, 'Hey, motherfuckers, listen to me sing. Ain't I great?' So I do stuff. I'm going to sing you songs, and I'm going to do stuff. I'm gonna entertain you."
Even as early Lips shows utilized smoke machines and low-grade pyrotechnics, there's been some criticism that the band, of late, has lost its sense of purpose " that the entertainment factor and the high-dollar spectacle have replaced the Lips' focus on music. Coyne offers a different explanation.
"I can totally see that, but I can also say that if you were a fan of us in the '80s, you're old. You're an old motherfucker, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if you weren't as much into us as you were in your 20s," he said. "I saw The Who in Oklahoma City 35 years ago, and I played with them over the summer and, to me, I don't like them as much now as I did when I was 15. They've changed, and I've changed, and I acknowledge that that's just the way it is."
Coyne is quick to point out that, beneath the confetti cannons and animal costumes, the group's music is still its foundation.
"There's an element of us that's big and about lights and a freak-out and electron gadgets and all that. At the core of all that, it really just comes down to these songs," Coyne said. "If we didn't have that, we wouldn't have confidence to put me in a fucking space bubble and let me walk on people's heads. But I work with Steven (Drozd), I work with people who give their entire being, their entire lives to making music. I'm constantly working with people whose entire lives are about music, so when I go up there and get in a space bubble, I never worry that we're cheapening it in any way.
"This music is the most resilient, solid, believable thing there could ever be. The music would be good no matter what. If we could turn it into some kind of diet Coke and pour it on your face, you'd still think it's good. You'd say, 'Damn, I love that Flaming Lips diet Coke!'"
Fans of the most recent incarnation of Lips shows should take heart in at least somewhat knowing what to expect from tonight's concert and all others in the near future.
"I think strobe lights and confetti and all that shit is great. I love all that, and I don't think we would ever purposely want to go out and play a show or a series of shows where we didn't do that stuff," Coyne said. "It's like seeing KISS or Pink Floyd or something " I want to see something, and I wouldn't mind seeing something different, but I know that there's a thing that I want the audience to expect from us, and I would hopefully never let them down.
The Lips led New Year's Eve celebrations at the convention center last year, headlining the Arts Council of Oklahoma City's "Opening Night," a citywide event taking place again this year at a handful of venues and locations throughout the city, including smaller stages set up in the lobby and exhibit halls of the Cox Convention Center.
Partiers must buy separate wristbands for "Opening Night" performances, which The Lips aren't a part of this year. Tickets for the Lips' 8:30 p.m. show are $20 " "as cheap as we can possibly make it," according to Coyne.
The convention center's arena-space will again stage the Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs, an Oklahoma City band fronted by Wayne's nephew, Dennis Coyne.
"The show itself is just going to be insane, for whatever it's worth," Wayne Coyne said. "We have a bigger sound system, bigger light show."
He said the Lips plan to stage New Year's Eve performances in Oklahoma City until he's "too old to do it," ideally turning the city into ground zero and "we'll make it where if you're not in Oklahoma City on New Year's Eve, you're a square."
"We've played New Year's Eve shows all over the world," he said, "and we're like, 'Well, why don't we just do it here and make this the fucking center of the universe?' To me, it should be this great drunken, drug-taking fucking freak-out. That's what New Year's Eve is for." "Becky Carman