lips afire.

"I don't know if I'm ready for the best show of my life," the woman behind me said.

"You should always be ready for the best show of your life," the voice in my head said. In fact, at any moment, you could be experiencing the best something-or-other of your life, be it a shower, an ice cream cone, or a morning at the DMV. In fact, I might right now be having the number one afternoon coffee experience out of all past and future afternoon coffee experiences in my life. What if I am not enjoying it enough? I am just frittering away my time on this earth!

It's exhausting to live life to the fullest. Oh well, at least I got to see The Flaming Lips.

Personally, I was ready to enjoy the heck out of the show, though I knew that I was seeing this band too late. There was a time in my life when I would have known every single word to every single song, not just the old hits they played to cater to fans like me who haven't heard any of the new stuff. I almost saw them once, in my last year of college. It would have been the right time, because their three most-recent albums were getting heavy rotation in the soundtrack of my life. My then-boyfriend wanted to go, and I said heck yeah. But he was supposed to get the tickets, but then he didn't buy the tickets, and I nagged reminded him about it several times until he finally said, "Why don't you just buy them?" So I said fine, I WILL, but then when I went online to buy them, the show was sold out. And somehow it became my fault that we didn't get to see the best show of our lives. I'm sure he would tell it differently. Maybe he had a good reason for not buying the tickets, but in all my reminding, I never asked.

Sorry about that. Baggage.

Anyway, I must have a type, because my now-boyfriend wanted to see The Flaming Lips. I was not initially enthusiastic about the idea, because I haven't listened to any of their new stuff in years. They probably had whole albums of material that I did not know. I am so behind that I don't even know how many albums. But then I thought about that one time I didn't get to go see The Flaming Lips, and I decided that late was better than never.

So I was prepared to enjoy the show, though I kinda sorta hoped it wasn't the best show of my life. That thought made me feel old, as if I was already peaking. There was a couple in front of us; they were old (for the crowd). If this was about to be the best show of their life, then they had done the smart thing and put it off until late.

They were out of place, and not just because their combined ages topped a century. They looked like someone had taken them shopping that very day to find something appropriate to wear to a rock concert. Someone had advised them to buy clothes that were hip and young (sorta), but their consultant was unable to keep them from wearing their jeans too high and tucking their shirts in. It was cute.

They looked like they were having a great time. And why not? It was a gorgeous day, and they were wearing new outfits!

Frankly, you'd have to be pretty devoted to misery to not be in a good mood. It was a truly magnificent day that should have been bottled up and included in a Raleigh travel brochure, maybe in one of those magazine perfume sample things. The sky was cloudless, the temperature was perfect, and they were selling Fat Tire on draft at the beer tents. We were in the middle of the City Plaza, one of those new revitalized downtown areas that have vague names and feature lots and lots of oak tree art.

We took positions in the crowd, which was still pretty loose. At some point, we'd have to take our last beer/bathroom break, because once the crowd got full, there was no getting back through the mass of sweaty music fans.

The second opening band was Superchunk. I don't know much about them, except that they are from Chapel Hill and are sorta-famous. They had some mainstream success years ago, and I guess they have enough fans to keep making music. They have been at it a long, long time. I wonder if their mothers have stopped nagging them about becoming accountants. Do they still think about hitting the big time, or are they just making music and happy to be doing so? Do they have day jobs?

I don't know a single Superchunk song. But those old people in new outfits knew every single one. It's possible that they are living life to the fullest, and they didn't look that exhausted.

After Superchunk, but before the main event, there was a long lull. Apparently the best show of your life requires quite a bit of setup, from the confetti cannons to what must have been the biggest disco ball in the disco ball store. The plaza was filling up. Behind us loomed the Sheraton, where half of the balconies had occupants looking down on us. I guess they'd skipped the entrance fee and just paid for a room instead. It seemed like a good idea - no mad crush of bodies, no porta-potties, much cheaper beer.

But then I thought, no. One should not experience the best show of your life from the sidelines. For one thing, the confetti cannons would never reach you.

The first thing that happened was that the giant semi-circle of a screen at the rear of the stage started lighting up like a laser Floyd show at the planetarium. There were still roadies on stage, so it was clear that this was just a test sequence. Then the man of the evening, Wayne, came on stage to loud cheers. The frontman doesn't usually appear on stage before the show. Most bands have roadies to tend to their instruments, and casually strolling onstage ruins your entrance later. However, Wayne has thought of a solution to the ruined entrance. He came out to tell us that the show was about to start, and that we should not freak out, but he was about to come out in his space bubble. People started cheering. I didn't know what a space bubble was, but I cheered anyway. I was just feeling cheerful.

A space bubble is like a giant clear beach ball. Inside is a crazy person, in this case a rock star who has had enough success that he can display his crazy and charge an entrance fee. From within this bubble, he walked out onto the crowd as people reached up and supported the bubble. Not only has he solved the problem of the ruined entrance, he has found a way to crowd-surf without being groped.

Then there was confetti - oh, the confetti! I came away with a new appreciation for the confetti cannon. Confetti, like fireworks, feels like something that we should all be too old and wise to enjoy any more. But then there is a huge burst of it coming in overhead, pastel colors fluttering against the cloudless night sky, and you just want to reach up and grab a piece of it. And you can! It reminded me of a 3D movie, except, you know, in actual 3D. I think life should have more confetti cannons. They're probably a mess for the clean-up crew, but think of it as a possible solution to the jobs problem.

There was brightly-colored paper flittering down from the sky and there was brightly colored video coming from the giant screen behind the band. When there wasn't animation, there was live footage from a camera that seemed to be mounted on the microphone. These crazy rock stars and their egos, they think we want to see up their noses. However, it was not flattering footage. It was full of crow's feet and sweat and nostril views. It was like documentary footage of someone's last days. But I think that was the point. It was not meant to be glamourous, but human.

You know, there was so much going on - the space bubble, the flashing video, the confetti, the glowsticks, the lights - that the music was almost incidental, as if it were just the score, just one part of the whole ridiculous experience. It was like watching a movie about someone else having an acid trip. The Flaming Lips put on a show, not a mere concert.

Was it the best show of my life? Yes. So far.

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