Photographs by Rick Clifford.

The Pan Am games have either been a massive success or a ho-hum experience depending on who you talk to. If it has been a glossed over bore, that may have more to do with the people declaring this than the event itself. Having only tasted a bit of the summer event at the free concerts held in front of City Hall, the games were very much alive and I hadn’t even attended one. The Pan Am experience is for those who want to take part, and it’s everyone elses’ loss.

The Flaming Lips were a wise band to get for such an event. They have hit songs and everyone loves those. However, their albums may be experimental enough to be tough for aome listeners. Having said that, you cannot go wrong with them live, as they are a vibrant experience when they are on a stage and with their arsenal of balloons and toys. I am also now convinced that the band is insane. When I saw them at Riot Fest, they had a very similar get up. However, there was a different set list this time around. Each new song I hadn’t seen live before had a new arrangement of wackiness. These weren’t set up tropes for an entire show: these were ways they played specific songs live. For every mascot and light show I had already seen for songs I’ve witnessed before, each new get up had me in a state of hysteria. How many stream shooters, massive sun mascot suits and other bouts of silliness can the band have?

The Flaming Lips were there for everyone, and everyone was there for them. At least thousands of people were squashed in front of City Hall after hearing this feel good music spill from within it. However, the crowd could have opened up a little bit more. Wayne Coyne had a harder time than usual getting people amped, and that wasn’t the band’s fault. Everyone was enthusiastic after each song, but getting people to be riled up during each song felt difficult. I have a feeling that it made Wayne Coyne not move around the crowd in his signature hamster ball as much as I have seen him do before. During the titular track of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, as per usual, Coyne stopped the song early to get people to go crazy during the token karate part of the track. This time, he said that the way the crowd reacts dictate how they are not just during the show but within their lives and for the rest of their durations. He may have been onto something.

Either way, it was a loving and fun show full of rubber duck epaulets, toy Dora guitars and massive balloons. It was exactly what you’d expect at a show of theirs. Those who went to have fun were wide eyed and mistified. Those who went to just look did just that. It’s saying something when the Pan Am fireworks after the set were less bombastic than the show that preceded them. Even with some shaky vocal work, Coyne and crew tried theit best to entertain and to move, and what else could you want at a Pan Am event? Either way, some of us need to lighten up during a time of celebration like this.