The Flaming Lips were joined by 81355 (BLESS) and MICHELLE June 10 on the Kirkwood Avenue mainstage for the final performance of 2023’s Granfalloon festival. Kirkwood was closed between Washington Street and Indiana Avenue for the festivities.
Arrested Development was slated to open for The Flaming Lips as well, but had to cancel at the last minute due to illness. 81355 stepped in to fill their place.
81355 warmed up the crowd with their energetic rap. The trio consists of Oreo Jones and Sirius Blvck — who made a surprise appearance at Son Lux’s concert June 9 — as well as Sedcairn. Despite the early performance time, 81355 got the audience moving and engaged.
Spirits were high going into MICHELLE’s set and they rode that momentum gracefully. With four vocalists, drums and bass, their funky arrangements and harmonies kept the crowd dancing while their choreography and clear enjoyment of performing ensured an active stage presence.
After a brisk hour-long intermission for setup, The Flaming Lips took the stage. Between sets, the audience was warned of upcoming “strobe lights, haze and latex balloons,” and the band certainly delivered on those promises.
They were flanked by an enormous screen that displayed lyrics to their songs over trippy visuals, as well as a multitude of strobe and spotlights. Cannons on the front of the stage periodically launched bevies of vaguely person-shaped confetti, and lead singer Wayne Coyne shot streamers from handheld rods.
The pre-show warning could not have prepared the audience for the scope of balloons used in this set, though.
During the first song, three 20-foot-tall pink robots inflated on stage, blocking much of the band and their graphics, but acting as their own visual nonetheless. These were a reference to the band’s 2002 album “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” the entirety of which they played in order for the first part of their set.
At multiple points throughout the show, Coyne threw latex balloons 6 to 8 feet in diameter into the audience. These were filled with confetti which, upon their inevitable popping, cascaded over the crowd.
During “Do You Realize??,” a large rainbow balloon framed the stage and the graphics behind them took on similar hues. Although not explicitly stated, this can be assumed to be in support of Pride month, as Coyne spoke of mutual love preceding the song.
Toward the end of the set appeared a huge, reflective mylar balloon reading “FUCK YEAH GRANFALLOON.” When it deflated, Coyne swung its corpse around the stage wildly.
Although much of their stage presence was owed to their liberal use of balloons, The Flaming Lips’ gritty, in-your-face sound filled Kirkwood Avenue with joyous energy. At one point, Coyne said he appreciated the presence of trees in the middle of the audience, as it was a new experience for him.
Although there are still some events to come for Granfalloon, such as the continuing IU Writers’ Conference and a discussion on Vonnegut’s “Player Piano,” the mainstage show had an air of finality to it. As the last large public performance, it does mark the end of the festival for many.
If it is to be the end, 81355, MICHELLE and The Flaming Lips capped off this year’s Granfalloon with what can only be called a grand finale. They brought Kirkwood Avenue to life with their music and blanketed Bloomington in exuberance.