As the sun set over the Riviera on Friday night, October 6, tiny lights illuminated the pathway to the Santa Barbara Bowl stage, where Mac DeMarco strummed away, crooning infectious tunes to an upbeat crowd ready to shake off the week to his carefree soundtrack. Spontaneous dance parties erupted throughout the laid-back yet festive atmosphere as DeMarco performed a mix of old and new tunes, including the synth-laden “Chamber of Reflection.” From his stunning new album, My Old Man, DeMarco played a selection of numbers including the title track and “One More Love Song.” I would have loved to hear even more from his new batch of heartfelt tunes!
The endearingly goofy artist engaged the crowd in an attitude of overall merriment encouraging sing-alongs to tracks like “My Kind of Woman.” Never taking himself too seriously, DeMarco exuded an uncontrollable giddiness, punctuating tunes with little jigs and Italian exclamations such as “Molto bene!” The jubilance culminated in the lingering crowd-pleaser “Still Together,” which extended into an epic finale complete with funky bass and driving guitar solos.
It could have been another simple and beautiful night at the Bowl, but the tree-sized mushrooms planted on either side of the stage hinted at the approaching surrealist adventure to come. DeMarco co-headlined this tour with The Flaming Lips, a band whose live shows are as much an aural as a visual performance. The group held nothing back from the opening, in which a sea of confetti and balloons shot into the audience, signaling the celebratory vibes fast approaching. Continuing to please, the band played “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1,” in which a giant inflatable robot joined them center stage. Audience members couldn’t help but stand up and sway to the uplifting classic.
The escapist journey continued as lead singer Wayne Coyne tore through the crowd on a plastic unicorn and even rolled through the audience inside an inflatable ball during a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” As entertaining as the hijinks were, the band’s musical chops still enjoyed their place in the limelight, especially on tracks such as the all-too-relevant “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power),” which questions the morality of people in power.
The band performed a stripped-down tribute to Tom Petty singing just the first verse and chorus of “American Girl.” The classic tune was made all the more poignant laid bare with simple vocals, singular guitar strums, and a whole lot of heart. The passionate numbers continued as Coyne shifted into “A Spoonful Weighs a Ton.” At the song’s end, he urged the crowd into a communal and decibel-breaking chant of the word “Love,” noting mischievously that the neighborhood had regulations for how loud the band could be but, “We have no control over how loud you can be.”
“Let that be the loudest word that any of us ever fucking scream toward strangers,” Coyne emphasized as the crowd shouted the word like a battle cry into the night air. The Lips ended with the emotionally rich “Do You Realize??,” which encourages listeners to hold their loved ones dear, noting, “And instead of saying all of your goodbyes / Let them know you realize that life goes fast.” As the crowd grooved to the closing number of an otherworldly set, Coyne’s words sunk in. Audience members moved a little closer, and a collective gratitude for every note sung, drop of confetti sprinkled, and moment of musical immersion illuminated the awestruck crowd.