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The Flaming Lips at Jodrell Bank Review

Victoria Adams looks through a very big telescope indeed

Published on July 4th 2011.

The Flaming Lips at Jodrell Bank Review

Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne gazes up at the imposing 76m Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, then down on his space cadets. “This is going be the greatest show there could ever be,” he grins.

And he wasn’t far wrong. In a summer full of festivals, this was the only one with a massive telescope and an astrolonomical vibe.

“Here we are standing with this immense great thing made by... people,” said Coyne. “Wow. I think this is the greatest place to be on planet Earth tonight.”

"Coyne’s rich vocals, the planetary projections onto the Lovell Telescope and infectious hits was a unique, happy and affirming combination."

You can’t fault the ambition of the very first Transmission show, brought to you by the organisers of Parklife, Kendal Calling and The Warehouse Project.

The sun drenched day started Alice Gold - hotly-tipped, diminutive blond with a big voice – as she took to the stage looking like Pixie Lott with added hippy cool. Indie with occasional rasps of Janis Joplin.

Scouse band Wave Machines got off to a shaky start thanks to sound difficulties with loud drums drowning out the vocals. Last track, 'Punk Spirit', saw them leave on a high though.

Chicago’s OK Go arrived clad in their trademark co-ordinating blue, green, yellow and red suits. The audience were on their feet for 'Get Over It' and were soothed and moved by a hand bells song.

British Sea Power, the brains behind the Jodrell Bank gig along with Kendal Calling’s organisers, played rock songs about science fiction as a bloke dressed as a robot and another as a big brown bear scrapped onstage. Often described as ‘epic rock’, BSP does a solid line in emotional, harmony-drenched music.

As dusk set in, The Flaming Lips were seemingly beamed onstage through a door projected high onto the stage, then walked down a spaceship ramp as bass beats pulsed.

Coyne, who earlier told the crowd there was ‘no more appropriate place for a space bubble’, rolled out across the crowd as psychedelic images played out behind him. As he returned onstage hundreds of giant balloons and a sky full of multicoloured tissue paper was released while mesmerizing guitars and synthetic beats blared out.

Coyne’s rich vocals, the planetary projections onto the Lovell Telescope and the infectious cheerfulness of hits like 'She Don’t Use Jelly', 'Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots' and 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song' was a unique, happy and affirming combination. Dedicating a song to Transmission's organisers Coyne smiled: “Have us back. This is our place, you know.”

When the band retreated ahead of an encore, the Lovell Telescope took centre stage as a short film was played out on its surface. Images flashed up of space, of Dr Lovell calling out “Hello Moon,” and hearing it bounce back as he tested his creation and the rousing theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey boomed out.

The Lips returned onstage as another confetti explosion bathed the crowd for 'Do You Realise?' The crowd left happy, knowing they’d been part of something truly special. Until next time anyway.


Kendal Calling’s Ben Robinson chats to Victoria Adams about looking at telescopes with The Flaming Lips, how Transmission came about, what’s next for Kendal Calling and his band.

You might not know Ben Robinson’s name, but you’ll know his work.

Together with Andy Smith, he is the brains behind Kendal Calling, Transmission at Jodrell Bank and more. Plus, he has just fulfilled his childhood dream of working with Flaming Lips. But his dream of being a famous bassist has yet to materialise. Victoria Adams caught up with him.

VA:  How did the idea of Jodrell Bank come about?

BR: Because Kendal Calling is a great small festival and we've grown it every year, we got itchy fingers, so we were looking for another event to get involved in. British Sea Power mentioned Jodrell Bank would be a great place to do it.

VA: Are you good mates with British Sea Power then?

BR: I know a few people in Kendal who went to school with them and Andy put them on at some smaller gigs before Kendal Calling. They played the first Kendal Calling and they have played every year since.

VA: And then they suggested working together on Jodrell Bank?

BR:  Yeah...we went to take a look at Jodrell Bank and they were really keen to get bands in and to promote it, so they said why don’t we do something bigger, and it went from there. We got Warehouse Project and Ear To The Ground involved because we’ve worked with them before and we’re quite a small festival – just two of us – so we’d probably lose all our hair and cry in a corner if we tried to do it all alone.

VA: How did you get Flaming Lips interested?

BR: We went down and had a chat with the Flaming Lips’ people and they snapped it up straightaway. It was led by the band being convinced.

VA: That must have been pretty cool...

BR: It was a childhood dream to do anything with the Flaming Lips and I just spent the morning showing Wayne Coyne the [Lovell Telescope] dish and discussing whether aliens exist or not. He obviously sits at home thinking about this. There is a definite interest in it in his lyrics, like ‘look out into space it surrounds you’ and album titles like Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. They have a passing interest in space at the very least.

VA: What are you most excited about at Transmissions, aside from the Flaming Lips?

BR: The visuals on the dish. The Flaming Lips have done some bits but we've done a three minute piece that includes within it Lovell, the guy who built the dish. He says: “The dividing line between good and evil and science is a very thin one” and there’s audio of him saying “Hello moon,” and bounces it off the moon and it comes back and says “hello moon.”

VA: What’s next then?

BR: Jodrell Bank loves Transmissions so we are going to do Transmissions_002, 003, 004, 005, etc. That will kick off for spring 2012 and we're already in talks with some really big bands but I can’t say who just yet. 

Kendall Calling is in four weeks and we have Blondie coming, which is immense, and Frank Turner who played two years ago with 200 people watching. And I’ll be playing with my band Slambori. We formed this year and there is a 10 piece live band, five or six circus performers lying on beds of nails and the bands are all dressed in clown outfits. I went from being in Deathretro to this.

VA: You’re pretty into being in a band aren’t you?

BR: I only got into promoting because the rest of Deathretro went travelling for a year. I’m a success as a promoter, but not so successful as a bass player.

VA: Perhaps don’t tell your band that.

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJuly 4th 2011.

"In a summer full of festivals, this was the only one with a massive telescope and an astrological vibe."

Isn't astrology to do with horoscopes?

AnonymousJuly 4th 2011.

Stars and that init?

tblzebraJuly 4th 2011.

A s t r o n o m i c a l

Simon BinnsJuly 5th 2011.

Astrology relates to the moon affecting people's fortunes and events. So it's staying in.

AnonymousJuly 5th 2011.


Prof Brian Cox would have something to say about that. Him and the rest of the astronomy community. Completely different field and a sloppy mistake often made by those who don't know the difference.

AnonymousJuly 5th 2011.

Yes, that would be me.

Ah, go on then...

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