Mike Catello

Wayne Coyne
Wayne Coyne (Credit: AP/Evan Agostini)

I don’t like Wayne Coyne. I like the Flaming Lips enough. I enjoy Mr. Coyne’s treatment of his home and yard as his own playground/art gallery. We have one like it in Pittsburgh – Randyland. (Mr. Coyne is originally from Pittsburgh.) I also dig that he’s remained in the Classen-10-Penn where he grew up in Oklahoma City. I saw the Lips open for the Black Keys a few years ago. There was a lot of smoke and surreal video montages – largely of goats from what I remember. All of that was great.

So why wouldn’t I like Mr. Coyne?

On stage he was positioned on a pedestal of sorts, elevated higher than the band. He reminded me of Mussolini standing on the balcony of Palazzo Venezia when he declared war on France and England to a flag-waving throng below. Even more contemptible he persistently implored the audience for more clapping and cheering. He extended his arms and flapped his fingers toward himself, “Gimme more, gimme, gimme.”

I don’t care that Mr. Coyne wants to be loved. After all, he’s a rock god. But I can’t stand being told what to do at a concert. I’m told what to do in every other role of my life. I have a boss and I am a boss, so I uphold company values. A friend gets married and I dutifully stand, kneel, etc. at the ceremony. I am a parent, so I don’t swear in front of my kids. I am a homeowner in the suburbs, so I cut my grass and don’t run around naked in my backyard.

I go to concerts to escape ritual and self-consciousness. I expect at concerts to be “one in a crowd.” I don’t like when the stage lights zero in on a section of the audience, causing the audience to erupt in narcissistic joy. I don’t like following the lead of a band member, often not the lead singer, who claps above his head and entreats the audience to follow, which it does like compliant goose steppers. I like singing along at a concert, but I don’t like being summoned to do so. I especially don’t like doing those inane “whoah” parts where the audience mirrors the singer’s vocal exercises in the middle of a song, a tired exercise of live pop performance.

Billy Joel famously overturned his piano at a concert in Moscow because the lights were up. Joel contended that ”’People in the audience want to be in the dark. They want to get loose.’” You hear that, Mr. Alt-Avant-Garde-Indie Coyne? A tin pan alley guy gets it. Why don’t you? I’m sure you see yourself as an independent thinker, Mr. Coyne. Let me be one at your concert.