The Oklahoma City psych legends ushered in a new era of concertgoing in Del Mar
North County San Diego has always felt a bit of a void when it comes to music venues. If you travel south near downtown, you’ll find dozens of quality concert halls, amphitheaters, arenas, and small clubs to indulge your live music kick. Until now, however, Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern has been the only major established venue in the North County region.
Thankfully, the Belly Up ownership and management group have offered concertgoers a real boon in the form of its brand new, 1900-capacity venue The Sound, which just opened this past month at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. And what better way to reel in a new era of concertgoing than with one of the most beloved touring acts in the world?
The Flaming Lips, the legendary Oklahoma City psych band, made sure one of the first shows at The Sound was a special one. With their 2020 album American Head fresh on their minds, the group – led by the dazzling, indefatigable frontman Wayne Coyne – tore through a spectacular two-hour-plus set that ran the entire span of their catalogue. Of course, all the band’s usual visual bells and whistles – inflatable props, confetti, strobe lights, lasers, streamers, and Wayne’s iconic hamster bubble – were on full display, giving the tunes their signature dreamy, tripped-out kick.
Wayne and company kicked off the proceedings with the one-two Embryonic punch “Sagittarius Silver Announcement” and “Silver Trembling Hands” before ratcheting things up a notch with the searing crowd favorite “Do You Realize??” Trapped in his inflatable hamster ball, Wayne crooned to the heavens as the sold-out crowd of fans looks onward, totally inspired. More hits off Yoshimi followed, including “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1,” “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell” and “All We Have Is Now.”
The rest of the band was in fine form as inflatable robot figures lorded over the stage, followed by epic bursts of confetti amidst a sea of strobe lights. The band balanced a dynamic mix of deep cuts, including a smattering of stuff off the band’s magnum opus The Soft Bulletin, as well as fan-favorite hits like the radio single “She Don’t Use Jelly,” which inspired a mass crowd singalong. They even threw in a spirited cover of Madonna’s “Borderline.” As much as The Flaming Lips are notorious for the visual aspects of their show, they continue to remind everyone that they are, in fact, one of the best musical acts of the last couple decades. That will simply never change.
As for The Sound, the new venue served as the perfect setting to capture a band like this. Hollowed out from the old Del Mar betting center, The Sound carried an inviting, modern, large-club atmosphere – like a mix between The Music Box and Hollywood Palladium. An impressive lighting rig and open ballroom configuration, flanked by bar-style seats on the outer border as well as up top on a wrap-around balcony, conjured a vast but simultaneously intimate atmosphere for taking in music. Several bar spaces kept lines for drinks short, and if you were able to maneuver through a wall of concertgoers standing on the outer edges, then you could find ample room to dance upfront on the floor space. The stage itself is huge, and able to accommodate just about any touring act’s visual needs. And most crucially, the sound was top-of-the-line. Any venue, let alone one named The Sound, needs that. Ultimately, The Sound is going to play host to some truly magical shows in the future.
With a 1900-person capacity, The Sound also fills a much-needed gap in the San Diego county concert scene. There are scant few venues that serve that specific crowd size, and as such, many artists of that level of fame and popularity have opted to skip San Diego in the past. Now, we can reasonably expect more bands of the Lips stature to come through town more often. It’s a tantalizing scenario, and now, The Flaming Lips have showed everyone just how it’s done. You can scroll through the photo gallery below to see for yourself, and check out The Sound’s upcoming concert calendar HERE.