Jeremy Eaton
The Flaming Lips play the Puyallup Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Anyone familiar with the musical spectacle that is Wayne Coyne and the


10 Reasons the Puyallup Fair Is History's Most Obscenely Appropriate Opening Act for the Flaming Lips

Jeremy Eaton
The Flaming Lips play the Puyallup Fair on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Anyone familiar with the musical spectacle that is Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips would think the band has seen and done it all. From gummy-fetuses embedded with USB drives (their latest song-delivery invention) to Coyne entombed in a giant crowd-surfing bubble, this band has conceived the inconceivable. This is all well and good, but the question is: Has there ever been an opening act for the band as ridiculously appropriate as the Puyallup Fair?

Like the dazzling exhibition that is the Lips' live show, the Puyallup Fair is nothing but a wonder of human achievement, remarkable and revolting all at once. Before the band plays the fairgrounds next Wednesday, we thought we'd comb through the maze of showcases, vendors, and exhibits for the most intriguing, bizarre, and Coyne-approved sights worth your time, if not a little offbeat consideration.

10. Diabetic Seeds: Plenty of scone vendors are scattered throughout the fairgrounds, but none are worth their weight in butter and preserves like Fisher Scones at the Grandstand (they have a bakery onsite). Throngs of salivating customers were willing to wait in line for 45 minutes to take them away by the bagful.

9. See Your Future: Within minutes of arriving, diabetic amputees in motorized wheelchairs and the obese (coupled with parents pushing strollers the size of Mini-Coopers) bottlenecked every exit and jam-packed each aisle. The horrors of an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and the wholesome American urge to procreate are on display at the Fair in a prominent yet unofficial capacity. Traffic moves glacially slowly, giving you plenty of time both to observe the minutiae of the strange culture we inhabit and to plow your way through an elephant ear before hitting the Extreme Scream.

8. Real Green Transit: Watching someone lug around their Chihuahua in a Radio Flyer outfitted with a sunshade and a doggie bed, or a grown man with two coolers and a day's worth of provisions packed into a stroller designed to carry a small child, is an interesting phenomenon you'll no doubt witness if you stroll the grounds long enough.

7. Yes, It's Pickled: From gourds, cucumbers, and eggs designed to look like Bigfoot to nectarines and jarred preserves in the shape of a giant owl (spoiler alert: The owl won first prize! And has moving eyes! And hoots!), these aisles display gorgeous, mosaic-like produce arrangements. The exhibits are intricately fashioned, yet oddly lifeless. It's strangely creepy, like a Giuseppe Arcimboldo painting or a perfectly manicured lawn.

6. Ready for the Rapture?: Right across from 4-H Dogs & Cats is a small booth that claims to know whether you're going to Heaven or Hell. All you have to do is answer two questions--fair enough. I braced for what I thought would be the exchange:

"Do you believe in Heaven?"


"Do you believe in God?"


"You're going to Hell."

"Thank you very much."

But it wasn't like that at all! It was a horrible assemblage of multiple-choice answers (total setup!) and my deeply held belief (the idea of Heaven and Hell is a wishful construction of man's ego) was not listed! What kind of a ride is this?!? JUST TELL ME! AM I GOING TO HEAVEN OR HELL OR WHAT?

5. It Gets Fowl: Many breeds of poultry are on display, but the feather-legged, silkie-bearded black hens with their eye-shrouding, puffy Afros and the non-bearded, white-crested black hens with their pom-pom heads could give Coyne a few ideas for his next furry costume. Roosters provide a never-ending soundtrack of cock-a-doodle-doos, and the baby chicks running at top speed are like tiny, fuzzy T. Rexes.

4. The Mini-Animals: Picture a farm. Now picture a really, really small farm. Now put a smiley face on it. Now all you have to do is watch the mini-goats hop on things and wipe the occasional tear of happiness from the corner of your eye.

3. That Boingy-Bungee Ride Thing: Truth be told, I did not climb aboard the slingshot of death this year. But I did a few years back (yes, I have the video to prove it), and few things are weirder than wanting to sit in a rubber tire swing, get flung 200 feet in the air, and wishing the ride came with a complimentary diaper.

2. The Music in the Beer Garden: During my two-glass visit to the over-21 tent, the airwaves were pumping such artists as Leonard Cohen, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, Simon & Garfunkel, Jimmy Cliff, Alison Krauss (covering Waylon Jennings), and Leon Russell, to name the ones I picked up on. The music was diverse enough to appeal to a variety of tastes, but the songs themselves were excellent examples of their genres. Thumbs up to the eclectic selections of the iPod wizard on 9/9, and please keep it up.

1. Kitchenware as Performance Art: Kitchencraft cookware has a total monopoly at the fair. You'll see all kinds of commercial demonstrations--from hardware and weight-loss equipment to saunas--but no one has a grip on the Fair's nads like Kitchencraft. They've cornered three prime exhibition spaces in the Americraft ShowPlex alone, peddling cookware sets at more than $1,000 each. If you're still sitting there after a half-hour exhibit (seven layers of titanium heat-conducting technology! clearly staged audience participation!), you've no doubt come under the hypnotizing spell of the Puyallup Fair, and are now perfectly primed to see one of the world's weirdest bands play this strange and wonderful place.

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