It's a dream job for a Flaming Lips fan—22-year-old Jake Harms is the band's "animal wrangler," the man in charge of the props and dancers for every Lips show. (The title is left over from when dancers used to wear bunny and zebra costumes.) In 2006, that equaled approximately 3,000 dancing Santas and aliens, 15,000 balloons, and over a ton of confetti.
Harms has only been the animal wrangler for a few months—he was first hired as a driver, after slipping a note under the band's Oklahoma City office door. Here's an illustrated guide, explained by Harms, on how to deliver the Best Concert Experience Ever.
"Minimum I like to run 10 aliens and 10 Santas on each side. Then I can move up to 15 or 20, but it depends on the venue. I usually look for ladies, girls that are excited—you can just tell who's gonna dance good.
"Lily Allen was a Santa Claus, she and her crew. She came backstage three sheets to the wind with like a full bottle of Jäger and thought she was better than everybody else. She tried to run the show, get all her crew up onstage. So I get them all up onstage, and about a song into it they all leave! So I was stuck with an empty slot of Santas.
"A good show, we'll go through 40 pounds of confetti, no problem. Every time we say 'realize' in the song ['Do You Realize?'], confetti gets shot.
"We usually do about 200 four-foot balloons each show. Those ones we really go crazy with during 'Ta-Da.' That's when Wayne [Coyne] goes out in the bubble, comes back, and right when his feet touch the stage, we start sending out these 200 balloons.
"During 'The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song,' we launch out these seven-foot balloons, massive rubbery ones, 10 to 15 of those right when that song starts as Wayne is setting off his confetti launchers. The launchers are packed with a shitload of rolled up streamers, packed with a drumstick, and set off with a fresh CO2 cartridge. Then they go back in Wayne's box so he's got enough that he can cycle through.
"We got the chest strobe, the megaphone, the rope light. There probably should be crazy names for them, now that you mention it. All that stuff—I'm not gonna give away the secret of what it is, but it's very household stuff. The megaphone with smoke bombs is just a megaphone with smoke bombs. The rope light is something you get at AutoZone or whatever.
"Those are actually Wayne's hands. He had a place here in Oklahoma City model them exactly after his hands.
"There are no people telling us what to do, it's just Wayne, like, 'Come on motherfuckers, we're gonna do this, and it's gonna work!'"