During the twelve months following the release of the 4CD album 'Zaireeka' (in October 1997), the Flaming Lips carried out a succession of live performances known as 'Boombox Experiments'. The hope for the Boombox Experiments was that the audience would experience an entirely different kind of concert, with at least some of the audience wholly involved in the actual shaping of the music/compositions they would be hearing. The shows also developed over the year and, by their very nature, no two could ever be quite the same.
The Boombox Experiments revolve around a kind of 'orchestra' of forty people, each of whom controls a 'Boombox', under the direction of either Wayne or Steven. These Boomboxes were acquired, over time, from various pawn shops and junk shops around Oklahoma City (where the Flaming Lips live). Wayne tested and repaired each of these, and made some modifications: an Experiment Boombox can only operate in tape mode, with either the play, stop or rewind buttons. The only other control which works is the volume control - all the other myriad knobs/dials/switches/faders are glued in place according to Wayne's requirements for the kind of sound the Boombox should produce. The outputs from these Boomboxes are routed into the main sound system - often using a number of PA units - as well as being heard directly from the Boomboxes themselves.
Once the 'orchestra' have been drilled on the operation and synchronisation of the Boomboxes, by the use of two 'test' procedures, the experiment can reach full speed. For each separate composition, the forty tapes are started simultaneously and Wayne and Steven then proceed to 'conduct' the 'orchestra', by directing the operators to manipulate the volume of the Boombox under their control. This can mean bringing in specific 'instruments' at specific times, or bringing a whole part of the 'orchestra' to a crescendo, and so on. The actual compositions are meticulously planned, so that particular tapes go in particular machines with certain characteristics. The machines then are positioned (see below) to create the best possible sound and effect from the volume manipulations. The result of all this is a truly interesting show - the sound is breathtakingly interesting, and the stage events engagingly entertaining.