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Wayne Michael Coyne, the lead singer and guitarist of American band The Flaming Lips, performs inside a plastic ball during the Optimus Primavera Sound music festival in Porto, Portugal.

Paulo Duarte/AP

In a city without a signature music festival since the nomadic Mariposa packed up its patchouli in 2000 and took to the country, this week's North by Northeast happening is staking a claim as our biggest annual musical thing. The Toronto Jazz Festival, while significant, swings melodiously in the shadow of its larger Montreal counterpart. Canadian Music Week is rival of sorts to NXNE, but the former doesn't have the same swell weather possibilities that allows for the latter to bring in whopper acts for free outdoor blowouts.

And so it is The Flaming Lips this evening who take to the Blade Runner-like intersection at Yonge and Dundas on Saturday (9 p.m.), before rappers Raekwon and Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan fame do the same on Sunday (9 p.m.).

The Flaming Lips from Oklahoma are something of a soaring kaleidoscope, dazzling with high-concept psychedelia involving fantastical themes, fun and glitter, furry costumes and front-man Wayne Coyne in a giant crowd-surfing see-through bubble. Astounding, in a word – an alternative to alt-rock.

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The MCs Raekwon & Ghostface Killah are out there as well, hipping and hopping to savvy beats, martial arts themes and snappy word-slinging, for a deliciously bizarre but street-wise aesthetic.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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