Liberty Hall turns 100 with bash, flash

Liberty Hall might be old, but it still knows how to party.

An estimated 3,000 people turned out to attend The Flaming Lips concert and block party held in honor of the 100th birthday of the movie theater/former opera house/concert venue. Crowds filled Seventh Street, between Massachusetts and New Hampshire streets, snacking on burgers, drinking Free State Beer and watching bands perform next to a school bus that had been converted to serve as a traveling stage.

Those who weren’t dancing and eating in the street were standing in line for the night’s main draw: The Flaming Lips, a psychedelic alternative-rock band formed in Norman, Okla. The band also played a concert Thursday night at the venue, 644 Mass.

“They are sort of like magicians meet musicians,” said Eric Carter, of Springfield, Mo. Carter had taken a half day off work to drive to Lawrence and wait in line for the concert.

Carter, who has attended 15 Flaming Lips shows since 2010, said the concert itself is a sensory overload with strobe lights, balloons and lasers.

The best way to witness such an event is from the front row, which is why Carter had been standing outside of Liberty Hall since 3:30 p.m. to be first in line.

While the concert drew die-hard fans, it also drew some looking to appreciate the architecture and environment of Liberty Hall.

Andy Eck, a teacher from Cincinnati, drove nearly 650 miles to see the concert at Liberty Hall. He admitted that The Flaming Lips had shows much closer to his home, but it was the size and description of the venue that drew him to Lawrence.

“It seemed like a good and intimate venue to see The Flaming Lips,” he said.

Others just saw Liberty Hall as a place filled with memories to return to.

“Liberty Hall is a Lawrence cornerstone,” said Ryan Bauer, of Overland Park and a Kansas University alumnus. “Everyone has been here for a movie or to see a show.”

As the night progressed, the doors to Liberty Hall opened and a throng of fans, dressed as wizards or wearing body paint or Santa Claus hats, flooded the historical venue.

Event organizer Rob Fitzgerald greeted the oncoming wave of fans inside the theater and described how he felt about the historic venue.

“We just hope it stands for 100 more years,” he said.