The Polyphonic Spree Fitzgerald's February 14, 2012
Some of rock's most intriguing acts have risen from the ashes of their former bands. Such is the case with Dallas-based multi-member psych-pop band The Polyphonic Spree; front man Tim DeLaughter formerly fronted '90s alt-rock group Tripping Daisy.
Admittedly, I attended Polyphonic Spree's show at Fitzgerald's last night feeling dubious. Having seen them at Lollapalooza 2007, I'd written them off as an overly dramatic, unnecessarily sizeable horde of theater kids, whose onstage gimmicks forced their music (which is actually good) to go less noticed.
You know, like The Flaming Lips. (I await the backlash...)
DeLaughter and his 16 bandmates took the Fitzgerald's stage one by one; each entering musician made me wonder how they'd all manage to cram onstage. But they pulled it off, and singer DeLaughter was joined onstage by two guitarists, a bassist, two percussionists, a trumpeter, pianist, violinist, cellist, flutist, and four pretty-faced, robotic hippie-chick backup singers. They all looked like one big, happy cult.
Each member was dressed in long white robes with giant red hearts on them -- the perfect Valentine's Day attire. They opened the set with "I'm Calling," from 2006 EP Wait. DeLaughter positioned himself on the stage's edge, balancing one foot on the amp, brushing hands with front-row fans. A mass of confetti released into the crowd, as fans raised their hands in uninhibited glee.
"It's good to see you guys!" DeLaughter said, off the mike, cupping his hands around his smiling mouth.
If the Polyphonic Spree seems like a cult, DeLaughter is surely the cult-leader; he orchestrates everything going on onstage, directing his band like a conductor, throwing his hands up in the air, cocking his head back and closing his eyes.
It's a show that teeters between creepy and amazing; there's something eerie about the matching robes and weird female backup singers, who seemed like wind-up dolls. Yet it all centered around DeLaughter--who was so genuinely communicating nothing but positivity--via his uplifting lyrics, his constant contact with his fans, his motivating spirit--it was hard not be won over by him in that sense.
"Happy Valentine's Day, from the Polyphonic Spree," he said, before singing a little improvised tune about chocolates and roses. "Did you get any roses today? I got some roses today," he boasted.
"Soldier Girl" was a set standout, as was the stripped, emotive vocal delivery of The Who's "See Me, Feel Me."
DeLaughter repeatedly rallied the crowd to sing along with him, even splitting the room in two and assigning complimenting vocal parts during "It's the Sun."
I wondered if the band would bother actually exiting the stage and all coming back out for an encore, but they did -- three times. The second time around, they walked through the crowd in a line, high-fiving nearly every hand that came their way, eventually making their way back to the stage to complete their set.
DeLaughter repeatedly hopped into the audience, had us all gathered and kneeling around him, like classmates being read to at storytime. It was a rare, intimate moment in rock 'n roll, that seemed to ebb any barriers and unify everyone there.
"We broke some new ground today," DeLaughter said. "We did the low 'Rock Lobster' thing, and we split the room in two. We've never done that before!"
"I swore we'd never come back to Houston," he admitted. "I know, that sounds shitty, but -- out with the old, in with the new! I was just backstage, saying 'We did it! They're loving it!' And we love you!"
So it seems a few dubious hearts were won over tonight; Houston clearly left an impression on the Polyphonic Spree, and they managed to leave quite the impression on me, as well.
Personal Bias: I was quite the Tripping Daisy fan, so I favor their songs over PS, but it was such a fun show. They're quite a spectacle to see--once or twice.
The Crowd: A really good-looking bunch.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Pinball Wizard!"
Random Notebook Dump: I've had a crush on Tim DeLaughter since I first saw him in the "I Got a Girl" video in 1995.
I'm Calling Running Away Light to Follow Bullseye See Me, Feel Me ("Who Medley" on the PS set-list) What Would You Do? Get Up and Go Soldier Girl The Best Part
Hold Me Now Light & Day / Reach For the Sun It's The Sun
We Sound Amazed Championship
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Something in the Air (Thunderclap Newman cover)