The Polyphonic Spree Fitzgerald's August 29th, 2013
Some moments in life are just better than others. Having a laugh while your kid, armed with floaties, thinks he's drowning, despite moments ago assuring the instructor he had it. Turning so red from embarrassing laughter moments after realizing you ruined the final outcome of an amazing day, but having the greatest friends in the world that only find it endearing and funny rather than getting upset. Giving back your whole weeks' worth of energy by bounding around the dance floor, clapping, singing and jumping with your friends and neighbors to a band that is giving their all on the final stop of their tour.
The Polyphonic Spree were said band. While the other stuff assuredly means more to me than it does you, what really matters is that you should've been in attendance for one of the most heart-warming, life-affirming sets of music Rocks Off has seen in quite some time.
The Polyphonic Spree, upon first glance, come off as a major gimmick. They pack as many performers and instruments as they can on stage which gives an almost orchestral feel to their initial image. They're ever-changing fashion sense is also part of their gimmicky feel, coming of as an almost cult-like group, adorned in matching robes and dresses on most occasions. This time was no different, with their costume design taking a page right out of the stereotypical Woodstock-era hippie culture.
After numerous experiences with The Polyphonic Spree under my belt over the past decade, one thing I've definitely come to realize is that they are no gimmick. Far from it. Yeah, you might not be able to hear the harpist which was firmly situated stage left, but I bet you most people in attendance last night spent many moments watching her strum away on that giant thing. Yeah, the back-up singers seemed to be there more for their looks rather than their abilities in the vocal department, but their energy was addictive. Yeah, the band could be a bit more focused musically if there was less for them to deal with onstage, but their hugs and high-fives wouldn't have been there. None of it would be the same if every single one of those band members weren't giving it their all during the entire 2-plus hour set that they performed last night.
The Polyphonic Spree bring an almost religious feel to their live show. Their songs are both inspirational and uplifting, making it hard not to have a giant grin on your face from start to finish. Tim DeLaughter is best described as a preacher, sending his message of love and unity through his unbridled passion for music - something that is rarely seen these days. For me, an evening with the Spree and DeLaughter is what I guess an evening with Joel Osteen would be to a hardcore Christian. He has the ability to make you feel better about yourself and the whole world around you with only a few choice words and some powerful fist pumping.
The career-spanning setlist opened with "Hold Me Know" and ended with "Running Away," but in all reality it doesn't even matter what songs were played. They were spreading the good gospel, and along with the 16 other members, DeLaughter's performance was more about the widening jubilation than music and lyrics. They could've played a Creed cover set, but as long as they brought the passion and energy to their performance as they did, no one would've cared. Well, I guess people probably would've cared a little bit, but you know what I'm getting at.
It was good. Actually, good is quite the understatement. It was one of the best shows I've seen in as long as I could remember. I was yawning upon my arrival to Fitzgerald's, but five Spree songs were the musical equivalent to a Five Hour Energy. You know, when you're jumping around, not because everyone else is, but just because it's the best way to get through that moment - that happened more times than I can count on my hands and (sore) feet.
Their cover of The Monkees "Porpoise Song" was great, but it might as well have been a Spree tune, taking away the slow psychedelia of the original and adding a whole lot of energy to it as only they know how. Their foray into DeLaughter and bassist Mark Pirro's former group Tripping Daisy with the song "My Umbrella" was the highlight of the night musically, bringing the entire performance to an explosive climax - all while the crowd joyfully po-go'd around the lazers and disco lights that flooded the dark venue.
The set came to a close with a "Night and Day," drawing the biggest crowd response of the evening. So much, that after it finished DeLaughter was so moved to continue the set that he turned a vocal ditty into a full-blown improvisational tune. The crowd, while somewhat dissipated at this point, ate every bit of it up, eventually hooting and hollering for an encore.
It's the first time in a long while for me - maybe ever - that a band actually came back for an encore that was not already in the books. When they left the stage, in their minds they were done, but with the growing volume of the crowds cheers, there was no way they weren't going to at least entertain the idea of an encore. The band slowly sauntered their way back on stage one by one, before DeLaughter finally made his way up - not from the side of stage like the rest of the band, but right through the middle of the crowd.
After a two song effort that finished with "Running Away," (which would've been a bummer not to hear) they finished the enthusiastic set with a simple "that's it, we're done." The crowd had dwindled to a much smaller fraction of itself at that point - most likely due to the near 1am set end. DeLaughter's smile was the last thing the stage saw, which was somewhat fitting as it was the driving force throughout most of the night. His group of merry followers - both fans and the band - seem to love and respect him with this unadulterated admiration. He has a commanding presence, both on and off the stage, and is respectful to those that have helped him along the way - which was evident with so many shout outs to friends and family throughout the evening.
I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for this spectacular showcase last night, and would regret it if I missed out. Thankfully I didn't have to cover that Jane's Addiction/Alice in Chains concert at the Woodlands as originally planned, because I would've missed out on one of the best shows of my life. DeLaughter and Co. made it happen last night, and the couple hundred people that were also lucky enough to be there unquestionably left on the same musical high as I did.
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Personal Bias: I came across The Polyphonic Spree over 10 years ago at Bonnaroo, and haven't been the same since.
The Crowd: Genuinely appreciative of the bands craft. I, at times, was questioning if I was seeing a show in Houston.
Overheard In The Crowd: "You are the motherfucker I teach my children about," some guy shouted at Tim DeLaughter during a quiet part towards the end. "Fuck Lil Wayne, I teach my kids about the Polyphonic Spreeeeeeee!"
Random Notebook Dump: All of the straws have a small cut in them and I keep getting it caught on my tongue. Sucks. I guess I should man up and stop using straws to drink my whiskey.