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Polyphonic Spree

With a choir, a horn section, a Theremin player and a harpist, the Polyphonic Spree is a singular act, bedecked in flowing white robes and singing songs about reaching for the sun and celebrating the dawn of a new day. The Spree's only major fault was wearing out their enthusiastic audience far before the band was ready to call it a night.

With a choir, a horn section, a Theremin player and a harpist, the Polyphonic Spree is a completely singular act, bedecked in flowing white robes and singing songs about reaching for the sun and celebrating the dawn of a new day. Singer (and former Tripping Daisy front man) Tim DeLaughter channels the loving-life vibe of the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, the religious fervor of a Pentecostal preacher (though everything here is strictly secular) and even a creepy bit of a cult leader persona. Rising high above its glorious debut album, “The Beginning Stages of …” (Hollywood/Good), the Spree’s only major fault was wearing out their enthusiastic audience far before the band was ready to call it a night.

The closest spiritual kin to the Spree’s infectious joy may be the title track to the 1972 children’s album “Free to Be (You and Me),” a silly yet sincere ode to life’s simple pleasures. The Polyphonic Spree revel in that sort of youthful exuberance; the videos playing along with the band often show childhood scenes and clips of cartoons, including a song set to a bit from Disney’s “Robin Hood.” Of course, all of this is a bit psychedelic, too: A projected dream sequence from “The Big Lebowski” all but confirmed that, yes, there may be a little more behind the Polyphonic Spree’s enthusiasm than they let on.

No matter, though. When 22 people are onstage, grinning ear to ear, jumping up and down and wildly flailing when they’re not singing or playing, an audience is bound to respond. Though the wall-to-wall crowd was happy to sing, clap and dance along for the first half of the show, the overbearing heat and stale air of the overfull club (plus a massive balloon stunt that came halfway through the show instead of at its logical place at the set’s end) led to an early aud exodus. As people left, though, it was clear the Polyphonic Spree had reached their goal — everyone left smiling.

Polyphonic Spree

El Rey; 771 capacity; $17.50

  • Production: Presented by Goldenvoice and KCRW. Reviewed July 30, 2003.
  • Cast: <b>Band:</b> Joe Butcher, Tim DeLaughter, Audrey Easley, Ryan Fitzgerald, Toby Halbrooks, Jesse Hester, Evan Hisey, Logan Keese, Mike Dillon, Rick Nelson, Mark Pirro, Ricky Rasura, James Reimer, Andrew Tinker, Bryan Wakeland, Julie Doyle, Jennifer Jobe, Jessica Jordan, Jennie Kelley, John LaMonica, Kelly Repka, Michael Turner.