It was a night of choral thunder and sanctimonious boom where the band’s sonic swirls, bombastic pop and bouncy beats sucked the bad karma out of the room like a meeting with the Dalai Lama. The Polyphonic Spree turned the reformed Polish social club into a rock church with its wall of psychedelic hymnals and overtures that combined the pomp of the Flaming Lips and Smile-era Beach Boys into a cacophonous mix of joy.
The multi-colored robes worn by the two dozen strong unit projected its kaleidoscope of colored sounds as bubbles bounced and silver streamers blown from the stage dusted the crowd. Throw in some smiley faced, “Brady Bunch”-isms, some dosed up renegades from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and a marching band of misfits into an atomic blender of electric Kool-Aid, press go and you get the pic.
Leader Tim DeLaughter was the lightning rod to the Texas troupe’s beautiful noise as he tweaked The Spree’s horns, keys, violins, flute, and punchy rhythm section into a fluffy unit of cosmic debris. He also conducted the crowd sing-along, that was corny at first but evolved into something divine as the night wore on. In his flowing brown locks, that resemble the guy in those “Jesus is my homeboy” T-shirts popular with hipsters in training a few years ago, he turned the event into a communal one.
On the opener “Section11: A Long Day Continues/We Sound Amazed” from last year’s Together We’re Heavy a harp started off as the band lay solemn and unaffected until it ripped into the chorus leaving DeLaughter on his own to deliver the lead vocals with an acoustic guitar in hand. “It’s The Sun” from their first one was next and paved the way for The Spree’s spiritual conquest. The band who opened for David Bowie on some dates last year returned the favor by playing “Memory Of A Free Festival,” Bowie’s ode to the Glastonbury Festival in England from his 1972 album Space Oddity.
The Polyphonic Spree have come a long way since I first saw them at CMJ a few years ago during a lunchtime performance at the Hilton where they could barely all fit onstage, and some of the crowd snickered at their white robes. At the Warsaw the stage was cramped again, yet the message was earthly, nicely aged and robust like a bottle of fine wine.
Mike Doughty from Soul Coughing was the opener as he took on requests from the crowd solo on electric guitar. He grabbed at the band’s catalogue and played in a funky swagger as he took on hecklers and lashed back with the cheesy Kenny Rogers “Coward Of The County” as part of his revenge.