Polyphonic Spree With Sam Lao and Quaker City Nighthawks Club Dada, Dallas Saturday, July 12, 2014
A white curtain shrouds the band in anticipation. Ribbons hang around the stage's perimeter and along the fences in Club Dada's backyard. The ribbons are colorful, every spectrum of ROYGBIV is touched. Magically, as a whimsical orchestral tune suited for bluebonnet picking plays, letters are scribbled across the curtain in a black marker font. "MOON" appears. Followed by "RMOON." And finally, the word, completed, "SUPERMOON."
The curtain falls to reveal Tim DeLaughter and his flower children, the Polyphonic Spree. DeLaughter conducts his band and seamlessly transitions them into the first number of the night, "Hold Me Now."
The Polyphonic Spree is with you now. The water is warm. Enjoy yourself.
It's damn near impossible to talk about the Polyphonic Spree without mentioning that the band resembles a cult, or could very well be a cult, albeit an extremely harmless one. They wear robes and contort their faces into this weird position in which the corners of their mouths rise, in turn fashioning the lips into a "U." In fact this phenomena is called "smiling."
The Polyphonic Spree's happiness is so genuine that it transcends creepy, leaping over it like a gold-medal winning Olympian, and heads straight toward infectious. As DeLaughter plays maestro to the band and performer to the audience, his gesticulations are vibrant, jubilant and as colorful as the sunshine pop the Polyphonic Spree plays. He has spasms of mirth.
The band effectively tore down the house Saturday night, but not without a hiccup or two. During "Two Thousand Places," Dada's sound system blew, which led to an unplugged rendition of the song with the help of the audience. With a good portion of the 400 or so attendees, the vocals packed nearly the same amount of decibels as a sub-woofer. But, alas, in time the electrical fuck-up was fixed, except then it wasn't. Halfway into take two the system blew yet again. Someone got the bright idea to turn off the stage lights which solved the malfeasance for good.
During one of the moments of technical difficulties, DeLaughter said, "I'm so glad we're with family." He was glad the environment wouldn't be conducive to storm outs, because he is home. In case you aren't aware, the Polyphonic Spree began in Dallas 14 years ago. And more specifically in this exact venue, Club Dada. It's heralded as one of the best gigs in the Dallas music scene. Annie Clark (now better known as St. Vincent) once donned a robe in this band. DeLaughter is a founding member of another band of local lore, Tripping Daisy, and gave Dallas the best damn record store it could ask for in Good Records. DeLaughter literally called people in the audience by first name in between songs during his banter.
This is home; this is family.
A homecoming show is always a lively one. The energy is electric and heartfelt. A cover of Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die" was especially rambunctious and a send-up to the band's inspiration, Sgt. Pepper's brightest days.
The 1:1 Vegas wager that "Light and Day," the second-to-last song of the night, would garner the biggest reaction held true. However, a serendipitous moment happened during the last song, a ballad called "Battlefield." Nearly everyone sits around DeLaughter after a one-hour-and-30-minute set full of uptempo orchestral pop that felt like only half an hour.
Everybody encircled him, taking in the decrescendo. We were all his flower children, gladly drinking the Kool-Aid.
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Critic's notes: I've got a few words on the openings acts. Dear rock is dead prophets, Quaker City Nighthawks are a fantastic rock band brimming with masculine energy, lathered in the finest barbecue sauce and chased with cheap whiskey straight out the bottle. Go to one of their shows and three songs in, somehow you're wearing bell bottoms, Chelsea boots and an extra shmedium vintage Black Sabbath world tour tshirt.
Rapper and sometimes singer Sam Lao was placed on a bill in the middle of a rock band that's kind of a cross between Led Zeppelin and early Kings of Leon and a band full of robed smiling people singing orchestral pop. This is kind of what being thrown to the sharks and crocodiles looks like and she managed to survive. Lao's presence dropped in like a bombshell, so there's no telling if the crowd was dazed or confused, but early in her set the crowd gave off an open mic at a restaurant energy -- except there were a few hundred people in the audience. No pressure. At the end of her set, she had won them over. This wasn't as drastic a turn as something you'd see in a biopic, but she turned heads nonetheless nonetheless.