Hooked on Polyphonic

It's rare when the opening band of a three-band bill draws the biggest crowd. Of course, usually the opener isn't the new group from two (Tim DeLaughter and Mark Pirro) of the founding members of Tripping Daisy. Well, three, as it turned out, since Bryan Wakeland was back manning the drums. Word going in was that the Grandaddy/Bright Eyes/Polyphonic Spree gig on July 15 at the Gypsy Tea Room would be the show of the year, the one everyone would turn out for, and for the most part, it turned out to be. But it was for a far different reason than for the rest of Grandaddy's well-received tour.

The crowd--packed tightly into Gypsy's ballroom, and so involved in the Spree's set that the bartenders were actually trying to drum up business ("Can I top that off for ya? Y'sure?")--shrank noticeably after The Polyphonic Spree's set. You couldn't really blame people for splitting, because it was unlikely that anyone would top The Polyphonic Spree's performance, though the members of Grandaddy made a strong argument for themselves, somehow living up to advance billing that ranks the Modesto, California-based group somewhere between Radiohead and Jesus Christ. (They have the beards, at least.)

With DeLaughter on vocals and guitar, Pirro on bass, and Wakeland on drums, the original lineup of Tripping Daisy was almost reunited (sadly, minus the late Wes Berggren). The trio was joined by Carlos Jackson (stepping out from behind the counter at Good Records), Captain Audio's Regina Chellew on trumpet and backup vocals, a French horn player, a percussionist, and four other backup singers. Everyone was wearing what appeared to be matching choir robes--which made perfect sense, since the sound from the stage sounded as if it should be coming out of the stained-glass windows of a church more often than not. The best comparison we heard all night was "[The Flaming Lips'] The Soft Bulletin, except all the parts are being played live." Close enough.

DeLaughter was clearly thrilled by being onstage again, stepping back from the mike to grin at the audience several times, when he wasn't saying "Isn't this great?" into it. The crowd, most of it anyway, matched DeLaughter's glee, swaying and bouncing up and down to songs they'd never heard before. Thankfully, they'll get to hear them again.