Spotlights: the Polyphonic Spree
Austin Scottish Rite Theatre, 8pm
Austin's Waterloo Records is one of the most in-store-friendly shops in the country, sporting a convenient stage area that doubles as a listening station. Yet it can't even hope to contain the Polyphonic Spree, whose 28 members would probably make the store look half-full just mulling around. The group's Saturday, 6pm in-store is the last one scheduled this year. It won't be the first improbable thing the band has pulled off in their thrilling two-year run.
"I put this thing together in about two and a half weeks," says founder and leader Tim DeLaughter, frontman for Dallas' Tripping Daisy from 1991 until the group's dissolution in '99. The Polyphonic Spree's debut came the next summer, opening for Grandaddy. "Chris [Penn], my friend and partner in [Dallas store] Good Records, booked us for that show, and I didn't even have a band. The whole thing just started coming together. Once we got one person in, he knew somebody, they came in, and the thing just literally grew overnight into a band."
What has evolved is a self-described "choral symphonic pop band" that has regularly squeezed its way, with difficulty, onto nightclub stages in Dallas and Austin. Their Good Records debut, The Beginning Stages of ... was recorded soon after their formation. All 28 band members (give or take a couple on maternity leave) sport white robes onstage, and their sing-along blasts have won over even the most hardened of cynics. Featuring piano, flute, brass, strings, theremin, and who knows what-all, the Polyphonic Spree are the church choir of a never-never land where the congregation has blue hair, digs psychedelic rock, and sings at the top of their lungs without embarrassment.
"When you get that much energy going on, with that many people on the same page, there's a lot more going on than just playing the songs," says DeLaughter. "If you've seen it on a night when it's just totally on, it's overwhelming."