Sunday, December 28, 2003
It was audacious, outrageous and preposterous -- and, somehow, it worked.
Local rockers Danger Bob and 16 friends pulled off the most elaborate live spectacle of recent memory Saturday at The Bottleneck, performing as The Mollyphonic Spree -- a takeoff of 20-some-member group The Polyphonic Spree -- and embellishing its pop-rock sound with a violin, trumpet, flutes, keyboards, extra percussion and a choir.
Sure, there were lyrical lapses and musical mistakes by both the band's original members and the cast of friends, but Danger Bob shows always have been marked by screw-ups of one form or another. Considering the ensemble had less than a week to prepare, many members had to learn their parts from scratch and at least one person was missing from each practice, that the show was incredibly entertaining is a testament to how hard everyone worked.
The group's effort translated into an infectious joy from the opening "Biltmore East" to the main-set closer, "Rubber Twice," which helped gloss over any technical mistakes. Faster-paced songs like "Amazingly" and "Piglet" worked with the additional instruments nearly as well as more sedate songs such as "Blather" and "Clothes On." The highlight of the main set was the one-two punch of "St. John's Episcopal" and "Teneley Albright Day" in the middle of the show. "Episcopal" received the perfect treatment from the addition of the orchestral instruments, and the choir nicely accentuated the sing-along chorus of the decade-old "Albright."
The only major misstep during the main set was "The Hook," which the group played with kazoos, while relying on the audience to sing the words. Either the majority of the crowd didn't know the lyrics or didn't understand they were supposed to participate for the first half of the song, leaving the venue buzzing with the sound of the instrument. Hearing one of the band's signature songs played on kazoo wasn't a bad consolation prize, though.
There also was a difficulty hearing some band members, especially violinist Stephanie Weaver, during the entire set, though whoever mixed the show deserves a pat on the back for attempting to keep all 20 artists at the same level.
While the first part of the show seemed outlandish, it was nothing compared to the encore. Danger Bob singer Karl Michelbach and guitarist Andy Morton opened with an acoustic version of the rarely played "Jesus Cristo" before the rest of the group rejoined them on stage for a cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" which proved that the only rendition of the repeated titular line which might top the original version is one sung by a nine-person, makeshift choir. The group followed with another excellent cover, this time The Polyphonic Spree's "Soldier Girl," along with "On Top of the World" and a Weaver solo that led into traditional closer, "Fuckstick."
Though thrown together in a short time, the performance was far from the train wreck Morton had feared. Instead, it turned out to be one of the most memorable local shows of the year.