Wednesday, November 12, 2003
The stage at Liberty Hall Wednesday and Thursday nights could very well be mistaken for a scene of St. Peter beckoning salvaged souls to the heavenly gates.
The Polyphonic Spree, very much a part of this realm, will be in town to offer its revival-esque rock and, um, robes.
The Polyphonic Spree, a 20-plus member band that plays self-described "symphonic choral pop-rock" and dons white choir robes, has been raising hands and intrigue since its debut show in 2000 in its home state of Texas.
With musicians playing everything from the timpani and tailpipes (yes, from a car), to arm waving and a colossal vocal chorus, The Polyphonic Spree finds it a bit hard at times to keep a steady head count.
Even bassist Mark Pirro isn't quite sure how many are currently in his band.
"It fluctuates, it really does," Pirro said. "Recently one of our choirgirls was pregnant, so we had to find a replacement. We usually just say that we have 20-something."
Along with choirgirls and rockers, the band also has classically trained musicians, like flutist Audrey Easley, who calls The Polyphonic Spree her first official band experience.
Despite its multiple players, The Polyphonic Spree started out humbly enough when former Tripping Daisy vocalist Tim DeLaughter -- easing back into the spotlight after his band's breakup due to the death of guitarist Wes Berggren -- wanted to include a variety of instruments in his new act. After inviting 13 musicians to jam in a friend's living room, DeLaughter knew he was in the presence of something unique.
Veering from the sound of Tripping Daisy, which found some success with the single "I Got a Girl," The Polyphonic Spree directs its sound more toward The Beatles' latter years than 90's alternative rock.
The band's debut EP "The Beginning Stages of ... The Polyphonic Spree" (Good Records) showcases symphonic melodies and a celebratory horn section that build and crescendo into overwhelming climaxes.
Pirro, also formerly of Tripping Daisy, says that to describe the sound of The Polyphonic Spree is futile.
"No matter how you describe it, you have to get people there to actually experience it," he said. "People seem to really have a spiritual experience. I've seen some people fight back tears."
And often times, those emotional moments seem to occur as if by divine intervention.
When David Bowie asked the band in 2002 to perform at his Meltdown Festival in England, a power outage forced DeLaughter to direct the musicians in an impromptu set of only symphonic instruments and a cappella voices.
Just as the song emerged into its energetic peak -- almost miraculously -- the power came back on.
Pirro said the band has never come across an obstacle yet that it couldn't "bulldoze."
Those obstacles have often come from its home base, the Texas music scene.
"We'll be getting ready to play on a small stage and then be told, 'It will never work'," Pirro said. "And then we do it.
"People had been saying, 'You'll never get out of Dallas.' And then here we are -- getting invited by David Bowie."
In May of 2003, the band was picked up by Hollywood Records, which re-released "The Beginning Stages of..." The Polyphonic Spree's first full-length CD has a spring 2004 release date.
The not-so-little-band-that-could has even had its single "Light & Day" play in homes across the nation without the help of MTV. After landing the single on a Hewlitt-Packard commercial a year ago, The Polyphonic Spree now has the same song featured in the Volkswagen/iPod commercial series, though the ads don't show the band's most recognizable trait -- the white robes.
Pirro said the robes had a certain eternal quality.
"It's one of those things that will never be out of style," Pirro said. "If someone could have handed me a crystal ball 15 years ago and showed me what I was doing now, I would have said, 'Good God, what has happened?'"