Photography: Keith Ainsworth /

The Polyphonic Spree

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EVOL @ Arts Club 20/9/15

The queue outside the venue looks like a paltry little thing when I arrive early, and I can’t help but be sceptical. Until, that is, I spot a group of hardcore fans sporting Spree merch, tambourines and robes, alleviating my doubts that, 15 years after their debut, THE POLYPHONIC SPREE have a following.

First on is NO MONSTER CLUB, a four-piece hailing mostly from Dublin who’ve been playing fiddle to The Polyphonic Spree for their last few gigs. Thematically these lads are a perfect fit, with their brand of warm and fuzzy indie pop paving a shiny yellow brick road all the way to The Polyphonic Spree. These guys are clearly fans of their headliner, dropping a cover of One Through Four by Tim DeLaughter’s old band Tripping Daisy, and later spotted among the crowd loudly singing along with the Spree. Each song comes with a shoutout to some pretty varied people, including actor Jason Isaacs and hardcore fans the Cooper family that have clearly been following Polyphonic Spree gigs for a while.  They close with I’ve Retired from their latest album, bowing out in eager anticipation of the final act.

An oddly garbed fella strides on stage announcing that the town crier recently suffered a heart attack, but thankfully he’s here to take his place with bell in hand. After a quick tutorial on town criery, we all summon The Polyphonic Spree onstage to the ringing of that bell. The 13 Spree members flow out to their instruments draped in their robes: so far, I’m happily confused by this stage show. The venue is suddenly bustling, and I have to peer around heads to see Tim DeLaughter explain he won’t be talking again for a good half hour as the Spree begin to power through their debut album The Beginning Stages Of…, which the entire room is here to celebrate. Even for a year-round-Scrooge like myself, it’s hard not to be swept up in the pure wave of joy that washes over the crowd. DeLaughter conducts us like an orchestra and we love every second of it. We’re led through their big songs like It’s The Sun and Have A Day/Celebratory, but the crowd really begins to heave as they close out with Soldier Girl. I’m briefly disappointed as the band heads backstage, only to realise this was simply the first half: a quick drink and costume change later, they stride out with their hippy dashikis.

The second half entails tunes from the rest of their catalogue; more of the same in the best way possible. The Polyphonic Spree’s own-brand psychedelic pop hasn’t changed over the years, due, I’d imagine, to how much they love to play it live. They are a truly great experience live and take over the stage, filling the space horizontally and vertically from atop the speakers. My personal highlight is the cover of Nirvana’s Lithium, which loses its ironic tone. DeLaughter steps into the crowd for the duration of the song, getting everyone to crouch down for the verse and spring up into action for the chorus, with his pink hair bobbing in and out of view. I started the show feeling on the outside of the Polyphonic Spree cult, unsure whether they still had it 15 years in. After spending a few hours with them, however, I’m speaking in tongues and drinking their Kool-Aid.

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