Better Than: A mass wedding officiated by Sun Myung Moon.
John Lennon's "Gimme Some Truth" is actually a pretty sour ditty, if you take a look at the lyrics—which you really got a chance to do at the Polyphonic Spree show. The stage was screened off by an enormous swath of crimson fabric, and the words to "Gimme Some Truth" were projected onto it as the song played in the background. "I've had enough of watching scenes/Of schizophrenic, ego-centric, paranoiac, prima-donnas," complained Lennon. Hey, the staff at the Fine Line probably feels the same way.
Suddenly, something tore through the screen from behind. It was Tim DeLaughter (he's like the Spree's Charles Manson) cutting a heart shape out of the fabric. When he finished, he sliced it in half, and it fell away, revealing the 78 members of the Spree all crowded on stage. Okay, there are 23 of them—I had five people in the audience doing headcounts—and it's a damn spectacular sight.
They opened with "Running Away," and it was a thrill. They have risers set up to hold the choir of seven ladies, and all those voices combined made for a gigantic, heart-expanding sound. Plus they hit the crowd with confetti guns! Confetti guns are the chosen weapon of the Fragile Army.
On this tour, the Spree are decked out with black auto-mechanics' shirts, which are accented with blood red crosses on the lower left side. It's a hot look which held up well under the strobe lights that kept going off. Soaring, swelling vocals, celestial strings, rich tones from the three-man brass section, and the semi-unhinged positivity of DeLaughter: it's a recipe for indoctrination, almost.
The audience had lots of love for DeLaughter. When he wandered into the crowd to sing, frat-boy types hugged him from both sides. When he threw himself into the fray, people passed his body to the back of the house and onto the sidewalk, practically. When the band left the stage after more than an hour, the audience continued humming "All the time/Raise your voi-oi-ces" while clapping and cheering for an encore.
What's all that commotion by the doors? Why, people are filing into the club wearing white choir robes! It's the Polyphonic Spree, who have arisen to play "Soldier Girl," and a cover of Nirvana's "Lithium," and "Into the Sun." Hosanna! As they finish, DeLaughter reminds everyone to visit the merch table, because he has many mouths to feed. "It takes a lot to do what we do. We're on that bus, it's like an Aqualung, one person gets sick, we all get sick." If they come knocking on your door looking for some yardwork this afternoon, give 'em a rake and a sandwich, people.
Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: I first found out about the Spree when I did one of those "Who was that awesome band?" internet searches after they appeared on an episode of my favorite TV show, Scrubs. Random Detail: Although I thought the show was exciting, two of the three older women sitting at a table next to me had their eyes closed midway through the encore. By the Way: Even though the band has some cult-like attributes, they're not from California— they're from Dallas, Texas.