Concert review: The Polyphonic Spree (with New Fumes and Sweet Lee Morrow) raise all voices at the Duck Room, Friday, May 11
Down the stairs and past the bar, a screen on the Duck Room stage displayed a jerky psychedelic image resembling a collage of contorted faces.
The disco ball spun slowly in the foreground as the stage was prepared for New Fumes to perform. Leaving his position behind the merchandise table, a tall, thin, man humbly approached the stage and looped a guitar over his shoulder as he crouched behind. He carried the unassuming air of a roadie, but this was the sole member of New Fumes, a psychedelic rock and dance act on Tim DeLaughter’s Good Records label from Dallas.
“Hi, I’m Daniel,” he began, placing a goat mask atop his head. “I have a pretty brief set so if you don’t like my music don’t worry, it will be over soon.” As he began with a trippy swirl of electronic chaos he smoothly launched into a psychedelic rendition of the Star Wars theme. With equally trippy video playing on the background screen the crowd roared with approval. Continuing to paint his tapestry of electronic psychedelia, New Fumes gained the respect of many attendees who applauded as he left the stage just as humbly as he had entered.
The second performer, Sweet Lee Morrow, took the stage also as a lone member act. However, the shy and quiet nature of the previous performer was contrasted by a much more vocal and confident display of folk and pop-rock piano and guitar tunes. Moving from behind his keyboard, he kneeled as he took hold of his guitar. Placing the headstock on his finger, he offered the crowd a bonus balancing act before submitting a final set of gracious jams.
As the crowd prepared for what they hoped would be an extraordinarily uplifting time with the Polyphonic Spree a red curtain was stretched across the front of the stage. A Vaudeville-sounding tune sprinkled out from the speakers as the spotlighted disco ball spun and sent sparkled light squares across the room.
Scissors punctured the curtain from behind. The shape of a heart was cut out as the piano began to play softly. Blasting into a full-band chorus, lead singer, Tim DeLaughter, cut the curtain in half, revealing a crew of 13 people playing and singing in white robes. A single red heart adorned each robe as a symbol of the group’s message.
Horns blared over dual percussion. Keys and a cello added to the mix with four females lending vocal support to DeLaughter. By the end of the first song the band was conducting an audience-aided sing-along. Throughout the evening some sang the lyrics like gospel while others simply stood and smiled. And of course, Beatle Bob was there rocking away in the front row.
The band set included the hits “Hold Me Now” and “Light and Day,” but also offered up a smoothly transitioned set of lesser-known crowd pleasers like “Soldier Girl.” One of the major highlights of the evening was the band’s rousing cover of the Who’s “Pinball Wizard.” The band danced and grooved as DeLaughter led the show, grabbing the rafters as he leaned toward the crowd.
Following a triumphant, horn-focused finale the band took a short break before returning to gracious cheers. Playing another three songs, the Spree’s symphony entertained the packed house as they true their hands to the ceiling in celebration. As the end of the last song approached, the crowd chanted with the harmonies of the band, “All in good time, raise our voices.”
The band members slowly left the stage in pairs until all that remained was DeLaughter with his hand on the rafters extending his microphone to the choir in the crowd. Bowing in appreciation DeLaughter waved as he followed his crew exiting the stage.