the polyphonic spree [2012]

Great American Music Hall
San Francisco, CA
3 April 2012

I’ve written about pure joy at shows before. I’ve written about Matt’s skinny guileless arm raised to the heavens, and Kim’s adoring gaze through relentless drum smashing. I’ve written about Spencer Krug and his euphoric throng of followers.

But this was different.

I’d heard the talk, the tales of robed masses packing the stage. I’d heard that it didn’t really matter what you thought of their recordings – you really needed to see them live. You coolly mocked their cultishness coming in and carefully straightened your robes walking out.

Polyphonic Spree is pure joy. Polyphonic Spree is 16 people jammed onto the relatively tiny Great American Music Hall stage (down from 25, reportedly). Polyphonic spree is white robes emblazoned with giant hearts. Polyphonic Spree is flute, trumpet, french horn, trombone, cello, guitar, bass, keyboard, two percussionists, lead vocalist and five backup vocalists. How do they all fit, you ask? Well, the cellist is perched on one set of amps and the bassist is on another.

Sounding somewhere between The Beatles and Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Polyphonic Spree is most certainly the product of many musical theater high school experiences. There is more enthusiasm and love of song on stage to warm even the most cynical heart. There are lively beats, frequent time and key signature changes. Six voices are often heard in unison.

A Polyphonic Spree show is one giant love fest. It’s the celebratory final night under the stars of the best summer camp you could have ever imagined. It’s one giant joyful sing-along dance party with not a hint of irony or self-doubt.

Mock them all you want. Point out the lyrical platitudes. Focus on the uber-sincere, near-preachy vocals. Then take your ass to a show. Cast your derisive eye on the ridiculously-crowded stage, the robes and the fan faithful. And then take a deep breath and just enjoy it. The kool-aid is delicious.