Get On the Polyphonic Spree

When you buy a ticket to a New Year’s Eve show at The House of Blues in Dallas, you expect a pretty good party. Then you find out Deathray Davies are opening up… followed by Centro-Matic… and Polyphonic Spree. This is a trifecta of Dallas based musicians and bands that have made a real impact on today’s music landscape and continue to expand the region’s musical horizons. There were some other good shows in town the last night of 2011, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to see this eccentric line-up.

John Dufilho, from Dallas started a side-project in 1999 that resulted in the Deathray Davies and five albums. This night, the band appeared on stage in all white outfits not unlike uniforms. Offering 60’s fuzz guitar riffs and catchy surf melodies backed by solid background vocals by drummer Robert Anderson. While their latest record: The Kick And The Snare was released in 2005, songs like “Plan To Stay Awake” still sound fresh. It was hard to believe the song “Clever Found A Name”, off their 2000 debut: The Return Of The Drunk Ventriloquist, was a dozen years old.

Denton’s own Centro-Matic, took the stage next. Will Johnson and Scott Danbom harmonized beautifully on well-crafted songs. The band’s 2011 album Candidate Waltz was highly touted in many “Year-End, Best Of” lists, and proved to be full of very up-beat tunes and real crowd pleasers. The catchy chorus on “All The Talkers” is hard not to sing along to; and their creativity shines on songs like “Iso-Resdue”. Danbom moved seamlessly between his spot at the keyboards and playing the bass, resulting in Mark Hedman playing guitar (who usually plays bass). A somewhat heavier sound evolved with this incarnation and it showed just how versatile the band is.

Then, as the evening matured, the great Tim DeLaughter with his team of two dozen white robed musicians took the stage. Dressed in a shaggy wig and what looked like a fuzzy cape, the man has amazing stage presence. The Polyphonic Spree’s show is nothing less than theatrical. It’s not often you see this many people on stage, unless it’s a Broadway play, not to mention instruments like a harp and a Theremin. You may remember Tim as the singer from the alternative rock band: Tripping Daisy; another successful Dallas band from the 1990’s. Remember “I Got a Girl” and “Piranha”? Great songs! Those years of performing weren’t lost on this true showman as he made the last hour of 2011 and the first hour of 2012 a joyous occasion.

While the band has some great original music, I think my favorite song is their cover of Nirvana’s “Lithium”. From the opening piano chops to the child-like chorus that transforms the song from a 1990’s grunge rock classic to a Shangri La celebration circa 2008 (the year they released it). Similarly, they breathed new life into other older classics like: “Live and Let Die” by Wings, The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. Yes, that’s right. I said Neil Diamond. You’re in pretty good company when you can pull off songs by these greats. DeLaughter, who also runs a local label and record store in Dallas called: Good Records, puts on an extremely entertaining show that combines old favorites with orchestral arrangements that would be hard to imagine before hearing his version. Don’t pass up a chance to see this band the next time they’re in town – which just happens to be February 16th at The Sons of Herman Hall. You won’t regret it!

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