The Polyphonic Spree / New Fumes Venue, Vancouver BC April 7
Published Apr 09, 2012Though only allotted 20 minutes to strut his stuff, New Fumes (aka Daniel Huffman) made an impression. Taking the stage with a billy goat mask as a hat, his brand of bedroom laptop psychedelia with synched lo-fi graphics was enthusiastically received by the relatively meager crowd. He produced a heady yet murky sound with lots of crumbly bass, experimental noise, gnarly guitar distortion and vocal processing, stylistically somewhere between Ariel Pink and Black Bananas in the psych rock vein. It all made for quite the trip.
Anyone vaguely familiar with the Polyphonic Spree knows they are an experience best had live, and that fact was made clear immediately and often in their first Vancouver show since 2007. As a vibraphone played them on, joyous cult leader Tim DeLaughter cut a giant heart in a piece of red cloth stretched across the stage, then cut the rest of it to reveal over a dozen musicians dressed in white robes with red hearts on their chests as they started to play. What a massive sound they made, between two percussionists, trumpet, trombone, cello, keys, bass, guitar, DeLaughter's vocals and four back-up singers.
Granted, DeLaughter has a voice like his buddy Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, raspy and frail when he pushes it but with less range and hardiness. Yet, like Coyne, DeLaughter works for it, constantly climbing the monitors at the front of the stage and gesturing like a man possessed by a holy spirit, pointing out and waving to individuals in the crowd, converting them one at a time. The music he writes is so ecstatic and triumphant that, with his menagerie of hippies surrounding him, it's impossible not to get swept up in the spectacle of it all.
At one point, the Polyphonic Spree broke off from their usual saccharine affirmations into a medley of "See Me, Feel Me" and "Pinball Wizard" from the Who's Tommy. This was an inspired choice, considering "See Me, Feel Me" was one of the biggest moments at Woodstock, and, indeed, the Polyphonic Spree were born to play big festivals. Seeing them in a small venue like this was like riding a mechanical bull, complete with all the restrained madness.
Their set ended as each band member left the stage individually, until all that was left was DeLaughter leading the crowd in a chant of "All in good time / Raise our voices" from the Spree's "The Championship" before hugging himself.