The Polyphonic Spree - Kokos, Monday 15th August
In our time we've probably seen enough stage divers and crowd surfers to pack out a Coldplay video. We've seen stage diving singers, we've even seen a crowd surfing guitarist. But only now can we say that we've finally seen a crowd surfing drummer. Playing a drum. One of those big military marching things. Or at least trying to - we guess it's not that easy to keep the beat going when you're being bounced around on various people's heads. It might also come as no surprise that he was later seen hanging out of one of the boxes on the first floor and on top of various speaker stacks throughout the evening.
Welcome to the world of the Polyphonic Spree, back in town for a night to road test a couple of new numbers, show off their fancy sky blue robes with Flash Gordon lightning strikes and generally bring joy to the chosen ones (i.e those who had chosen to buy tickets for the gig). If you haven't encountered the Spree before imagine twenty five plus loons in robes dancing like their lives depended on it with more instruments than your average symphony orchestra. The spirit of the Spree is that of a revivalist Pentecostal choir who swapped God for some seriously good uppers. Being at play with them is like being caught in the middle of a particularly intense happy storm. Standing back and objectively studying the semi-orchestrated chaos on stage is about as useful as being a food critic at a children's birthday party: the harsh sand paper textures of the budget vanilla ice cream jarred the palatte when combined with the lushy fruity tones of the raspberry jelly with Monster Munch chunks. NO! WRONG! Get down the front and dance you miserable bastards. SMILE GODDAMN YOU, SMILE. (ahem...)
You see the only way to truly experience the Spree is to leave any expectations (and the studio versions) at the door and give in to to their particular blend of happy hippy mayhem. Let yourself be carried away on a tide of good feeling, sort-of-synchronised arm waving and a non cynical, unapologetic mission to make the world go all Cheshire Cat shaped.
Crammed onto the small Kokos stage the band make as much use of thier space as they can to sing, dance, jump up and down and when the space becomes too confined for such exhertations they just climb up onto a speaker stack and use that instead. Frontman Tim De Laughter has enough energy in him to power a small banana republic and if he occasionally looks like a hyperactive lead in Jesus Christ Superstar it's only because he's obviously having a ball. The set list has grown to accomodate a couple of new tracks from the forthcoming movie Thumbsucker that have a more defined shape than much of their freewheeling back catalogue. Otherwise it's a full on best of set (imagine Sergeant Pepper meets Pop-Bowie whilst droping Beach Boys acid somewhere out on Haight Ashbury before the dream went sour) with only Hanging Around The Day gone missing to put a small blight on the proceedings.
They still come on to the Town Crier and still make their way back on to the stage for the enchore through the crowd, as sweaty and smiling and as the punters who've just spent the last hour and half bouncing about singing their little London hearts out. The sound may be a little rough but to be honest they're lucky just remembering to get all the instruments on stage. And they're still wonderful because after having been written off as a one trick pony they're still out there; a pop anomaly, a flower power Kaiser Chiefs with plenty of ba ba ba ba baaaas, and their sheer unbridled exuberance makes them a joy to behold and a band you really should go see at least once before you head off to meet your maker.
Finally before we go, honourable mention must be made of their excellent support, Last Man Standing. A smokey bar room blues big band rock act with a self deprecating front man and a fine line in catchy melodies. Old friends of the Spree we'll be looking out for them later.