Innovative rock band defies genre

Kollin Jordan

Two parts Broadway musical, one part hyper-caffeinated pep rally, a dash of techno, a dose of symphony orchestra and a healthy helping of alternative rock. Throw them all together and you’ll have an idea of what The Polyphonic Spree is.

The Polyphonic Spree, a band that describes itself as a “choral symphonic rock” group, delivered an unforgettable performance Saturday night in Lawrence as unique as the dancers/musicians onstage that bombarded the Granada with incessant waves of emotive energy that crescendoed until the last note.

Framed between two massive LCD screens, six lovely ladies comprising the chorus spun their long locks with relentless energy while, with their mellifluous harmonies, they augmented the vocals of Tim DeLaughter, the man who simultaneously functioned as the lead singer, conductor, stand up comedian and in-house philosopher. Apparently not satisfied with the myriad roles he fulfilled onstage, he also filmed himself, took photos with front-row fans and answered their phone calls while belting his powerful vocals into the microphone.

Cellos, violins, trumpets, trombones, flutes, a keyboard and even a harp constituted the instrumentals that were at times distorted by a synthesizer and boomed through massive subwoofers. The musicians moved as a single unit to the rapidly changing cadence of their own music and danced themselves into a frenzy.

The entire retinue functioned as a symbiotic show machine that never stopped for a breath. The melodious fullness of an orchestra blended seamlessly with raw rock elements, as electric guitars, pianos and violas were augmented by lyrics both poetic and powerful.

Halfway through the show, the members dropped their instruments one by one and left the stage, only to shed their black fabrics and return in Romanesque white togas with multi-colored borders, as if their feet had been dipped in a rainbow palette.

The Polyphonic Spree dished out liberal amounts of candy to both eyes and ears, but the band is not a sugary façade without purpose. Their very uniforms have deep significance.

“We’re wearing black military uniforms that have universal symbols of peace on them,” said DeLaughter. “One’s a heart, one’s a red cross, one’s an image that radiates unity and finally there’s a gold pin that has our name on it.”

The group’s songwriters, DeLaughter and Julia Doyle, write songs as significant as the uniforms they wear. Ingeniously, they craft subtly inspiring lyrics that explore every facet of life, giving frequent mention to the theme of light overcoming darkness.

Unconventional in every aspect, the eclectic group that would be a rock band doesn’t just give a concert, they throw a royal fete. Confetti, disco balls, massive smoke screens pierced by colored lights and violinists head-bopping under strobe lights can make you question what kind of event you’re actually witnessing. There may not be a perfect name for the ambience of the whole experience.

Call it what you will, The Polyphonic Spree will blow you away.