Walking into Canes last Friday night, I had a strange feeling which Pete actually voiced. “It’s weird being in here, after all that Band of Horses shit went down.” Keep in mind, this was a mere two days after Rosey’s story broke on Pitchfork. The proverbial shit kept hitting the fan, in the form of comments on her blog, as well as various other places like Stereogum and Brooklyn Vegan.
Granted, I wasn’t in attendance at the BoH show that caused all of this drama to be focused on San Diego. And maybe we’re all over-reacting a bit. All I know is, I saw Rosey at the Ken Club immediately after the incident, and she was fuming. I still think she had every right to be, yadda yadda yadda, but that’s all been said before.
In one of my comments defending Rosey on her blog, I mentioned that Ben Bridwell had no right to be pissed off at the audience for not being involved in the show. The only people he can be pissed at for that are himself and the members of his band. It’s the job of a performer to capture the audience’s attention. I understand that these days there are more distractions to compete with, with cell phones in every pocket and cameras in most everyone’s hand. But even before the plethora of pocket-sized playthings, there were things to compete with – conversations amongst audience members, drinks, televisions. I’m not saying it’s easy to be a performer – on the contrary, it’s quite hard. And maybe the ADD-encouraging devices just help to weed out the mediocre performers from the truly great ones.
At any rate, Friday’s show by The Polyphonic Spree served as a stark contrast to the BoH show. I was able to snag a photo pass/wristband, but had to drop my own $20 on a ticket – which I did on the strength of a friend’s recommendation and some photos I saw on the Spree’s website earlier in the day. I don’t know any of their osngs, and frankly, all I remembered about them was that a few years ago there was some buzz about this band with skads of members who all took to dressing the same way – usually in long, flowing choir robes. Definitely remember hearing something about a cultish vibe surrounding them as well.
So it was mostly curiosity that brought me to Canes that evening. And I’m glad it did. Because it didn’t matter that I was clueless. When we walked in at 9:30, the floor was already packed with people (incluidng quite a few “jock-y” types). The show started fairly soon after we got there – no opening acts. I’m glad because a) any opening act would have been shown up to the nth degree; and b) with that many people in The Polyphonic Spree (15? 20?), the payment for the show is already split enough. Do they all make like 20 cents a show? Even if they did, I’m sure they’d all still be there – every member looked truly happy to be up there on stage.
In addition to the usual instruments (guitar, bass, etc.) there was a flautist, two drummers (sweet!), a harpist, a brass section, a crazy cello player, and about eight background vocalists, in addition to the vocal duties performed by the other instrumentalists. Craziness. The show started with the lead singer cutting a heart in the banner covering the stage. He then cut from the top of the heart upwards, eventually shearing the banner in two to reveal the entire band standing behind it.
And starting with that moment, the drama, anticipation, and energy never flagged. I don’t know any of the songs, so I can’t tell you which ones they played, but they were all uplifting. The entire crowd was into their set, including the jocks and jockettes, and probably quite a few people like myself who had no idea what to expect walking in that night. For the first part of the evening, the band eschewed their usual robes in favor of jumpsuit-esque uniforms. During the encore break, however, they changed into traditional white robes and returned to the stage by walking through the crowd.
The encore set was almost the same length as their regular set, with the band begging Canes’ security staff to let them keep playing for “just three more minutes.” That three minutes turned into at least fifteen. At one point during the encore, the singer was playing Rock/Paper/Scissors wtih the flautist to determine which of three songs they were going to play: “Soldier Girl,” “Hold Me Now,” or “Light and Day.” The flautist won out with “Soldier Girl” – and then they played all three anyway. They also performed a stellar cover of “Lithium” by Nirvana (it pained me that the security guard next to me had to tell a patron what band had originally recorded the song, but hey, not everyone’s a music nerd like me). At other various points during the set, the singer leapt down into the crowd, handed the microphone to his fans in front of the stage (who had traveled from their LA show a few days earlier), and even crowd-surfed.
Here was a man with heaps of charisma, using every ounce of it to make sure the crowd at his show had a good time. Bridwell could well stand to learn a few lessons from him. This man is charismatic to the point where I’m extremely glad he started a band, and not a religion – the whole cult-ish aura definitely exists around the band, but he’s using his charisma for good. The only part of the whole night I could have gone without was his “sermon” at the end of the night, which focused around noticing a blade of grass growing out of a sidewalk, and using that as a metaphor for how we can deal with anything life throws at us. A good message, but I think the music spoke for itself in that respect.
The show was definitely an exorcism of sorts for any bad feelings I may have had tangled up in Canes as a venue. The sound and lighting were superb throughout the show. The only thing that tainted this cleansing was the singer’s appeal to the staff at Canes to just let him have a few more minutes on stage – a stark reminder that, while Canes may be a decent venue in theory, it’s run by someone who feels it necessary to have 15 security guards lurking around the place and to close the show at midnight. On a Friday. Something that I never understood, seeing as how the venue could make a lot more money selling drinks for the next hour and a half after a show, while allowing the audience to mingle with the band.
But regardless, I had a great time, and to all those people who have insisted that one can’t enjoy a show through the lens of a camera, well, it’s been a trend with me that the more I enjoy a show, the more photos I take, and the better the photos tend to be. My eyes and ears function independently, although they obviously have some influence on each other. Needless to say, both were immensely satisfied with this show.