I got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it’s like to be a touring musician when our friend Buffi Jacobs came to town with The Polyphonic Spree last month.
Kenley and I have known Buffi ever since she talked Kenley into reprising a musical role he had once taken on in college: Dr. Frank N Furter, of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” infamy!
Led by Buffi, The Rocky Horror Tribute Band took the show on the road each October for the next several years. Kenley’s brother Logan eventually joined the cast as Dr. Scott.
Buffi later moved to Texas to pursue her music career. She also played the cello at our wedding ceremony.
When The Polyphonic Spree came to L.A., I took the day off so I could go to the show that evening. I got a phone call from Buffi that morning, who told me her cello had been accidentally knocked over after the band’s show in San Diego. The bridge was busted, and she needed a ride to a cello repair shop.
I headed to El Rey Theatre on Wilshire to pick her up. When I arrived, I easily spotted the tour bus parked on a side street and knocked on the door. Buffi was traveling on the bus with about 20 other musicians during the band’s 13-day West Coast tour.
We found the small Angeles Violin Shop on Pico, which doesn’t have a sign out front. After carefully studying the instrument, Jeff Muller said he could fix it. Luckily he had a bridge that fit, so he didn’t have to cut a new one.
There wasn’t much time before load-in, but Buffi and I stopped by The Six restaurant down the street for a quick lunch and to catch up. The Six is a good, relatively inexpensive neighborhood restaurant, which features six starters, six entrees, six pizzas … you get the idea.
Later that night, Kenley and I picked up Buffi at the tour bus and walked down the street to the dark and romantic Luna Park, where we split two really good pizzas. We also ran into Polyphonic Spree choir member Jennie Kelley, who was a contestant on Season Two of reality competition “MasterChef” and writes The Perfect Last Bite blog. Glad to know we have the same taste in restaurants.
El Rey Theatre is an art deco movie theater built in 1936 that was transformed into a music venue in 1994. It’s a beautiful space and a great place to see a show.
I must admit I didn’t know much about what to expect from The Polyphonic Spree. Buffi had told me that everyone must see them at least once. She’s right.
You got the sense this wasn’t going to be your average rock show when lead singer Tim DeLaughter started the show by cutting a heart-shaped hole in a large red sheet of fabric stretched in front of the band. The heart-shaped hole revealed the large red hearts that each member had on the long white robes they wore.
Turns out going to a Polyphonic Spree concert is more like going to a revival than a rock concert.
The Polyphonic Spree features more than a dozen musicians, including a French horn player, a flute player, a saxophone player, a trumpet player, a trombone player, a harp player and a cello player, in addition to a keyboard player, a guitar player, a bass player, two percussionists, the lead singer and a five-member female choir with tambourines.
It’s the antithesis of watching some indie-rock bands with shoe-gazing boys in tight jeans singing woefully about their lost loves.
Kenley compares their sound to The Flaming Lips or a trippier Sufjan Stevens. Others have said they’re influenced by The Beach Boys. You might have heard one of their most popular songs, “Light and Day/Reach for the Sun,” on the trailer for the movie “The Lorax.”
The Polyphonic Spree did a fun cover of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and ended the encore with a song called “The Championship,” which ends with the refrain, “All in good time/We’ll come ’round/Raise our voice/Make another sound,” as each member of the band waved goodbye to the audience and exited the stage. (Buffi is the first to exit in the clip below.)
It would be impossible to leave a Polyphonic Spree show not wanting to be a part of their happy choir.
The Polyphonic Spree is on its East Coast leg of the tour, which includes shows in D.C. and North Carolina later this month.
Buffi will get to pull out her fishnets again soon, as The Polyphonic Spree recently announced that it will put on a “Rocky Horror” production in London this October.