Sunday, November 08, 2015

Friday: Going to a record show and Polyphonic Spree

My friend James Pertusi came to Mr. Small's on Friday night, playing with a band called Sharp Things, who were opening for Polyphonic Spree. I hadn't planned on going to see Polyphonic Spree - I simply haven't gotten around to them yet, which I realize is crazy since it's been 15 years - but James set me up so I couldn't say no. He and I got to know each other when he played in Fake Brain, who played several times with my band the Mofones in the early-to-mid aughts. They stayed at my house and there were plans for world domination. Which, sadly, never came to be.

But first, I had to stop at the record show happening at Spirit, a new club in Lawrenceville that was once a Moose Lodge. It was one of those events where all manner of people set up and sell albums. (I've done it a couple times in the past.) One of the guys from my old job said he was setting up there, so I wanted to see what he had, because he's a jazz head.

Turns out it was a former WYEP DJ who helped me strike paydirt: Cecil Taylor's Garden, Gil Evans' Into the Hot (which has no Gil but three tracks each by Cecil Taylor and Johnny Carisi) and Steppenwolf's The Second (because mine is beat and needs to be replaced). He also had a mono copy of Steppenwolf's debut which I should've bought because it's pretty rare. I also found a $3 copy of 360 Degrees of Billy Paul, which I couldn't pass up.

Then I picked up my friend Dana and we headed for Small's, which is just across the river.

Sharp Things are a far cry from Fake Brain. The latter were high energy, zany (in the best possible way) post punk. The latter are gentle and more meditative. They reminded me in a way of the Pernice Brothers, though that could be because I was listening to that band in the car on the ride over. But Perry Serpa (at the keys, above) writes some lyrically-driven stuff. It was a relaxed set, but the band kept my attention, finishing with a  strong cover of "The Ghost In You."

Of course Polyphonic Spree was epic. Everything they do is epic. I counted 17 people onstage and even that could be off a little. You can't see her in the picture, but they had a harp player on far stage left. On top of that, violin, cello (who was doing the rocking-out-while-playing thing which was okay is small doses but gets excessive very easily, like in the video that keeps floating around FB of the dudes headbanging while they play "Smells Like Teen Spirit"; classical people, please stop; sorry for the parenthetical tangent), flute, trumpet, trombone, two guitars, keys, percussion, drummer, four back-up singers who had synchronized moves and lead singer Tim DeLaughter, looking a bit like John Lydon with that short hair. Not really knowing their songs, it was my first excursion into their music. The videos I took on my phone made everything sound clearer than I discerned live, but the visuals and the sounds were pretty enthralling the whole time.

They came out in white robes which they wore for the duration of the first "set," which consisted of the entire first album, played in order (or so I've been told). After a five-minute break, they came back for more, the band in their street clothes and the choir now wearing striped mini-robes, which looked like they were red and green, depending on the way the lights hit them.

By then, a little more than an hour had passed, and Dana and I were both feeling like it was time to go. Luckily Sharp Things didn't have to leave as soon as they were done, as James had implied in a text earlier in the evening. (They were driving overnight to Milwaukee.) So we got to chat a little bit and made plans to meet again in the new year.

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