The Polyphonic Spree
"Howmany of you are scared of snakes?" isn't a question you'd normallyexpect to hear at a rock show. But by the time the Fort Worth Zoo'sSean Green posed this query, on the first night of the PolyphonicSpree's holiday shindig, it was stage business as usual. He waspreparing to parade a python down the aisles of the Lakewood Theater,but he might as well have been asking for a little more guitar in hismonitor.
After all, we already had witnessed walk-ons by acapuchin monkey and an ornery reindeer. Eventually, the evening wouldfeature appearances by a penguin, a hyacinth macaw, a great horned owl,a little drummer girl in pigtails (ten-year-old Rachel Trachtenburg, ofgoofy support act the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players), and a guyin a Frosty the Snowman costume who wandered through the crowd as ifthe Flaming Lips' tour bus had left without him.
Even for the Spree, no strangers to outlandish merrymaking,it was a different kind of performance. And it attracted a differentkind of crowd?parents (hip dads with goatees, as well as less hip onesin Cosby sweaters and hats with antlers attached) escorting kids, somebarely old enough to walk, most young enough to ask, "Reindeer arereal?"
Some of those kids scurried onstage for a reading of "'Twasthe Night Before Christmas," then stayed as the 23-strong Spreeappeared, clad in red robes and Santa hats. "Get your programs out, andget ready to sing your hearts out. Christmas is here!" frontman TimDeLaughter shouted as the band exploded into "Do You Hear What I Hear?"The kids onstage stuffed their fingers in their ears, but the bandplowed ahead with "The Little Drummer Boy" and their own "Christmas IsHere" before finally taking a breath with a surprisingly restrained"Silent Night." The audience seemed to be waiting for a tidal-wavecrescendo, which finally came with the closer, a mash-up of thetraditional "Joy to the World" and the Three Dog Night version.
The Spree's Hollywood Records labelmate Patrick Park was agimmick-free palate cleanser: just a guy and a guitar and a brief setof songs more like "Pink Moon" than "White Christmas." Then, after aperformance by the Trachtenburgs -- looking, in their silver discooutfits, like the Partridge Family in this pear tree -- the Spreereturned, sporting the silly grins of kids who had just learned to tietheir shoes. They kicked into "It's the Sun," and the whole place wenttent-revival.
DeLaughter lost his holiday spirit during "Light and Day,"yelling out for the band's road manager when a bundle of balloonsfailed to drop on cue. But they finally fell, and after more falseendings than The Return of the King, the band capped off the five-hourshow by serving milk and cookies in the lobby. And to all a good night.