Last night in Byron Bay, The Polyphonic Spree were great.
Before it all kicked off, though, I ran into the lead singer and chief instigator, Tim DeLaughter (rhymes with slaughter, though I didn’t know that at the time) across the road. I had a quick chat to him, told him that we saw him at the San Francisco Apple Store last year, and that we’d come from Brisbane because they weren’t playing there. (Brisbane is a much larger city, about two hours drive north.)
We did see them in the SF Apple Store a few months ago, our first Spree introduction. Saw the ad outside the store, heard/bought the album, turned up early, got a seat in the middle row of three rows, stood very close to the band, asked most of them to sign the album afterwards, cool people, great live experience.
Back in Byron, Tim asked my name (it’s Iain Anderson) and said “Jethro Tull, right?”. I do get that a lot, though he’s one of the standard non-Scottish “Ian” variety. He did check my name again before we parted company, but I just thought, “cool, found Tim D. in the street”. Byron’s not a big place, it’s laid back like the Spree, and you could see many of the members around the place before the gig.
So, got in, settled down for support from Sarah Blasko, who’s fairly well known in the Australian indie scene. Pretty good but her single a clear standout. Unfortunately you couldn’t see her well because the spotlight on her mike was slightly off.
So onward to the Spree, and the crowd’s getting pretty excited. I suffer pretty badly from tinnitus after live music; it’s just too loud for me and I usually wear earplugs. The whole band’s wearing them, right? Well, they’re probably wearing better ones. Mine last night blocked out the high frequencies so thoroughly I couldn’t hear the high hats. One benefit of the earplugs is that I got a spot by the stage, next to the speaker stacks, feeling the bass. (I moved around during the set for a better view.)
The band came out and eventually squeezed into the small space available. Unfortunately, the stage was too small for a banner. As the last gig I saw, they started slow, then built up and went mad. Tim teased the crowd with “now we’re going to eviscerate you” when the beat first picked up. The playlist was a little like we heard in SF. Specifically:
The crowd was right into it, and the crazy drummer was as crazy as ever. At one point he climbed up onto a box by the lighting desk, just missed the PowerBook that drives the visuals and the pre/post set iTunes tracks, and then moved on. Very rock and roll.
Late into the set, I was near the back when I got a big surprise. Tim gave me a shout-out: “Iain Anderson’s here”. Between tracks, his words were much quieter than the music, and I didn’t quite hear him. (I’ve been told what he said by my wife, also there.)
He said my name again, and I sort of heard it. But you don’t expect to hear the lead singer of a band give you a shout out, do you? My brain process: “What did he say? It wasn’t my name, was it? Naah, couldn’t have been. Could it?”
I wasn’t sure what was going on and how to respond to it. Too late, I figured out that I should be doing something, yelling and attracting attention for a start, not standing there looking confused, too far for him to see me. Besides, plenty of people had their hands in the air, and he might not have seen me anyway. He was looking for me, but, alas, couldn’t find me.
I looked at my wife, who was beaming at me and pointing. A girl near me was very excited: “Are you Iain Anderson?”
“Wooo! How come he knows you?”
It was now too late to try to get Tim’s attention, and I’d now realised that it probably wasn’t the “cool” thing to do anyway. I guess he must have figured that I’d gone to the toilet or something. Nope: earplugs.
After the set, I tried to find Tim to explain and to say thanks. Alas, it was Oscar’s bedtime, and Tim wasn’t around. I had to be in a car driving back to Brisbane (and work today, dammit) so after half an hour or so I left. A few members of the Spree were about, and I asked Ryan to pass on thanks to Tim. (Ryan wouldn’t tell me when the next album was coming out, though.)
A drunk girl called Tanya swore she knew me accosted me for a little while, then I ran into a friend of a friend who knew I was there when my name was called out. Had a chat. Later, two people yelled out my name through a doorway while I was hanging around inside. I guess they thought a) I looked like I was meant to be there and b) someone famous connected to the band, but I’m not going to complain just yet if anyone wants to continue the trend.
So, a great night, a weird, wonderful, memorable experience that could have been better if only the mixer hadn’t been hard-of-hearing and forced me into fuzzy hearing. I’d go to a hell of a lot more live music if I could hear a) the music properly and b) anything afterwards. But the Spree — anytime.