Glance over the vibrant musical landscape of North Texas and you'll not find many, if any, bands more colorful than the Polyphonic Spree. Formed in 2000 in the wake of gut-wrenching tragedy, the symphonic rock collective is one of Dallas-Fort Worth's most successful bands.
But before band leader Tim DeLaughter bought choir robes in bulk and led his orchestral throng across the globe and back multiple times, he was the leader of Tripping Daisy, one of the best, most beloved rock bands to emerge from Deep Ellum's '90s grungy golden era. And in 1997, on the heels of a successful album that yielded Tripping Daisy's biggest hit, the MTV staple "I Got a Girl," DeLaughter and crew were ready for a new sound.
It's worth wondering: If Tripping Daisy hadn't sought a new sound, would we have ever known the sonic glory that is Polyphonic Spree?
Tripping Daisy's third full-length record, Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb, opened up a whimsically blossoming sonic palette. The record was praised by critics for its adventurous and psychedelic creativity. Listen to "Sonic Bloom," the sweetly melodic lead single from that record, and you can draw a rather direct line to the Polyphonic Spree's audio sunbeams blazing a few years later.
But sales for Tripping Daisy's album were bad, and the group's less-than-supportive record label dropped them just as the record landed on store shelves. (This was when actual stores sold actual CDs, after all.) Though another record, also featuring many of the praised flourishes from the previous album, was being readied for release, the band came to a horrifying halt when guitarist Wes Berggren died of a drug overdose in 1999. Instead of triumphantly joining the likes of fellow oddball rockers the Flaming Lips as nationally known freak flag wavers, Tripping Daisy was silenced and unable to move on.
But Tripping Daisy created a spark that wouldn't be doused for good. With an emphasis on celebrating life and the music friends can make with one another, DeLaughter, along with some of his Tripping Daisy buds and a couple dozen other Dallas musicians, created the Polyphonic Spree.
On tour with David Bowie in Europe, on TV and film, and on some of the grandest stages closer to home, the Polyphonic Spree radiates a joy that was contagious then and has remained so 17 years later.
In a 2003 interview with CNN, while on an early tour, De Laughter admitted he had the idea for the celebratory style of the Spree during his Tripping days. He explained that it was a notion for further off in the future. He thought: "I'll get to it. I've got plenty of time. It will work out."
Though the path to the Polyphonic Spree began sooner than envisioned and was born out of unimaginable loss, the band's long-running reality has been a true celebration.
The Polyphonic Spree will perform at a community concert and picnic at the Dallas Festival of Ideas and Dallas Book Festival on Saturday, April 29. The Spree concert is 5:45-7 p.m. in City Hall Plaza.
This is the third year for the Dallas Festival of Ideas, co-presented by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture and The Dallas Morning News and produced by CrowdSource.
Details on the Dallas Festival of Ideas and Dallas Book Festival
- When: Saturday, April 29, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Where: City Hall Plaza and the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library in downtown Dallas
- Admission: General admission is free. Registration is required for the Dallas Festival of Ideas; you can RSVP here.
- For more information: thedallasfestival
.comand dallasbookfestival. org.