“I haven’t heard a violin rock that hard since I visited the South,” remarked the man seated across from me after locals Seafair finished their seven song set at Music Box Supper Club on Saturday evening, opening for the Polyphonic Spree. And it’s true—Mahler at his most bombastic is nearly rivaled by the band’s explosive sound. The sextet exhibits true musicianship throughout. They have complete mastery of the delicate—a subtle whisper from the strings, a gentle pizzicato—and adversely the tumultuous—a rumbling bass, heavy drums, the frenzied lick from a guitar or violin, the agitated build from the cello, and rising amidst it all, the voice of Chayla Hope, who is undoubtedly one of the strongest vocalists in the Midwest. Cleveland should be proud to call these six our own.
The way Seafair comes alive, a stir like leaves kicked up in a windstorm, is built upon a similar sort of organic magic that endeared fellow locals The Lighthouse and the Whaler to me the first time I heard them—a rare trait indeed. Their set began with “Vultures” and “Dim.” “Ohio” gave way to “The Score,” but they really tugged at heartstrings with “Helm & Anchor,” a song that bravely bares open a soul deeply touched by love. “Folding Maps” showcased Hope’s voice in all its depth before concluding the set with “Endeavour,” which tricks the listener with its deceptively quiet beginning before the full band joins Hope, a driving energy building before arriving at a group chorus that precedes the song’s wild end, which always elicits goosebumps.
However, there existed a slight disconnect, in no way attributed to the band’s energy, but simply because of the venue’s accommodations. Seafair is a band that calls you near, a siren’s voice beckoning you to dance with songs that cannot help but deeply move even the most stoic of characters, and a venue which has tables snug up to the stage surely makes experiencing that in full difficult. Nonetheless, the six-piece set the stage for an evening that was going to be deeply moving and engaged the diners as much as they would allow.
Following them, just over a dozen members of Polyphonic Spree took the stage and tapped into that preexisting energy, erupting the evening into a completely trippy experience of sheer joy. Frontman Tim DeLaughter joked about the venue’s seating, saying, “Well, we’ve never played to a dinner theatre before. This is…interesting. How was the fricassee?” He reminded the crowd that he’d allow them to finish their dinner and digest a bit, but that he expected them to dance. This was, in fact, “a rock show,” as he pointed out.
Polyphonic kicked things up with “Hangin’ Around” and “2000 Places,” which boasted regal horns and DeLaughter conducting the energy he was willing forth from the room. “You’re like a sleepy giant, awakening in the forest,” he said. “Arise.” And who could resist the urge to dance at a Polyphonic Spree show? Maybe a fourth of the crowd braved standing sardined between the stage and the tables at the front of the room and for a bit that appeased DeLaughter.
Two covers were included in their time onstage: The Monkees’ “Porpoise Song” and Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” which DeLaughter claimed to have written at a tender age of 12. “I was 14 at the time, when I was wondering why my song was on the radio,” he noted. “I can do this song because I wrote this song.”
“Soldier Girl” was a spunky sing-a-long. DeLaughter prefaced crowd favorite “Light & Day” saying, “Let’s do this. This is going to be familiar.” The set concluded with DeLaughter stepping offstage and telling the crowd that those who had been seated all evening would now have to stand and that those who danced would sit. He took a chair in the middle of the room and went into “Battlefield,” as a few members of his band played brass within the crowd.